I’ve always had a deep appreciation for my mother and all of the sacrifices both she and my father have made for my brother and me, even when I was a child. But at some point during my pregnancy, a light bulb went off.
I had a pretty challenging time, to say the least. I was under immense pressure teaching at a demanding charter school. Besides the usual pregnancy symptom of being tired all of the time, I had a host of other issues such as extreme morning sickness and terrible round ligament pain. It wasn’t uncommon to walk by my classroom and see me doubled over a chair while trying to lead my class through a close reading of a Malcolm X speech. I was in straight up survival mode, which is why my physical appearance began to suffer once my waistline and bump started to expand. It wasn’t that I didn’t care about how I looked. I really did, but I was just too damn tired to make it to that part of my swelling to-do list.
“I’m out here looking like a pregnant hobo,” I joked to my mom one Saturday morning over the phone.
I had attempted to order some maternity clothes to fit my changing body, but I always wound up ordering the wrong size. The thought of going into a store to actually shop was out of the question so I was limited to the few outfits from my closet that I could still fit. I had made my peace with the situation. I knew it was only temporary. When I came home from work that Friday night, my mom was sitting on my sofa waiting for me. I can’t even remember how she got in my house. She told me that she was kidnapping me for the weekend. And that’s exactly what she did. She took me back home with her and waited on me hand and foot that entire weekend. She hid my work bag. She took me shopping and purchased my entire maternity wardrobe. She cooked for me around the clock. By the time she dropped me back home that Sunday night, I was sobbing.
“You didn’t have to do all of this for me,” I said.
I was so overcome with gratitude for her that I felt like I was drowning in it. The logical part of my brain attributed my reaction to pregnancy hormones. However, even today as I reflect on those gestures and everything she has done for me and my family since my daughter was born, I’m still filled with emotion. It’s because I know all that my mom has done and is still doing is purely out of love. I take advantage of saying thank you to my parents anytime they offer the smallest of gestures because I know that they don’t owe me anything at this point. They’ve done their jobs raising my brother and me. We are not entitled to their time. We are not entitled to their money. We are not entitled to their resources.
I’m always blown away by the sheer sense of entitlement of many adult children have in regard to their parents. I recently caught up with a girlfriend whom I hadn’t seen in a while. We engaged in our usual girlish chatter, which eventually gave way to our obligatory, “How are your parents?” question. Little did I know, that question would open the floodgates for complaints. My girl —who just like me, is knocking on 30s door— was in her feelings because her father had stopped paying her car note several months ago since he’s gearing up for retirement. I was stunned, not by the fact that her pops was still paying her car note, but by how ungrateful she sounded. Instead of being appreciative of her father for providing financial support that he definitely did not have to provide, she was dogging him because the gravy train was coming to an end. If your parents are still willing to pick up a bill for you, accept the help and be gracious about it. However, to act as if they’re somehow obligated to do so? Miss me with that.
I wish I could say that my girl’s attitude was unique, but it’s not. So many of my peers (and adult children in general) have a misguided sense of entitlement that is absolutely nauseating. I know a woman who will jump on Facebook in a heartbeat to sub her mom for not being available to babysit her kids. I know a man who is well over 40 who will badger his elderly mother for something nonstop until she caves from simply not wanting to deal with the stress of his presence anymore.
Here’s the reality: Our parents are getting older with each passing day. They will not be here forever. Instead of being a constant source of stress and drama, we should be the ones lightening the load for them. They have already done their jobs of raising us. It’s okay to ask for and accept help but to act as if we’re somehow owed something is dysfunctional and manipulative. It’s time to grow up.