My parents are coming into town today and I am already exhausted before they arrive.
I love them so much, and I think they love me. I cannot really see a reason why they would bother visiting though. Because to tell you the truth, we could not be more different.
While I prefer to read a lot, they prefer to watch sports.
I am very interested in talking about ideas, and instead they like talking about people.
And for some reason in the 30 years of my life, if there is a moment where I disagree with them, I never bring it to the forefront.
Does this perhaps have to do with our Quaker heritage? Am I so afraid of conflict with them that I would never risk challenging them on some of their premises. To be sure, they are baby boomers, and society seems to be under the impression that they have plenty to atone for. But I am not so sure…
I think it is easy to blame an entire generation. During the time they were growing up, compared to my time, the world could not have been more different. Their experience was quaint, and then drug-fueled and indulgent, and then corporate and indulgent. The millenial experience consisted of boy bands, straightened hair, and then crisis, crisis, crisis. As a result, though I have a lot of sympathy that many others do not when it comes to baby boomers, it nevertheless is difficult to communicate just how different our globalized and digital world is compared to the analog and robust life they lived.
There’s a great line in Rachel Cusk’s Kudos, and I am sorry to be bringing her up once again. But she is excellent at this sort of thing.
At least she loves my son, she said, although I’ve noticed that the people who love children the most often respect them the least.
That has been the central premise of what it is like to be an adult under the watchful (or negligent) eyes of one’s parents. It seems to me that there are some parents who welcome a different existence compared to how it was lived before. They simply want to observe, without judgment, how their children tackle life.
And there are some parents who have no interest in allowing their children to be adults in the first place.
They make recommendations and give free advice without end. Rather than bring the family close together, it alienates them.
Because the differences between my parents and I are so large, it has made me wonder about the power of inheritance in genetics, and how possibly certain characteristics arrive, recede, or skip generations.
I cannot really know what my family thinks of me. Sometimes I like feeling as if they love me no matter what. But I also wonder sometimes how parents can stand a son or daughter who is so unquestionably different from them as to not only reject their way of life during some teenage rebellion, but to reject it indefinitely.
One can imagine before having a child that there exists a crystal ball in a foggy room. There is an old witch with a black shroud covering her graying and slick hair. She tells you that if you are willing to gaze into her crystal ball, you can see who your child turns out to be. For the sake of the situation, we could also say that, if the child lives to the age of thirty, you would see their life then. Anything before that, the parents would see their death. Anything after is regrettably unknown.
Anybody can have a child, but to be a parent is another story. With everything that they have seen in the crystal ball, would they still go through with it?
How dare the children take all the wisdom of sound parenting and throw it in the dumpster?
Perhaps not. Perhaps the best parenting is in producing a child so confident and resolute in one’s ambitions as to not let any ideals, including those of one’s parents, stand in their way.
Still, I wonder if each time I see them I broke their hearts in some way.
If my parents could see their son and daughter through the crystal ball, would they have gone through with it?
I suppose if you asked them directly, they would have said, “Yes, of course.” But deep in their consciousness, they would also see that they enjoyed parenting more when I was young than when I got older. And, perhaps, for my sister it was reversed. There is no reason to think it is a bad thing to admit that some parents are better for certain ages, and less tailored to others.
No matter. We’re stuck with each other now. And I have to remember what salad dressing they like.