Parents Just Don’t Understand….

I went out with my two BFFs on Friday. No, we didn’t go night clubbing. We did what every bunch of twenty-seven year olds do when we have a free Friday. We spent the day at Ikea pretending like we lived there.(Side note: Don’t wear really cute shoes to Ikea. The store is huge and by the time I got to the check out counter I was walking like a Zombie.)

When I spoke to my mother later that night and told her what we did that day this is how our conversation went.

“Why did you girls go to Ikea?”

“Because it was raining and our original plans to spend a boozy day at a winery had to be changed.”

“So you went to Ikea instead?” I could hear the disbelief in her voice like we spent the day digging ditches instead of shopping for housewares.

Me making fake Martini’s a Ikea

“Yeah. We actually had a lot fun. And I got a sixteen piece cutlery set, a kitchen timer, a huge umbrella and a plastic bag holder thingy for thirteen dollars!”

“You guys are weird.”

Like a lot of mothers and daughters my mother and I are rarely on the same page about anything. I like to go to Ikea. She likes to dance on tables.

When I told her I wanted to be a writer she kind of nodded and smiled. And told me that everybody she knew wanted to be a writer, which was code for don’t get your hopes up. I knew she wondered why I didn’t take up a more adventurous hobby like base jumping or pole dancing. I knew she wondered why I would rather spend hours holed up by myself making up people than actually be with people. Or why I was so dedicated to going to my monthly writer’s group meetings even though there are very few people there my age.

So when I actually got a contract with a publisher she actually heard of I thought she would finally get it. That everything I had done for the past two years lead up to that moment. Oh she was proud. She told everybody within a thousand mile radius who would listen. But when I talked to her on the phone the very next day the first thing she said was…

“We need to talk about you getting married and having me some grandbabies.”

I went stonily silent. I knew if she weren’t fifty miles away I would have cheerfully choked the breath out of her. She still didn’t get it.

But it’s not just her who’s guilty.

My father, brother, uncle and I were talking at a family barbecue a couple of weeks ago when my father said…

“I keep telling her don’t quit her day job.  Because she can’t move back in here when that book doesn’t sell. You know the only people that are going to buy it and me her mother and her two friends.”

The three men broke out in a fit of loud chuckles.

Asses! All of them!!!!

“Hey!” I responded, wondering if I could get away with throwing a drink at my father and live to tell about it. “I have at least six friends who will buy my book. So there!”

Don’t have to worry about anything going to my head with a family like that.

But it’s not just my parents who are like that. My friend had a really great job interview this week and was super excited about the prospect of working in a different part of the world for her. When she told her parents about it instead of being encouraging like she hoped they said,

“Yeah whatever, keep looking.”

It only takes a few words to crush somebody’s dreams. They poo pooed on hers and really bummed her out. Apparently the vision they had for her wasn’t the same one she had for herself. They probably also want her to stop putzing around settle down and have some grandbabies for them too. Her parents don’t get her either. They don’t see that what she wants for herself is drastically different from what they want for her.

And of course because they are older they think that they are always right.

What’s the point of this? I’ll tell you. For some of us, or for me at least, I thought when I grew up, moved out and started paying my own bills I thought my parents would magically understand me. That they would start treating me like the grown up I finally was. But it didn’t happen. And for those of you who think you understand your kids you don’t. Not really. Because while they are an extension of you they aren’t you. And they can’t possibly see everything the way you do.

My mother’s favorite saying is, “No matter how old you get you’re still my child and I will forever treat you that way.”

And that’s okay because if she started treating me like a rational free thinking adult I wouldn’t know what to do with myself.

So when your kid comes to you telling you that they want to be a writer, astronaut or rock star don’t just pretend to be supportive think back to when you were a kid when your parents just didn’t understand you.

Your turn! Were you and your parents ever on the same page? Are you and your kids miles apart? Did you ever want to be anything crazy when you were a kid? Do you understand your parents a little bit more now that you are a parent of your own. Any and all comments are welcome.

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10 thoughts on “Parents Just Don’t Understand….”

  1. Jamie, as a parent, I have learned to bite my tongue when I think my sons aren’t going in the direction I think they should. I recognize that they have a life to live and a journey that requires them to travel many roads that might lead them to a bit of pain and suffering. It’s the nature of parenting to want to protect them from that, but following their dreams wherever they may lead is also the thing that will help them to grow the most. Letting go is the single most difficult part of parenting IMHO. Be patient and look forward to the day that you prove them all wrong!

  2. Jamie, I get the same thing from friends and family. One friend actually said, “do you think you will ever make enough money writing to quit your job?” At least at the end of the day, your family is always there. They love you and will support your career decisions in the end. As a parent, I, like Paula, bite my tonue a lot. Sometimes loving your kids means letting them learn from their mistakes, but in order to do that, you have to shut-up and let them make mistakes. You will have a successful career. When the nay-sayers start talking, just smile and remember, success is the best revenge.

  3. Who didn’t want to spend a rainy day at IKEA? It was super packed!

    I luckily have 4 sisters, so I don’t get the brunt of it like you do being the only girl. I am also good at fleeing lol. I try not to put myself in situations that allow my parents one on one time to start harping. I get caught mostly because my parents say I need a better job…but the dating and babies I avoid deftly, like a ninja!

  4. My mom’s always been pretty cool – I could be whatever I wanted to be. As long as I had a back up plan for when that best-selling novelist dream didn’t come true. And as a child of a single mom back in the early 70′s (when I was the only kid with a divorced parent in my 500 kid school) the back up plan was never to be “have a man to support me”. How funny that I’m a writer and a stay at home mom with a man to support me…hmmmm. When it comes to my books, my mom read them and said, “I actually liked it.” There was plenty of surprise in her voice. Oh well. She loves me anyway.

  5. I encourage my young adult children to be whatever they want to be or do. Now is the time to reach for the stars, before you settle down with a mate or start a family. Of course, maybe that is your idea of reaching for the stars: to get married and have babies. That’s great! Then do it! The hard part is figuring out what your idea of reaching for the stars is. If they want my help, I’ll give it, but only if they want it. Carpe diem!

  6. No matter what words are coming out of your parents’ mouths, Jamie, they love you more than you could possibly imagine, and they really do want you to be happy. As for Ikea, can you believe I’ve never been? I’ve wanted to, though. Maybe we should schedule a field trip! Enjoy your new stuff. You will wonder how you ever got along without that plastic bag holder.

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