The good parent

Rick Ryckeley's picture

There’s a place where facts, myths, and legends merge, blending together in our minds into a soft, purple, swirling haze. It’s a place where each of us was the star, the captain of the football team, the head cheerleader, the smart kid with the 4.0 average, or the popular kid that everyone wanted to be and be seen with.

Memories. Somehow, now that we have children of our own, we’ve forgotten the awkwardness of adolescence as it slowly ebbs away with time. In time, we have forgotten how hard it actually was.

Things that once we lived and died for (hanging out at the mall with our friends, talking endlessly on the phone about everything and nothing, dating that someone we knew our parents didn’t approve of just because they didn’t approve of him or her and just because we could) don’t seem as important to us any more as we’re burdened with the every day responsibilities of being adults.

Back then, we did every possible thing we could to push the limits of their tolerance with our risky behavior for no other reason than just to see how far it would stretch. But those same things are still important to our kids: acknowledgment, acceptance, and — above all else – being dependently independent.

Memories. The more time passes, the more perfect we were as teenagers. We were teenagers who never gave our parents any trouble, and if we did, somehow we remember that it was they who did not understand our wants or needs.

We did not misunderstand their responsibility to set down rules to raise their children in accordance with societal norms so we could be a success in school and later in life.

Upon seeing our children’s report card, instantly we reinvent memories, making us smarter than we actually were in high school or college, conveniently forgetting all the bad quizzes and test grades that were handed back to us while we daydreamed in math class — the math class we barely received a passing grade in.

Memories make us more popular than we actually were in college and help us forget how much our parents helped us out when we were still looking for our first job and a place to live. And with time, the line between what really happened in our youth and what we wish happened gets blurred. Our perspective gets skewed.

All our children want is food, a dry roof over their heads, an allowance, and love when they seek it. But for the most part they just want to be left alone.

Face it: parents are the stupidest people who’ve ever walked the face of the Earth. What could a teenager possibly learn from someone who is so old and so clueless?

If we search our memories – our real memories – it’s the same thing we thought about our parents but didn’t dare to articulate. It was a different time, but the same time.

So as we walk away, we leave our kids in their rooms behind closed doors. There, they’ll talk endlessly on cell phones until all hours of the night or play video games over the Internet against their friends in another neighborhood or watch TV or plan what party they will go to and with whom.

As good parents we leave them alone. They don’t have time to talk to us anymore. They don’t understand that the time they can spend with us is coming rapidly to a close. We leave them alone, for a very good reason. So they can be dependently independent.

Last Friday was a very special night – kids around this county graduated from high school. Next month parents will help them pack, then drive them to college. There they will stay. And teary eyed parents will drive back — alone.

For our children have memories of their own to create. And later recreate ... when they have children.

[Rick Ryckeley, who lives in Senoia, has been a firefighter for more than two decades and a columnist for The Citizen since 2001. His email is saferick@bellsouth.net.]