Listen to your elders (but don’t live for them)


Getting picked up for a date in a tilt-a-whirl…what other ride allows you to spin faster by leaning into it?

I once had a dark-arty boyfriend I was crazy about, but my mother wasn’t really a fan. When I eventually broke up with him, she bought me a sapphire ring because she knew it was an agonizing choice for me. I also suspect she was relieved I’d finally come to my senses. I still wear the darned thing.

He and I had run around together as friends in our late teens and early twenties, and we argued about everything we possibly could, dead set on proving the other wrong no matter how ludicrous the topic. We fought over politics and bags of chips. The cheerleader captain and Kappa Kappa Gamma had a hankering for the smart side.

Eventually though, I did come to accept that he was not the best choice for me (and I still suspect my mother’s view of him may have had a slight hand in the matter).

On a log between a goat and a mother
This old love of mine has appeared in my dreams over the years, usually when I’m encountering a transition. The other day he appeared as a goat, and we sat on a log and talked, my mother also making an appearance by sitting on the other side of me. I don’t remember what exactly we talked about, but I do remember it was no fun being wedged between them on that hard, knotty log. He kept leaning in with his goat-y head, making me cringe as my mother sat in silence, listening.

In my last dream, I was standing in my parent’s driveway, and he pulled up in a tilt-a-whirl car, appropriately my favorite ride. My parent emerged from the garage as if cued, staring stonily and then retiring back into the house. My initial mortification of them spotting me with him turned to anger, and I marched into the house shouting something incoherent (not sure what, but I meant it). When that wasn’t enough, I began throwing the dining room chairs around and shouted one prominent phrase – something that is a very real feeling in my life. My parents looked on like Weeble-wobbles.

I don’t think about this guy in my waking hours, and I don’t feel angry with my parents – I have a great relationship with them. I’m just confronting my habit of living for others, and yes, wanting to please my mother. I think I would be hard pressed to find a person that doesn’t want to please their mother on some level.

But no, I don’t want to live for her, or anyone else for that matter. Our parents offer us sage advice from the minute we can understand them: Don’t run into the street. Don’t drink fluids out of bottles from under the sink. Don’t bite your brother. But as we grow older, we have to differentiate between helpful advice and our parents wanting for us what they really want for us for themselves. Eeh, does that make sense?

I have a friend who has two teenagers. He told me that on the day they were born, he asked himself to acknowledge that these children are not “his” to control. They are their own, and they will make choices that he will sometimes like, and sometimes dislike. That’s life, and that’s parenthood.

A day after the chair-throwing dream, I came across this video of Andrew Solomon. When he was a child, they were handing out balloons at a shoe store, and he knew he wanted a pink balloon. His mother disagreed, telling him that he wanted a blue one because blue was his favourite colour (as I listened, I imagined her sending a silent prayer as she said it). He ended up with a blue balloon that day. Years later he speaks as a gay man, but his favourite colour is still blue. In the below video, he talks about parental expectation. It’s worth a listen.

Related Posts:

Mom, you’re the best
Freedom for
Playing the victim or being proactive
Well-behaved women rarely make history

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