As parents, we try our very best for our kids wherever and whenever we’re able. Parenthood never came with a rule book, and most of us looked to previous generations for tips on how to effectively parent a child. Sometimes, we consult books to assist us with how to get little Johnny to sit down to dinner or how to get young Sarah to pitch in with the housework. Most often, we find ourselves flying by the seat of our pants with visions of going down in flames. Parenthood is not for the faint of heart.
There was a great song by Mike and The Mechanics that began with the line, “Every generation blames the one before.” The tune, entitled “The Living Years,” discussed the volatile relationship between father and son as well as the burden of guilt that the singer experienced upon his father’s death. We, as humans, often find ourselves in similar situations, unable to tell our families how we feel in our heart of hearts because of strong emotions that surround the situation. We usually experience a “Should-a, would-a, could-a” moment when those who were once the closest to us pass, for the opportunity to say what we should have is gone. The tag line in the song, “It’s too late when we die to admit we don’t see eye to eye,” is one that’s filled with regret and sadness, but it also carries a kernel of truth: if you have something to say to someone you love, say it before It’s too late.
My relationship with my own mom hasn’t always been as wonderful as it is today. There have been many arguments, disagreements and harsh words spoken which have left heartache and sadness in their wake. Once I became a parent, I began to understand what Mom experienced, which helped me to appreciate her as a person and a woman. Much like the hypothetical phoenix, our relationship had arisen, brighter and so much more beautiful.
I find myself at the crossroads with my own daughter. As she begins her final circle around our nest, I am reminded that very soon, she is going to take flight from our tiny house in Hicksville. This is a moment every parent anxiously awaits: that bittersweet, exciting moment when the fledgling flies on her own to start her own nest. It’s during these waning moments of our very own “Big Three” (This Is Us fans will understand the reference) that I hope everything we taught her sunk in and that she appreciated our efforts, especially during those times that we hissed at each other during disagreements.
Hubby and I have adopted some of Mom’s mannerisms, which include the “I love you” and the wave at the door before our girl goes out. Mom always said that she wanted to be sure we heard those words, especially if they were the last that she ever said to us. That caught me right in the feels, because all I could think of was how precious and short life is, and how much time I wasted feeling angry at nonsense. These days, I remind my daughter of the very same thing. While she rolls her eyes, I know she’s upset if one of us Isn’t at the door to wave or utter a quick “I love you”. Even if we’re arguing, we always manage to say it, albeit sometimes through gritted teeth.
Arguments will always happen in relationships, especially when one side is convinced of their rightness in a situation. In generational arguments between parent and child, there’s always the parent who “knows better” or has “been around the block longer” than the child. We sadly forget that the world we grew up in no longer exists. This doesn’t negate our parental guidance, but it does require us to give pause and really listen to what our kids are loudly and clearly stating. For all we know, our kids could be teaching us something new. Remember, you’re never finished learning anything. The day you tell yourself you’re done with learning it seems that Life pops something into your path to make you realize that you couldn’t have been more wrong.
Life is always evolving, which can also be said about relationships. As I’ve changed throughout parenthood, I have also evolved in my relationship with Mom. Nuances that once annoyed me as a teen are now heartwarmingly endearing. Each experience forms a memory, much like a groove on a record, that will play beautiful music when our relationship on earth is through. I’m leaving these same grooves on my daughter’s heart, and hopefully she will follow the tradition with her own children one day. The “I love you’s” at the end of every phone conversation that I say loud and clear might sound like the proverbial “broken record,” but one day those etchings will keep her smiling, long after I am gone.
Patty Servidio is an Anton Media Group columnist.