Sunday, 15 June 2014

An open letter to those who still have both parents.

Dear fortunate members of the dual-parented association,

I understand you, because I was once you. We all know how it is to both love and hate our parents sometimes, to want to please them and want to defy them at the same time. Yes, people of the teenage persuasion, I'm talking to you. And I'm here to deliver a nugget of wisdom that I wish I knew when I still had both my parents.

They're not going to be around forever.

It's easy to assume that parental entities will always be around. After all, they have been around for your infancy, babyhood, formative years, adolescence, and most of your adult life. But here's a tiny, baby little tip: They won't.

These are the people who have given up much to raise you, although if your parents are anything like mine, they will act as if it was the easiest thing in the world, so you assume the same. But in the background, I guarantee that they have been doing the following for about two decades:

  1. Apologize profusely to strangers/relatives/friends you spit up a mixture of baby saliva/vomit on as a baby
  2. Sit vigil by your cot all night because you had a fever, sponge you every hour, soothe you when you cried because you were hot and feverish and uncomfortable
  3. Apologize profusely to friends and acquaintances when they have had to duck out from an event early because you were screaming, crying, and downright inconsolable as a toddler
  4. Apologize profusely to toy store staff/strangers when you decided to have a full-blown kiddy tantrum in the middle of the toy aisle because you wanted that stuffed dog
  5. Tried to get up the bus with you sleeping on their shoulder and 3 heavy bags full of your stuff on the other shoulder and no place to sit
  6. Lose friends along the way because between you and their full-time job, there just wasn't much time for anything else any more
  7. Trying to let you know they were there whenever you wanted to talk about anything (boy problems, hormones, your changing body etc) as a teenager, but instead, you slammed your door in their concerned faces and cried into your pillow because 'nobody understands you'
  8. Warning you against that boyfriend of yours who eventually broke your heart, although you didn't listen
  9. Plead off work to come home early and spend time with you, but you ditched them for your new boyfriend
  10. Put aside their own feelings of exhaustion and work trifles to clean up after you when you flung your socks on the floor after school
  11. Pour their life savings into your education and encourage you to do better so that you could achieve more in adult life
There are so many more, but I will stop here. They have done all these and more and never asked for anything in return (at least, mine didn't). But that's okay, you will one day do these for your own children. You will never know how much it cost them to suffer through childbirth, financial troubles, dedicating every waking minute to parenthood, and yet have the child you gave up everything for to look you in the eye and tell you they hate you.

One thing parents are, though, is a veritable trove of stories about you as a child. Their secret recipe for chicken soup or scrambled eggs that is the only thing you can stomach when you're too sick to eat anything else, the invaluable advice that they can give about how to handle your in-laws. The right way to clean, powder, and diaper your baby's butt to avoid a rash. How to ballroom dance. What it was like attending a Woodstock concert.

When your parents are gone, who will teach you to cook, juggle your husband's family, a full-time job, and raise your child with the familiar firm-handed patience that brought you all the way from infancy to adulthood?

The answer is: no one.

Because nobody can truly compare to them.

So I would suggest spending time with your parents like every day is their last. It's time to stop treating them like they're dispensable, because you only have one pair. Pick up life tips from them, listen to stories about how you used to be as a child or how their glory days were before you came along. Learn to cook from them. Take investment advice, employment advice. Parents know more than you give them credit for.

There have been so many times since my own mom passed on that I have wanted to reach beyond the grave and communicate with her, even if it was only just to ask her recipe for Chicken Macaroni Soup.

You never truly know when you will lose them, and let me tell you this, it sucks to have to struggle along without them.


P.S. Be you two or thirty, or however well-equipped you think you are to have the two most important people in your life snatched from you, here's a heads-up: you're not, and you will never be.

(Momma 1951-2013)

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