Disclaimer: My parents are some of the best people I know and I love them dearly. By no means is this a post about how parents are evil and you should never listen to them because they secretly want you to be miserable. So, mother, when you read this, you can certainly sit down and tell me how I don’t know what I’m talking about at our next family gathering.
Like it or not, we all have had people who have raised us up from when we were children, whether that be parents, foster parents, guardians, grandparents, or the gorillas in the jungle (looking at you Tarzan). These people, or individual person, who brought us up from wee babies have been teaching us how to live and how to travel this maze of life since we escaped the womb.
For the first 10-15 years of our lives, we pretty much don’t know what the hell were doing and kind of sit in the passenger seat of our parent’s car as they steer us through life and where they think we should be headed.
This is OK. This is all well and good. And eventually we hit a time where we have to take that wheel and start driving ourselves. And, honestly, this can be at any age. Whenever we are ready, that wheel is there for us to take.
But hold on a minute, says the parent. I’m not done. You’re still my kid and, by the powers invested unto me, it is my duty to continue to coach you and help you live your life.
This is where things can get dicey.
- How many decisions have our parents made for us that have turned out bad, and how many of them good?
- How many times have we listened to our parents and made a decision because of them, and how many times have those decisions gone for better or for worse?
- How many of us allow the upbringing of our parents and their values to guide us on our path?
It’s simply an undeniable fact of life that parents are influential on their child’s life for a given period of time and, in many instances, for a child’s entire life. The problem arises when we continue to take our parents voice as law and abide by their standards far beyond our childhood.
What are some serious issues that our parents can influence us on, whether by displaying joy or anger in the decisions we make?
- Where we travel to
- Where we move to
- Choice of College
- Choice of Major
- Choice of Career
- Choice of Partner
- Sexual Orientation
Look at those decisions above, the biggest decisions we make in life, and lets ask ourselves how many of those do we feel obligated to discuss or at least tell our parents about when we make them?
I do not know from experience, but I would assume that parenting is NOT easy. However, the point remains that for the limited amount of time we are on this earth, these decisions should be up to us and us alone. Our life is our life.
That’s not to say that our parents cannot help us in making decisions or provide guidance, but their opinions should not matter in the end. The decisions are ours alone.
In Robert Greene’s book “Mastery”, he explains how when Mozart, one of the greatest composers in history, was a boy, he was incredibly exceptional at the piano and would play at royal parties at the age of 3. He did this throughout his childhood, raising much of the income for his family.
As he got older, he grew bored with the typical songs and wanted to create his own works of art and no longer play at these royal parties, but his father forbade him. It was his duty as his father’s son to provide for the family with his talents.
After years of doing as he was told, Mozart finally left his home country and his family and moved so he could play what he wanted to play. It was at this time that Mozart created the work that we admire today.
A story such as this shows a radical case of what someone as great as Mozart had to do to become who he wanted to be against the wishes of those who raised him and took care of him. His life is his own and he knew that the decisions, not matter how his father felt, were his to make.
With that in mind, here are 4 ideas to keep in mind when dealing with parental figures and why we should not always listen to them:
- They don’t always know what’s best for you
It would be crazy to think that our guardians or parental figures simply don’t want us to be happy or don’t want the best for us, unless your name is Harry Potter and you’re living in a fricken cupboard under the stairs. Even if the only reason they want the best for you is to get your ass out of the house, hey, at least they’re rooting for you!
However, just because our parental figures want the best for us doesn’t mean they know what is the best for us. No one knows you better than you. You could wake up every day and change what it is you want to do with your life, so how could anyone else, other than you, know what is best for you?
Are your parents clairvoyants?
Can they see into the future?
Assuming the answer is no (hey, you never know what’s out there), know what it is you want before asking your parental figures for advice or guidance. Having a plan already set in our heads will keep our focus and allow any negative responses to be washed under the rug.
- They’re people too
On any given day, a vast majority of the listening that we do is of other people telling us about themselves, whether it be the creepy homeless guy telling you a sob story to get some change or a significant other telling you how they will literally kill you if you make that noise again. Part of that listening is reacting to the information you’re getting, like holy sh*t I better run they’re really going for that knife!
Parental figures are no different. They are reacting to the information we are given them and determining how this information is going to affect them.
For example, if you tell your parental figures that you’ve had enough of the dog pooping on your clothes and are moving to Tahiti, naturally most parental figures would freak out because they might not see their child again for a long time, the same way we might freak out if our best friend was joining the military or buying a one way ticket to Uranus. This may cause their response to try to deter us from making the decisions that we’ve already made.
Understanding that our parental figures are people too and that they will take our decisions and react to how those decisions will affect their lives will help us to filter the responses we receive from them before changing our decisions.
- They may have ulterior motives
Ya know, as much as we like to think that they aren’t, movies are fake and a lot of what occurs in movies is either highly unlikely or utterly ridiculous. All of those romantic comedies where girl meets boy or those dramas where a man crosses the world fighting ninjas to get the girl, none of that stuff ever happens. Life ain’t a movie.
So when the main character in a flick goes to a family event and people start asking them “So when are you getting married”, “When are you going to settle down”, and “When are you going to have kids?”, we remember it’s just a movie and our folks don’t actually ask that right?
They totally do! And it’s totally uncomfortable and awkward and we definitely spend the whole day thinking about it after they ask!
These kind of questions have been scaring us for generations, but it’s important to remember that most of these questions are more about what our parental figures want than what we want.
Maybe you want kids and they want grandkids, but they’re not the ones who have to raise them.
Maybe you want to get married and they don’t want you to be single living in their basement, but they don’t have to spend every day with the person we decide to settle down with.
Let’s not let these questions fool us. Although these questions may be “necessary”, our parental figures are thinking more of how these decisions will change their lives instead of how much they will change ours.
- They can’t always relate to your situation
I’m just going to be straight up with this one. My father has never owned a cell phone and has a collective phone book in his head of maybe 10 numbers. This is not a joke.
So, if I was going to buy a cell phone, would I ever ask my father for advice? Of course not.
Such is true for anything that has changed from the time our parental figures were born to the time we’ve been born.
My parents never had texting, or social media, or EDM music, or Angry Birds or massive college loans or trap queens or any of that!
They grew up in a time with disco and when you could be 18 to drink (jealous). They grew up in a time where sitting around listening to the radio as a family was an acceptable Saturday night.
The times have changed, so the point is, we can’t always ask our parents for advice about what’s occurring in our lives today because they simply don’t have the experience of living in the times that we’ve lived in.
With that said, parental figures can have a lot of good advice and can assist us tremendously in our journey, but I think it’s important to remember the above notes and keep these in mind whenever a conversation heads for a life chat with the folks.