I’m fourteen and I hate my parents. Hate is a strong word you say. Well it’s not strong enough. When I come down for breakfast with my hood up or brush past them after getting off the bus, they routinely fail to take the hint. And why talk to them? Conversation rarely ends in my favor. My mother and father systematically ignore all of my pleas. They refuse to let me watch R-rated movies or listen to hip hop, despite the fact that I’ll hear far worse at school. My dad drags me to CCD every week even though I never learn anything; and he makes us all sit in the front row at church. And my mom is always on my case about something or another. One week, she’s criticizing my responsibility because I refused to run the pointless errands she assigned me. The next week, she’s up in arms because I didn’t hold the door for a girl at youth group. Hold the door? Why do they keep making mountains out of molehills? I mean, am I always the most responsible or the most polite? Probably not. But I don’t need my stupid parents telling me what I need to do better; I have it together.
I’m sixteen and I hate my parents. They are on some power trip, eager to tell me what I can’t do. The worst is when they withhold my going-out privileges until my homework is finished. They can’t grasp the fact that I will always manage to get my homework done. And if it’s B or C quality, it’s B or C quality, but I can live with that. And the privileges all my friends have are foreign to my parents. I can never get access to the family van when I most need it, and they won’t let me drive it if they don’t know where I’m going. I really thought sixteen would bring so much more freedom, but most of my freedoms have been stifled. My mom never lets me go to my one friend’s house (let’s call him Eric), but Eric’s house is my key to getting in with a popular crowd. I have angrily stormed away from my mom many times because “her gut tells her” there will be drinking (there will be) and marijuana (yep). Their reasoning for suffocating me is always the same. They are protecting me, guiding me to make good decisions. I’ll understand when I’m older apparently. When will they understand that I can’t stand them?
I’m eighteen and I hate my parents. If I hear the word “perspective” one more time, I think I’m going to flip out. Perspective. I need perspective. Need to think about the long term. Where they miss the point is the fact that long term, my girlfriend and I can go to the same college and make it work. It won’t be that difficult. One roadblock: I was denied admission to my school of choice (too many Bs and Cs), but instead of consoling me, they have been preaching. I need to work harder, I need to run cross country and track in college, I need to be more disciplined. But running is a burden, and (this somehow makes sense in my present state of mind) won’t help me meet cool people. And if my high school girlfriend is there with me, I will enjoy it so much more. My parents are unfortunately so closed-minded, informing me that since they have been around much longer, they know that is not a good idea. I need to instead go my own route and do some soul searching. I can’t wait to prove them wrong.
* * *
I’m twenty-three and I love my parents. I have shed my arrogant, senseless high school persona for a more esteemed, thoughtful one (OK, still a work in progress but you get the point). I live about three hours away from my family, having started a new career out of college. College, where I worked hard and improved my performance in the classroom. College, where I ran track and cross country and made amazing, lifelong friends. College, where I established a rapport with professors and faculty members, and held the door for people. They think I’m polite!
“Eric” has had a few odd jobs out of high school, most recently working at a car wash. I think the dude still smokes weed. Meanwhile I joined a local church and met some amazing people. I’m so glad my parents instilled in me the value of going to Mass every Sunday. Responsibilities are growing, as I now have to pay my own bills and schedule my own appointments. Thank goodness they made me run errands and schooled me on financial responsibility. As you probably guessed, that girl and I broke up. Once again, my parents were right.
I guess my parents’ words and actions just finally resonated with me. They really WERE right, they really DID know better, and all through my dark teenage years I scoffed at them and opposed their authority. Maybe because I’m closer to parenthood than I am to childhood now, I have begun thinking about this more. But before facing the challenges of being a parent, I wanted to take a moment to say thank you. Thank you Mom, for loving me when I failed and setting a great example. Thank you Dad, for pushing me to do my best and modeling the way to being a man. Thank you both for sticking it out and being amazing parents. Sorry it took me twenty-some years to come around. But I’ve learned a thing or two for when I have kids. My kids will be raised by the same values you have instilled in me. And I will make sure they hold the door.