I don’t remember the exact age I was when it happened, but I do remember the event that made me realize that my parents were actually real human beings, not just my parents. This happens in the life of most everyone at some point, and it usually isn’t a positive experience. For the majority of childhood if posed the question, “Who is your hero?” little Johnny or Susie will typically say their mommy, daddy, grandma, or grandpa without a second thought. Isn’t this the way that it’s supposed to be anyway? Parents should be their children’s model of proper behavior, and stewards of a natural, linear, positive progression. We shouldn’t learn how to bend the rules, be divisive, or skirt responsibility from mom and dad. Unfortunately this happens far too often.
Don’t know how else to say it, don’t want to see my parents go
One generation’s length away
From fighting life out on my own
In the blink of an eye we could be the oldest link of the family lineage … immediately changing titles from “son” to the ultimate patriarch. That incredible realization hit me like a ton of bricks the moment I realized that my parents were people. Yes they still have knowledge and wisdom far surpassing mine, but effectively at that point they became my “parents” in name only. Their downward trajectory had fully intersected with my upward arc into adulthood. Lucky for me that intersection of points lasted for a while because at that time I wasn’t ready to be the patriarch. I didn’t even know who I was; forget asking me to represent my entire family.
A big part of that ascension into adulthood is realizing fallibility. Yes we may be able to vote, drink legally, or buy cigarettes without being carded. Sure we may be college educated, working a good job, and owners of property. But what if one thing went wrong? A horrible grade or an uncharacteristically low score on an entrance exam, a company required to downsize after an acquisition, an unexpected illness. Just like a kid, I would’ve had to rely on those people I still call mom and dad. My parents had real adversity … we throw tantrums when we can’t get wifi to work fast enough. I wasn’t ready.
Although it’s the circle of life, many times it makes me sad to see that I have surpassed my parents. I’m more financially stable than they are, now they come to me for advice (although not often, of course), and I make better, quicker decisions than they do. For example, multiple times I’ve had to talk my mom out of buying an iPhone. She has no contacts saved in her current phone, she doesn’t know how to text, and the only things she knows how to do on the internet are check her email and bank account balance. Even though I own some Apple stock, I know this is a bad idea even though my mother vehemently disagrees (she “wants to use some apps”). My upward arc is clearly higher than hers now. When I was a kid all I wanted to do was grow up, and my father was my hero. When I thought I was grown up I believed I was invincible, and my hero was some famous person who was probably more confused about life than I was. Now that I am grown up I miss the simplicity of childhood, and my father is once again my hero. Not because he was rich or famous, but because I realize he carried the burden of being the ultimate patriarch with dignity. Even though I’m not clamoring for him to pass this responsibility, now, I actually think I’m ready.