If Only I’d Known. Letters to Lost Years: 1988.3

Dear X,

The most difficult challenge of being your age is that you are neither a child nor an adult and everyone, including you, has to learn to adjust as you start to explore the world on your own.

I now warn my friends with kids your age to let go a bit and wait it out… No matter what horrible, hurtful things are being said, in a few years, the transition will be over and everyone will be friends again.

But those years – when you feel like you need to push everyone away in order to stand up on your own – they’re tough.

As I’d tell my dad to drop me off 200 yards from where everyone was waiting for school, he’d tease me: “Do you think the other kids don’t have parents?”

The funny thing was I didn’t mind being around my friends’ parents.  And mine never did anything particularly embarrassing – in fact, I think my friends quite liked them.  But at the time, that didn’t matter.

The point was that I was afraid of looking like a baby who wasn’t allowed to be off on my own while all the other kids were.  I wanted to be able to make my own decisions and be independent.

I was sure I knew it all and I wanted to be treated as a grown up.  It’s only as you get older and look back that realize how mistaken you were and how much there still is to learn.

I’ll never forget the time I was about twelve (in sixth grade) and I went to see a movie with friends.  I had told my parents that I was only going with a group of girls, but some of the boys from school had met us once we were there.  We skipped out of the movie early and went to Friendly’s next door.  And there, sitting in the window, waving with happy smiles were my parents and their best friends.

Now I can see that the best way to handle the situation would have been to walk up to my parents, say hi, introduce my friends and go somewhere else (or, because my parents were actually quite cool, they probably would have cut their meal short and left for me).

Oh, but not me.  I’ve never been great at downplaying a situation.  No indeed.  I escalate and make it as mortifying as possible.  So embarrassed was I that my friends had seen that I did have parents and so afraid was I that I would be in trouble because of the boys, I ran into the parking lot blubbering, and ensuring my humiliation escaped no one’s notice.

It’s possible that no one other than I remembers that night.  But it is one of those moments of chagrin I’ve carried with me – one of my many lessons on how not to behave.

I think my problem was (is) that I always forced things forward rather then allowing them to gently unfold.  My parents, like most, were willing to let me grow up and have my independence, but I never felt like it was happening fast enough, so I had to push them away.

There were a couple of rough years there for my parents and me; but I came to my senses eventually.  And now I realize how truly blessed I am to have them in my life, supporting and loving me as they always have.

At Cornel - after the storm...

At Cornell – friends again; they were always awesome!

So, I urge you to relax.  It may seem like your parents don’t know the first thing about you and are trying to keep you from becoming an adult.  But you may find that if you stop pushing them… if you talk to them and let them know how you’re feeling… they may just help you on your journey.

At some point most kids think that their parents just don’t get it – don’t remember what it was like to be young.  They think everything’s changed and so even if the old fogies do remember being young, it just isn’t the same as it is now.

Maybe that’s true.  And maybe your parents do wish they could stop the clock for a little while to keep you young and safe and under their protective wing.  Just try to be patient with them.  Understand that you growing up might be harder on them than it is on you.  They just want to stay part of your life.

Also, realize that your friends don’t mind your parents and don’t find them nearly as ridiculous as you do (or you think they do).  Everyone’s got parents and they are all cool and lame in their own way.

Don’t push them away.  You’ll need them at some point and, what’s more, you’ll want them.  Try to appreciate them while you are still there with them.  You’ll be off on your own much sooner than you can believe.  And I promise you, you’ll miss them.


Parents: they’re the best!

Published in: on March 7, 2013 at 1:49 pm  Comments (4)  
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