The Parent Trap: When We Become Our Parents
The haloed orb of the sun caused my eyes to squint, almost shutting or maybe it was my breathless laughter—the giddy emission only children can properly make. On the way back to Earth, his face, his eyes, his smile greets me. They are also mine. I remember this afternoon vividly—my dad pushing me in the little metal swing, painted green that hung from the crook of an ancient oak in our yard. We might even have a photo of it, tucked inside a photo album, but it’s possible the moment is so ingrained that I’m just imaging this photo exists.
My mother sits in the grass. No blanket underneath her, carefree. Her hair is breezily clipped up away from her face. I love her hair this way the most, although she doesn’t wear it that way much. She glows. Maybe it’s her hair, but I think it’s the look on her face. She’s looking down at me as I crawl towards her through the grass. The look is of pure and unfiltered love. I also think this moment exists in photo form.
I will likely never seek out these photos because I don’t need to or truly have a desire to. They are accurate depictions of my feelings towards my parents. In these snapshots of moments, the lighting is perfect, the exposure is just so—they are unflawed.
As children, our parents can do no wrong. Our parents are heroes, caregivers, providers and essential in the overall progression of our lives. Our expectations are yet to have formed and the world has yet to provide us with solid examples of how life could be improved. It isn’t until you have lived, progressed, learned and been molded that you begin to pinpoint flaws.
As a teenager we often go through a stage of resenting our parents, sometimes without even knowing exactly why. We begin to view that protective nature we once craved as a baby to be a setback. We wish they cared less, asked fewer questions, understood us better or were as cool as our friend’s parents.
Entering into adulthood, we face another shift. We begin again to crave their attention and their approval. As we begin our own lives, careers and marriages we seek recognition, admiration and ultimately to make them proud. Or depending on your relationship with your parents, this is your chance to prove them wrong. You either realize how grateful you are for the life they gave you or you realize the ways in which they failed you or even a combination of the two. During this phase also occurs much self-actualization often leading us to noticing aspects of our parents present within us.
I hear it often—from friends, coworkers, on television, in books—“I don’t want to end up like my parents.” I have found myself, in social situations, laughing and nodding along only to realize I don’t completely agree. I realize now how hurtful that statement could be. My mother and my father, like all humans, have their flaws, but my parents are real, relatable people, which allows me to be one as well. The realization that they can be imperfect, but still be exceedingly good, has ultimately made me a better person.
I am a worrier. As are both of my parents, yet in varying ways. I worry that I will not achieve the level of success that I prescribed to myself. When I am sitting idly or simply relaxing, I worry that I’m wasting time, that I should be doing something that contributes to this world. I don’t worry about what the masses think of me, but I am constantly doubting whether I make the people I love proud of me. I worry that my career, my home, my love life and my family will not rise to the level of perfection I envision it to be. The cells of worry drift through my blood passed on by those who gave me those very vessels, but when I look at my parents’ lives, they have achieved the equilibrium of success and love. They are what I strive for.
There are certain gesticulations I make, inflections I place, sayings I interject, habits I have and downright annoying things that I do that I’m coming to realize are inheritances. When my father is observing someone he tilts his head upwards, nose following the person. This used to make me chuckle as his doing so, seemed so painfully obvious. I’ve begun catching myself doing this, it make me laugh still, but now at myself. When my mom is nervous or unsure she up talks—her voice steadily rising like a question as to not hurt the person’s feelings or reveal too much. I do the same.
These inherited traits and small ticks are unavoidable. They are also attributes I will gladly claim, because in the grand scheme the admirable traits and aspects of my parents far exceed, outweigh, outnumber and surpass.
When I look at my father, I see the sun-weathered face that dedication to his job has given him. I see my papa’s eyes so big, blue and searching. I see aspects of his mother, my grandmother—the woman I never got the chance to meet. I see all that he has given me.
Because of my father I am an independent thinker who stands firm in her beliefs. He instilled in me the purpose of finding and pursuing your passion. He taught me the greatest gift you can give yourself is to continually learn—in any way possible—education, books, travel, life experiences, failure and success. He has exhibited to me that hard work always pays off. Through his equals parts passion and compassion, he has shown me it is okay and even good to feel emotions strongly. Because of him, I know it is healthy to acknowledge that you’re strong enough to stand on your own, but to choose being surrounded by others who only seek to better you. From his influence, each day, I am grateful to see myself becoming the independent, driven, creative, passionate, fearless, genuine, dependable and dedicated person that he is.
When I look at my mother, I see her small, delicate features, which are not meek, but instead inviting. I see my granddaddy’s smile—slight at first, but then warm and wide, spreading throughout her face. I see my grandma’s eyes —wise and knowing, taking in this world. I see all that she has given me.
Because of my mother I know that above all you should choose kindness. She has exhibited that selflessness can be rewarding not only to others, but also to yourself. By example, she has shown me not to question my faith or that life has its own timing and schedule. Her unwavering support and constant encouragement has molded me into a believer of the goals and dreams of others. As early as the days when I was just a group of cells merging and forming to create a body, she has pursued unconditional love. Because of her I strive to one day be a committed wife and a nurturing mother. From her influence, with time, I am grateful to see myself becoming the empathetic, altruistic, family-oriented, loving, graceful, faithful, supportive and kind person that she is.
I know that with time, age and the occurrences of life my parents’ personalities will morph and lag, but at their core pillars they will remain steady and solid. I know it is possible I may disappoint them, yet I also know because of them, I will always strive to progress and to live by their examples.
I am my own person, as are we all; because of that we have the privilege to acknowledge and change our weaknesses and embrace the characteristics that make us better, more loving individuals. The beauty of it is this: two people made you, not knowing how you would turn out, but hoping above all that you would take the best parts of them and make the remainder into your own.
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