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Someone finally turned a light on in there

NYC_10-07

Halloween 2007, New York City

When I turned 13 my father said, “Over the next few years, you’re going to start to think your parents are really stupid. You’re going to think we don’t know anything. And that’s ok. A few years later, sometime in your twenties, you’ll realize you were wrong, that in fact we know a lot and we have  a lot to offer.”

No way, I thought. That’s totally stupid.

When I was 15 I lied and told my parents that a particular New Years Eve party would be chaperoned by the under-age host’s parents. Of course it wasn’t. Of course the kid’s parents were in Hawaii and the only supervision we’d have would be from my friend’s twenty-one-year-old boyfriend who’d purchased three kegs and a pile of weed. My parents could always tell when I was lying, so as soon as I left for the party, they called the kid’s house. Ten minutes later, as I was walking up the front steps to the thudding of a subwoofer somewhere inside the party, my father’s car was pulling up to the driveway. He leaned over and threw open the passenger door.

“Get in the car. Now.”

I sputtered and balked, hot-faced and humiliated. I was furious, but I knew better than to try to defend myself. I had lied, after all. So, I got in the car and sulked the whole way home. I spent the rest of the evening watching Dick Clark with my parents, convinced they were trying to ruin my life.

That was the worst part of adolescence, I think. The feeling that I was a grown-up and I knew how to take care of myself and why wouldn’t they just leave me alone and let me live my life? Why were they always butting their nose in and taking over and so what if I want to go to a party where there aren’t any parents home? I can take care of myself and gawd they are so stupid. They totally don’t get me.

It might seem ridiculous now, but I remember those feelings well. Utter frustration and abject loneliness. The injustice of it all.  Teen angst at it’s angstiest.

Sometime between college graduation and New York City, I realized it wasn’t my parents that didn’t get me. They totally got me. They got me so well they knew what I was up to even before I did. It was me who didn’t get them. But they didn’t let my inability to understand stop them from being good parents. They knew I’d get it one day, and in the meantime, they loved me enough to sacrifice being liked by me. They gave up being cool and fun because being my friend wasn’t important. Being my parents – keeping me safe, healthy, and cared for – was what counted.

Nowadays you really could call me a grown-up. I’m married with beasts and I have a little bit of life experience under my belt. My parents are still my parents, of course, and I’m still their child, but I have a whole new appreciation for the parents they were while I was growing up. I mostly take care of myself now, though I often ask for their advice and guidance. After all these years, they’ve become two of my best friends. And much to the chagrin of my fifteen-year-old self, it turns out my parents are totally rad and really smart. Take it from me, kids. Listen to your parents. They totally get you.