- Growing up, I always depended on my parents and saw them as my protectors.
- But now that they are 70 and I am 40, I am starting to know them as people.
- I appreciate who they are to me outside of our parent-child relationship.
Growing up, I saw my parents as wise and reliable caregivers who answered every childhood challenge. I want to go to school, play with toys and Dr. While they were doing important things like reading their Seuss books, they were doing grown-up things.
It’s only now, with them in their 70s and me in my early 40s, that I feel like I’m starting to discover their personalities beyond just being mom and dad.
My mother was my teacher, helper and playmate
I remember my mother as a local in many ways, filling our small kitchen with the aroma of homemade Italian bread, slow-simmering pasta sauce, and fresh chocolate chip cookies. He introduced me to the world of books and reading and fueled my imagination with frequent visits to the local library.
On Saturdays, we would take a trip to the grocery store, mall, or local department store and grab lunch at our favorite quick service places on the way home. I usually wanted to bring home something new, and my mom would often oblige with a craft kit, Lego model, or doll, which I would eagerly tear apart as soon as I got home (if I could wait that long).
I relied on her most for help with the basics of life: getting ready for the bath, combing my hair, getting dressed, and tying my shoes. I loved him like crazy, but I took these life patterns for granted. I had no idea how much time and effort she put into teaching me self-sufficiency.
Grandpa was a builder, repairman and outdoorsman
I knew my father best as a self-proclaimed “mountain man,” who loved the outdoors, took me fishing, taught me to hunt, and planted a large garden every year. He loved camping and wildlife, yard work and working with his hands. He roared our fieldstone fireplace in the colder months and sat with me in front of the flickering flames to build Lincoln log houses or read “Little House on the Prairie” aloud.
Sometimes, however, a quiet introspection would overtake him, and he would spend hours reading book after book in his big brown armchair in the living room. Or he would drive to a place he remembered from his youth, perhaps looking for a way to solve life’s difficulties through the lens of the past. I leaned on this sensitivity when I needed someone to talk to about the struggles that surfaced as I transitioned into my teenage years.
I am finally starting to appreciate my parents for who they are
I find it ironic that society celebrates moving away from our parents just as we begin to develop the perception and empathy that allows us to enter into their emotional experiences.
I missed the window of opportunity in my 20s. But I’m determined to make the most of the time I have left to uncover unique stories and insights that I never had the chance to appreciate as a child.
I go for coffee with my dad at our favorite local spot and have long conversations from great to great. His sensitive side is more obvious to me now, his need for companionship, his desire to show love even if he doesn’t always know how. I see the creative streak that drove him to write stories and poems in years past, a way with words that shows where my love for writing comes from and perhaps explains why we’ve always had an emotional connection.
However, it is more difficult to enter the mind of the mother, as if we have not completely overcome the barriers and boundaries of childhood. Her domestic industriousness remains, manifested in housework, cooking and baking. I see a soft heart that makes her pray for others, love every dog in the neighborhood, and take time to help the kids at church with their homeschool lessons. I’m starting to see her as fiercely independent, unwavering in her convictions, but somehow fragile, in need of reassurance and tender love.
Little by little, I am finally learning to see how my parents have become after a lifetime of experience.