Among the 8.7 million living species on earth today, I think homo sapiens still tops the planet-wide rank for the most complex inter-species relations. First of: we have a confusing system of social interactions—first there are strangers to judge, then you have acquaintances for cheap talks, friends to hang out with, parents to respect, spouses to love, kids to take care, and the list goes on. But what adds complication to that already-intricate web of agents and structures is this: the time dimension. You see, ladies and gentlemen: as humans grow up, the nature of these associations also shift, pushing us to adjust and eventually win (again) in the standing of ‘the most adaptive species’.
Now let’s take a closer look at one of the most understudied human bonds around us: that between mother/father and their daughters/sons.
For most species in kingdom animalia, parenthood is not a permanent state—as soon as their offsprings turn into their ‘adult’ phase, parents ‘abandon’ their kids into feeding, and defending themselves from predator attacks. For us human beings, however, (expectedly) the story is a little bit more complicated than that. Parents don’t just ‘leave’ us in the woods to build our own nest and magically survive—instead, they:
(Disclaimer: I might be over-generalizing since the only sample of ‘parents’ I use here is my own—but who knows, you might be able to relate somehow.)
1. Take Our Opinions Into Account
For almost two decades, my parents had made most of my decisions for me. They picked the town where I was born in (Cianjur), my first schools, the books I could read (thankfully Harry Potter was one of them—despite our economic limitations), and others. During these early days, the things I said didn’t really matter. One time I told father I wanted to take my bachelor degree abroad (I even passed the test and got a scholarship offer already) but he said no, and I trusted his judgment.
In fact, I used to trust all of my parents’ judgment. For most kids, this is also the case: parents are the first humans they look up to, whose sayings and deeds are stored properly in their memory as a life guide (at least temporarily), and later affect their personality as their own identity shapes up.
Later as we age, however, each of us—especially those with access to better education—typically realizes that our parents could be wrong, too. We suddenly see that they are ordinary humans, and that sometimes we know better.
This new epiphany might yield in two different possibilities:
- some people get downright disappointed—they fail to accept such huge shift of perspective and they end up—in a way or another—taking distance from their parents;
- some others take the wiser road and respond better—they seek to reestablish the old subordinate-superordinate structural bond with that of two equal friends.
In the cases where the latter succeed to bring their parents to the same understanding, this is what usually happens: more substantial discussions over dinner, and more life decisions are now made together. They start to see you as an equal, and your opinions now count.
2. Stop Being the Person You Look Up To
Although some people manage to deal well with the awareness that apparently their parents are not saints who are always kind or teachers who are always right, most of them still have to undergo that painful phase of settling down.
There are, of course, certain qualities that we will always associate with our fathers and mothers: we would never get over the fact that they spend most of their life taking care of us, sacrificing things we could not imagine, and how they would be the first people crying if something bad happens to us. It does not mean, however, that they have to remain the very individuals we look up to for guidance.
As soon as you get to that point, remember to forgive yourself:
remind him/her that it is completely natural and okay to let them off the chart. We both know that they have their own special shelf in our mind—one that is exclusive for the very people who let us be who we are today.
3. Rely on You for Certain Things
My favorite part of growing up, though, is how I get to take the ‘parent’ role every once in a while. It feels awesome partly because I get to help the very individuals whose help I always rely on for so long, and partly because I just enjoy having control over other human beings. HAHAHA. (Kidding. Or not.)
Anyway, I see the switch in parent-child relationship as a beautiful irony: we are, at the end of the day, made for one another—at first we were born to make their days and them to take care of us. Later as adults, we get to take care of them and they will be there to make our days. I would say that one of the luckiest people are those who have enough time to be the parent to their parents—it is indeed a privilege out of which we should make the most of.
4. Still Want the Best for You
On top of that, my friend, pray know that they will forever want the best things to happen to you. Yes, they now have bigger expectations and often-time these requests could be bothersome (like how Indonesian parents ask “When are you getting married?” instead of the more relevant questions like “Are you happy?”), but real parents would not push you off the cliff for their own sake.
All and all, growing up is a bizarre thing. I told you once that we are physically still the same person—seeing with the same eyes and talking with the same mouth—but inside, we are almost a different person every day. But this strange process also hides a fulfilling answer to some of life’s mysteries: it reveals the dynamics to which parents and children interact not only in a linear fashion (that we would later have children of our own), but also a cyclical one, where we will eventually play the role of ‘parents’ to our own parents.
It is a very simple and yet wonderful concept, don’t you think?