Surviving our parents

Parents – can’t live with them, can’t pay bills without them. That’s the idea that a good number of college students have at some point during school.

The widespread idea of going home after the first semester of freshman year to a completely different relationship with parents is usually a myth, which leaves most students at a crossroads. From that point, effort can travel both ways, and with luck an amiable relationship can be maintained. Either that, or the kind of relationship once had with mom and/or dad can dwindle down to a phone call every couple of weeks and an awkward three-week visit in December.

The entire process would have been really difficult to imagine as children. About 10 years ago, parents were the beacons of reality for our generation. Whether our individual reality was that “Daddy is smart,” “Mom works a lot,” or “I wish Grandma would come over and cook every once in a while,” we learned a lot from our parents.

My parents actually adopted me when I was a baby. My father was in his early fifties at that point, and they actually had a lot of problems finding an adoption agency that didn’t have a problem with that. But the first half of my life, before he had a lot of health problems, was better because of his age. He had worked as an engineer for a long time, and could answer anything I asked him about math, science and the world around me. I couldn’t have imagined a world without his constant guidance and advice.

Now, he lives in Alabama, and I haven’t talked to him for weeks, and I honestly can’t tell any difference. That beacon of truth I looked up to for so long has faded out of my life to an alarming degree, and I know I’m not the only one.

The appeal of living an independent life, free of accountability and, let’s face it, nagging, is enough to drive people our age away from family ties. We make it for a couple semesters on Ramen noodles and minimum wage, and suddenly we get this high idea in our heads that we’re past the stage where we need parental involvement.

The thing about that theory is the crucial emotional connection that invalidates it. Maybe we don’t need our parents to hold our hands and pay for rent anymore. Some of us are even at the point where we can take care of our own tuition. But we will never get past the place in our hearts where mom and dad’s approval makes us happy. Our parents are the only ones that have always been there, even before our closest friends, and that means something regardless of what state our relationships with them are in currently.

Even beyond that, our parents will never get too old to need us, too. If you think about it, we’ve been part of their lives for half of the time that they’ve been alive, even if we annoyed them for a good part of that time. We’re an annoyance they start to miss after a couple of days, even if we just call to say, “Hi, I got a new tattoo, have a nice heart palpitation.”

When it’s all said and done, we may not need our parents for everything, but we will always need them, on some level, for some things. Maybe we can’t live with them for longer than a few weeks, and maybe we can’t pay bills without them yet, but I know there’s a contribution to who we’ve all become that our parents made. I don’t think we could live without that either.

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