[10] 29 Lessons

Your parents want you to be happy.

One of the last lines of Mindy Kaling's acknowledgments in her book says, "I guess I'm just one of those weird kids who likes their parents too much." 

I relate to this, being weird, but also in that I just genuinely like my parents so, so much. I have nothing but fond memories of growing up--feeling loved, supported, cared for, believed in. There is mutual respect and pride between us. There's not ever been a time in my life when my relationships with both my mom and my dad ever fell off course. We just have always been close and I imagine we always will be. 

Because I never went through the "I HATE MY STUPID PARENTS" phase, it was sort of weird for me to, just, be married one day and suddenly my parents are my extended family and I'm on my way to making a new life and family with another. This is not Trevor's fault or problem: I absolutely loved and love him and love the life we are building together. This is not my parents' fault or problem: They set me up for successful adulthood and were nothing but welcoming and supportive in my marriage.

The problem was me. It was my fault because I think I was seeking a hard and fast line where actually lines only blur. Your parents are always your parents and you are always their child. Marriage doesn't change this. No stage of adulthood changes this. Maybe I thought it would feel different, like I'd grow up and start a life and then I'd think of my parents differently.

It doesn't really happen like that. I think it probably doesn't happen like that even if you come from the "I HATE MY STUPID PARENTS" tribe. We have to ease our way into adulthood, sometimes in awkward steps and stages, sometimes even moving backwards before going forward again. And because this relationship always exists, and if you're lucky like me, remains sturdy and good, sometimes our interactions remain the same. Me? I felt very aware of every life choice I made, like that if it was wrong I was going to let down my parents. 

I assume that parents will always have thoughts on our courses of action, just like we instinctively judge the ways our friends and peers and kids do things--heck, just like we have thoughts on our parents' courses of action and what we might choose to do differently. But my mom let me in on an important little secret one night, after I confessed to her how torn I felt. She said, "I may not always agree with you, but more than anything, I just want you to be happy. So you do what makes you happy."

This was super life-changing for me, even as an almost-30-year-old. Mostly, it gave me perspective. My first thought was, "Naturally. That's how I feel about my girls." Right now, it's small instances. But I don't care that Iris always wants her hair down and crazy, even though the perfectionist in me wants to pull it back into cute braid crowns. That perfectionist in me is replaced by the Mom of Iris who loves that her little girl knows what she wants and is free-spirited about things. I realized that this is what my mom was saying about me. Her disagreement isn't disapproval; it's only a natural inclination toward something else because of who she is. And what she loves more for me than the things she loves herself is that I be bold enough to see something I want and go for it. As a mother, it's more fulfilling to enable your child to be the best, happiest version of herself than to hold her back by the choices you would make for her.

That is why my parents are the greatest parents--to not only recognize this in our relationship and to do it the right way, but also to afford me this wisdom so I might exercise it in parenting my daughters. Hopefully my girls will find themselves in the "I LIKE MY AWESOME PARENTS" camp like me, feeling loved, supported, cared for, believed in. And most importantly, that they'll find themselves happy too. Then they will feel free, like I feel free, living in a life that is tailor-made for me and makes my parents proud for that very reason.