It's a feeling I have a hard time describing but I know it’s so common. Seeing pictures of my parents with me as a child. Seeing them around the age I currently am. I remember all too well growing up thinking that my parents were NEVER kids themselves. When I turned 40, it was such an odd notion actually remembering when my mom hit that milestone.
I look at these old photos from my childhood and I have no memory of taking them. But, I see my mom's hands around my shoulders and my little hand holding on to my dad's as we posed. Safe and secure that they’d always be there. I never knew anything different growing up. It's only as a parent that I understand what a gift that feeling is. I spent so much time daydreaming about getting away from them that I missed the tide turn.
Now I look forward to weekends where I can go back home and just be their kid. My parents joked to my husband shortly after our wedding that he couldn't send me back! But growing up, they repeated time and time again “Don’t ever be afraid to come home.”
Now when I call my mom to vent about my most recent argument with my teenagers, she loves to say "Payback." And then I remind her that I was a complete angel as a teen. We usually laugh and she reminds me that these challenging parts of parenthood most likely won't last forever. But now, I feel like I’m parenting them in some ways.
I can hear my nagging now.
"Did you drink your chocolate milk this morning?"
"Did you get up and move today?"
"Why didn't you answer? Is your phone on vibrate...again?"
"Put the iPad away and go to bed at a decent hour!"
"Please. Check your texts."
It's got to be hard, you know? Parents spend all of OUR life telling us what to do and preparing us for the world, then here we come back, telling them what they should and shouldn't be doing, like we know best. I try to remind myself of this when my mom advises me on how I should store the canned goods in the cupboard or how my dad tells me to call, not text, when I arrive back in Indiana from visiting them. Just as I have to exercise patience in answering questions or correcting a story from childhood, I have yet to understand the patience it takes for them to treat their child as an adult who thinks she has all of the answers.
I think as parents, we all want to protect our kids because that’s our job. But somewhere along the line, we started to want to protect our parents too and are afraid to admit that we can’t on the same scale. It’s not our job, but it would be a nice form of payback.