December 10, 2021 | OPINION | By Emma McDermott | Illustration by Emmaline Hawley
I’m lucky enough to be the daughter of two wonderful people. My mom is a beautiful, strong, brilliant woman whose hugs –– to this day –– can make any problem I’m facing infinitely better. And my dad is my biggest cheerleader, the person who makes me laugh to the point of tears, who just “gets me,” if you will.
It wasn’t until I got older that I could fully appreciate all my parents have done for me. Not only by being my parents, but by being “beside” me rather than “above” me as I grew up. By this, I mean that both parties started to see the other as equal.
Even though your parents have authority over you in those early years, put you in time out every so often and exercise the right to revoke privileges, you still rely on them for everything. But the tantrum you throw lasts only until your dad cracks a dad joke, and then everything’s better. Your parents are kind of what your world revolves around, and you’re what theirs’ revolves around.
And when you’re a kid, you think your parents can do anything. It’s not unreasonable for children to come to this conclusion; after all, it’s parents who make food appear on the table and toys scatter the playroom and tears dry after a nightmare. Your parents are kind of like real-life superheroes, and you see yourself at the center of their worlds.
There comes a point when that changes, though, and you start to realize that your parents actually had lives before you came into the picture. Sure, you look through photo albums and see your parents cutting the cake at their wedding or graduating from college and recognize that you weren’t present at those events. But it doesn’t destabilize your conception of them as your parents, primarily.
At some point, however, something clicks, and you begin to suspect something tragic: you aren’t the center of the universe. Damn that day!
I can’t remember exactly when this happened for me, and it was probably a gradual transition from worshipping my mom and dad almost as demi-gods to seeing them clearly as what they are: great, good people.
But it did happen, and I began to understand my parents as so much more complex and feel a different, deeper love for them upon this enlightenment. And for that I could not be happier.
When this happened, my eyes were opened to how cool my parents are. It was like, I don’t really need you to take care of me anymore, but I want you around, and I love getting to know you. It was the first time I could see my mom and dad as full, independent human beings and, to some extent, isolate them from the “mom” and “dad” labels at time.
Getting to know my parents as people, and not just as my parents, has been one of the best experiences of my life. Not only does this new relationship help me understand where I’m from, it shows me what I want to be like. That parent-child dimension is still there, but I can talk to them about stuff that they experienced once, too, and it’s like talking to friends.
I can tell them about mundane, day-to-day stuff, or discuss politics, or talk about nothing with them for hours. It’s a much more equal relationship, now, and I think I’ve certainly benefitted from becoming friends with my mom and dad rather than just being their daughter. I think now we play more “active” roles, so to speak, in each other’s lives where our connection is intentional rather than just by default.
I think a degree of that idolization of my mom and dad will remain throughout my adult life. I know they can’t fix everything, and they’ve got lives of their own, but they’re still the people that know me best and with whom I feel safest. When something good or bad happens to me, they’re the first people I text. That probably won’t ever go away.
Mom and Dad, if you’re reading this, thank you for being great parents and, even more, great friends.