Sunday, March 7, 2004

The Journey to Adulthood (2 of 2)

Once again we look back at Mom & Dad. They’re looking older, smaller, slower. At the very least, they don’t intimidate us anymore…they don’t threaten us. At best, we understand that they are, perhaps, a portrait of ourselves in twenty-five years. By now, twenty-five years is a time frame that we can actually understand…it’s an ever-decreasing portion of our lives. Twenty years ago, it was our whole lives. We couldn’t get our arms around what would be happening in twenty-five years.

When we’re young, of course our world revolves around us. We’re selfish. We’re self-absorbed. We need to be or we’ll never be strong enough to break away. We take that selfishness and project it back on to our parents. Since everything is about us, our parents must have been all about us. Every move they made in those early years of our lives must have been for us, or at us. At some point, we start to understand that they did some stupid, destructive, and/or selfish things. We get angry with them for having had lives that were not necessarily dedicated to bringing us up to perfect successful adulthood. Often, as we’re having this revelation, we’re moving into a time of our own lives where we are being loaded down with responsibility. We come to a place (rather quickly!) where we see it is impossible for us to be held to the kind of standard to which we have been holding our own parents. The great, hard-won revelation dawns: It’s NOT all about us after all! When we understand this, a lot of life’s mysteries fall into place. We realize that the past is past, and the responsibility for our future happiness or success rests solely on our own shoulders. We either accept this and move forward, or reject it and remain mired in a place of hostility and blame for the rest of our lives.

The unfortunate part of this process is that, often, we are just coming to a glimmer of understanding and appreciation for our parents, when we lose them. My husband and I lost three of our parents between 1995 and 2000. It was only a few years after we came to the great understanding that "my dad (mom) didn’t get out of bed every morning and try to think up ways to make my life miserable." We had very few years left with them after we had that epiphany. I admit, I feel more than a little cheated.


  1. Very enlightening entry. I personally am switching from blame to assistance. Although my parents especially my mother is non-compliant, I don't stump away in anger but try to listen,understand and encourage now. While bonding with our parents in whatever way possible can be a good thing, it is not always an easy thing. Especially is this so when they themselves remain mired in the past and are not able to move forward themselves. Thank God for hope.

  2. I like this entry. The lesson here is an important one--we must use the time we have looking forward, instead of looking back. And so much of what we make of our lives, is what we DECIDE we should make of it. Anyone can sit around and create a list of wrongs committed against us--it's the person who knows the list exists, but continues to move foreward anyway that gets ahead.

  3. I read somewhere, a long time ago, that anyone over the age of 30 who is still looking back and blaming their parents for who they are is doomed to almost certain failure as a human being. Your parents are responsible for who you are as a child. You are responsible for who you become as an adult. I absolutely believe this. Carpe diem.

    Nice post... :)

  4. How true . Last October I lost my mother. Her caregiver that came in to "grandma sit" with her during her last 2 months of life gave me a letter the day of her funeral . Several days later I read it. tears overflowed and I realized that I never understood my mother and surprisingly enough she never really understood me, but she did love me dearly. I have stopped blaming her. She did what she felt was right. Her goal WAS NOT to make my life a living hell.

  5. Lisa.....very well said and thought out. I really liked this entry! xxoo :)

  6. Wow, that's very interesting to read. I've never thought about it much. My mother passed away when I was a kid, and I don't talk to my dad much. So, I haven't experienced this process much. It is unfortunate that we often don't appreciate the older people in our life until they are gone.:-/