One of the hardest things about the holidays is being an adult, and being around your parents. No matter how great your relationship is with them, there are moments when you are going to feel infantilized, triggered, or irrationally full of rage. This is often solved with the right amount of bourbon, Xanax, and preferably pure MDMA – but one can’t always get their hands on such things… mainly because grandma keeps hogging all the drugs.
If you think about it, most of your life with your parents, or with your kids, is when you are adults. Childhood isn’t really that long. So the rest of that time is seeing and treating each other as peers. Yet that can be challenging when looking at your now grown up child and remembering them as that baby who once shat in their own hand and ate it. You know too much about your kid to take them seriously as an adult.
This holiday my parents were gone, but because of Munch’s surgery, I spent a week with them in Boston before Thanksgiving… which is the LONGEST we have been around each other for 17 years. Okay granted this was a time of stress and anxiety because of Munch’s medical journey, so that may have colored things a bit. Yet I did come to a MAJOR realization of why this adult parent-child dynamic can be so challenging.
My mom and I have a lot in common when it comes to our interests. We both enjoy walking in nature, talking about ourselves, and reading trashy magazines. We can bond over the fact that Scott Disick cheated on Kourtney Kardashian with not one, but TWO of her sisters. Yet we also are fundamentally different people. We have different moral inquiries, different views on life, and a different standard of what constitutes as dirty hair.
Most of my time with my mom we got along really well, but there were a couple instances where we didn’t. In short it boiled down to two things. She thinking I was a total basket case for my life choices, and me thinking she was a judgmental bitch.
We could have just swept those moments under the rug to join the other unsaid resentments of the past – yet instead we discussed what happened. From my mom’s perspective, she sometimes still sees me as that teenage girl who thought it was a good idea to do acid at an Allman Brother’s concert then drive to a rave. Or that girl in my 20’s who would often drink so much that I would end up puking at a diner, then leaving on the back of hot guy’s motorcycle to later get dropped off at the apartment building I moved out of 2 years earlier. Yeah I get it. I had a time in life when I was a little reckless. Yet a lot has changed since then, because I wear helmets now.
Toni: The thing with you mom is that you go so far in your thinking to see my behavior as questionable, and judge said questionable behavior. Yet you don’t take the next step and ask yourself “why is she acting that way.”
My Mom: Yeah I can see that. But I think I just have PTSD from that time in your life.
Toni: You know, as parent it is really easy to see the parts of your kid that you like, and take credit for those aspects of who they are. Yet when you see parts of them you don’t like as much, we often want to say “oh well, that’s just they way they are.” Or “that’s their personality.” We want to see our nurturing as the reason for their good, and their nature as the reason for their bad. But we are equally responsible for all parts of our kids. Social conditioning isn’t just about shaping the positive, but also the negative.
My Mom: Haha. That is so true. But seriously that was just you being you and I am the reason why you are okay.
Me and my mom during my “questionable behavior” period… (PS the top picture is my mom and dad in the late 80’s… pretty sure it’s the best thing ever)