Ways We Understand Our Parents As We Age

October 3, 2019  |  
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I’ve been very overcome with emotions lately as I’ve needed my parents guidance more than ever on some very grownup decisions, and am realizing damn they’re wise. And, I’m realizing that they were once my age and went through the same stuff I’m going through now. What’s more is that they had my sister and me by then. So they were going through these major changes while raising kids. As I get older, I start to go through phases and have experiences that are tough and complicated, and then I have the light bulb moment of oh my parents went through this once, too. And that moment shines a light on so many of the things they said in the past and the advice they gave me and the rules they implemented. It’s almost like I’m walking in their shoes, a few decades later. Here are ways we understand our parents more as we age.

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Asking to meet your friends’ parents

Remember how embarrassed you felt when, you wanted to sleep at a friend’s house, and your parents insisted on meeting that friend’s parents first? It felt like they were judging those parents. Now you totally get it: not all adults are good. Of course they weren’t letting their baby stay with total strangers. You’ve seen the news. Grownups don’t always treat kids the way they should.

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Making you change your outfit

You used to kick and scream when they wouldn’t let you out in a crop top. Now you see oh men will creep on me even when I literally wear a head to toe snowsuit. Your parents weren’t trying to prevent boys (and men) from leering at you. They knew there was no preventing that. They were just trying to minimize it—just a bit.

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Hating that older boyfriend

You didn’t see the big deal about being 15 with a 17-year-old boyfriend. It was just two years. But now you see what your parents saw: he had a car, meaning there was no control over where you two went. He also either wanted to have sex or had friends who called him mean names if he didn’t have sex, so he felt he needed to have sex. As an adult, you’ve heard 17-year-old boys talk and they’re monsters.

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Refusing to let you get a piercing

“It’s just a piercing I can take it out!” you whined. Now, as an adult, you’ve seen 16-year-olds with face piercings and, low-key, you judged the heck out of their parents. The first thing you think when you see that is, “Do those kids’ parents even care?”

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Trying to teach you better money habits

Remember when your parents wouldn’t buy you those designer jeans or made you get a sensible first car instead of that BMW you wanted? They weren’t being dictators. They were preparing you for something you totally understand now: life is expensive so don’t blow your money on something you could get for a quarter of the price. You’ll need that money for…everything else all of the time.

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Tooting their horn about college tuition

There’s no way anyone can possibly understand what a tremendous act of generosity it is when our parents either A) pay for our college or B) cover our student loans. We only vaguely begin to understand it when we are adults, and realize that one single year of college cost our parents roughly half of what we make in our yearly salary. And they were making even less money then, because of inflation. They just had to kiss that money goodbye for us and we barely understood what the big deal was.

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Wanting to hang with you more

All you ever wanted was to get away from your parents, and now you see how terribly painful that must have been for them. It still is. You’re such a busy adult now, barely making enough time for them. But, now you know—as they knew—how precious time is, and how fast the clock ticks, and how very few people we actually hold dear in this world and how hard it is to find time to be with them. And you couldn’t just make the time to have lunch with your pops on a Sunday. Now you know how important it is to make time for family, no matter what.

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“Do what I say, not what I do”

You used to think that saying was some real BS, but now you get it. Even as an adult, you have certain rules you try to live by, but they are mostly guidelines, and sometimes you just have to break them. But you do need to learn the rules before you can break them, if you want your life to have any order to it. That’s all your parents were saying. That’s why they got to break the rules sometimes, and you didn’t: they’d known the rules for a long time.

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Worrying sick when you didn’t call

You thought they were totally overreacting if you called two hours after you said you would. But now, you worry about them like that. They’re older. Their health is perhaps not in the best shape. If they fail to call you when they say they will, you panic every second until the phone rings.

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Why they held onto your money

Perhaps you’re lucky, and your parents started a small fund for you when you were young. They grew it and grew it. Yes, I guess you could call it a trust fund. And the second you turned 18, you wanted that money. You wanted it for something like, an apartment or car that was way out of your price range. They wouldn’t give it to you. Now, when you’re older, you’re very glad they held onto that money because you truly need it for a down payment on a house or to put into the business you are starting. They knew those things would come up, and that they’re much more valuable than a sports car.

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Why they didn’t want you dating young

It made you so mad when your parents wouldn’t let you date until you turned 16 or 17 or whatever it was. Now, you get it. They knew there would be plenty of boys and then plenty of men. They knew you’d be plenty busy dating for many, many years. It would be messy and painful. There was no need for you to start that even one minute earlier than necessary. Heck, you miss your pre-dating days.

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Why they made big mistakes

Maybe your parents messed up—big time. Perhaps they had to take out a lien on their home due to a bad financial decision, or something in that category of mistake. You felt there was this big dark mark on your home—like your family was odd and bad. Now, as an adult, you realize there is so much learn. There is a lot you don’t know about money. You’ve come close to making huge, life-destroying mistakes many times. It can happen to good, responsible people.

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They have feelings, too

Now that you’re both older, your parents are more willing to share with you when they’re feeling a bit down. Depression and the blues are part of life. When you were a kid, they hid those feelings from you. Now, of course, you realize they always had those feelings, including on the days you were being a total monster and brat. You thought their life was daisies because they made it seem so, because they didn’t want you to worry.

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They did know better than you

They told you that one day, you’d understand. They told you that about a thousand things. You didn’t think they were right at the time. Now you know they were. You understand just about every decision they made when you were young that made you mad. And you can’t imagine how frustrating it is, as a parent, to do things you don’t even want to do, for the betterment of your child, that cause your kid to hate you for 10 to 20 years.

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And they still do

They’re still right. You think you’re so smart sometimes. You call them to talk about money matters or business. You think you know more because you’re young and up to date on newer trends, etc. etc. But they have that age-old wisdom. They always stump you by making some point you hadn’t thought of.

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