I am so grateful to have been raised in the home I grew up in. Our parents, our early home lives, shape us more than anything else. They are the single most significant factor in who we become, and the lives we live – whether we like it or not.
I’m not saying we’re all just the result of our childhood environment. There are just about no aspects of psychology or sociology that don’t boil down to a combination of nature and nurture. It’s rarely the dichotomy people make it out to be, and two people with the exact same upbringing may end up leading vastly different lives. Even completely opposite lives. But they are both still, in many ways, the product of that upbringing.
I didn’t turn out exactly how my parents intended. Not that they had extremely strict plans for who their children would be – above all, they just wanted us to be happy, healthy, and safe. But they also have their own ideas about what that means, as all parents – and people – do. I don’t share many of their values anymore. In my adulthood, I’ve departed drastically from the lifestyle they believe is best, and I know in their ideal world, I would do things a little differently. Go to church. Wait til marriage. Have some kind of plan for my future by now. But they always valued independence in their children, and taught us to think for ourselves and forge our own paths. That’s an amazing thing.
So here’s a shoutout to all the parents who give their kids structure and guidance, but let them become themselves. It’s a difficult thing. While I never had a true teenage rebellion – in the sense that I hid any deviance from them very well, and maintained a pretty healthy relationship – I do regret the time I spent resenting our differences. Resenting the things I didn’t agree with or understand about them. As similar as you may be to your family, there will always be extreme differences to navigate, and my parents did a great job. Better than I could do, for sure.
My sisters and I had rules. Lots of them. More than any of my friends, in fact, which I certainly resented. I was the last to be allowed to watch PG-13 or R rated movies, I was the last to get a cell phone, I had the earliest curfew…but they also had reasons for those rules. While I didn’t and don’t agree with all of them, being able to understand why a rule was in place made me a lot more inclined to follow it. And a lot less inclined to feel guilty when I chose not to (sorry Mom).
But my greatest gratitude is for the rules and structures they put in place that prepared me for adulthood. Some are simple and seemingly obvious, like doing laundry. My mom didn’t make us to our own laundry as kids (although I would understand if she had), but she did make sure I knew how to use a washing machine, and what colors not to mix, and when to use cold or hot water or fast or slow cycles. I remember my first semester in college, actually having to teach other 18-year-olds how to even operate the machines.
The other incredibly important thing that my mom taught me was budgeting. She didn’t just sit me down and explain not to blow all your money – we get enough “frivolity is a vice” lessons through school and media. Instead, she gave me a system to exercise my freedom and practice handling my money in the day-to-day: a set allowance. Now, most kids have an allowance. Many of them, like me, were given that allowance on a weekly or monthly basis, and would be refused if we went asking for more. That’s all well and good, but all it really teaches is that you can only buy so many super-cute shirts with $30.
What my parents did instead was give me, from the age of 13 or so, total buying power for myself. My allowance was adjusted up accordingly, but I was in charge of buying all of my necessities (excepting food and board, of course). I chose and bought my shampoo and conditioner, my lotions and moisturizers and beauty products, my underwear and my vitamins. It gave me the freedom to buy a nicer, more expensive face wash if I wanted – and to have less money as a result for clothes, or for going to the movies with my friends. I learned how to manage money on a small, safe scale – no fear of starving or getting evicted – and was thus much more prepared in early adulthood to manage my money.
At the end of the day, most parents want to help their kids grow up happily, securely, and into capable, well-adjusted adults. But I am incredibly grateful to my own parents for encouraging and helping me above all to be independent, to be prepared for the real world.
Love you, mom and dad.