My mother turned 65 this week. I wanted to take the time to write about her and my dad, as my relationship with my parents is changing drastically the closer I get to the big 3-0. I notice it in the way that I long to talk to them, the way that I’m able to establish productive boundaries, and the way I process their guidance and advice. I used to get really frustrated by the things that Mom and Dad weren’t, or didn’t do, or the things about me that they didn’t comprehend or understand.
I wish I could tell younger Meredith, “Yeah, but…fuck that. You’ve got it good, dummy. Calm down.”
Talking to peers about how they were raised has really opened my eyes. I’m so happy about who I am and the experiences I’ve had, and I have to give credit where credit is due.
I’m thankful that my parents waited a long time to have me. I was the first born into a strong, 15 year marriage. They’d sewn whatever wild oats they had. When I’m lucky, my dad gets drunk and tells me about those wild oats. Bless him.
I’m glad that my mother didn’t worry about what experts said. I was raised on television (Pat Sajak was paramount in my learning the alphabet). I ate a lot of hot dogs and American cheese and was taken on annual trips to Disney World. We had many video games. I never had a curfew. My internet wasn’t monitored. By all accounts and for many reasons, I should be a dolt, a shut-in, or have some bizarre, processed food-induced cancer. But? I’m happy, healthy, well-adjusted, and well-educated.
Education was always important. My father has two Master’s degrees from Johns Hopkins. My mom’s education is less formal, more worldly; I picked up my Jack-of-all-Tradesness from her. She’s upholstered, been an X-ray tech, a secretary, a real estate agent, a teacher, etc, etc, etc. I grew up anticipating that I should know a lot of stuff about a lot of different things. That was normal. I grew up loving history and paying attention to politics.
I’m grateful for the way that my parents approached religion. My brother and I were imparted with leftover Catholic guilt that my mom couldn’t shake, and I had long conversations with my father about reincarnation and Krishnamurti…which, upon reflection, is heavy for a 9 year old, huh? While it’s confusing as a child to feel overwhelmingly guilty about a situation yet also be fully aware of how inconsequential the situation is, I feel like it stimulated something in the recesses of my brain. I analyze because of it. In the end, the bottom line was don’t lie and be polite.
My brother and I were given a wide berth and were raised like little apprentices. Dad played guitar and we were always welcome to pick one up. Mom had some project she was working on, and taught me how to crochet, make jewelry, cross stitch. Anytime a room needed painting, I was there, learning the finer points of blue masking tape. I was taught to cook and bake. I took a lot of things apart as a kid. My dad allowed my brother and I access to the software licenses he had as a government employee. We were on high speed internet in 1997 and I was building websites at 12.
Mom managed the money well. We weren’t rich by any account, but we went on vacations, had functioning vehicles, lived in a very nice house, and my brother and I were always involved in extracurriculars.
I used to get really frustrated by the things that my mom and my dad weren’t, or didn’t do, or the things about me that they didn’t comprehend or understand. I wish I could tell younger Meredith, that girl full of teenage angst and suburban ennui, the following:
You’ll eventually find people who understand you on all kinds of different levels. Until then, and way past that point, you’ve got Mom and Dad, who – thankfully – love you too much. They don’t “get” you because (miraculously, or through very careful planning and execution) they raised you to make your own choices and to be who you are, not who they are. Enjoy the ride as much as you can.
And, fuck! Stop moping.