Growing up, I was never really a “problem child”. I got in trouble here and there for breaking curfew or forgetting to do my chores, but I didn’t give my parents too much trouble. Thankfully, I had some pretty mischievous older siblings who paved that path for me. So when it was my time to walk down it myself, nothing I could ever do would top their mishaps. For this, I am thankful. So Mike and Amanda, you’re appreciated! Thanks!
Anyway, my parents had a full plate when I was a kid. We had no money, first off. Obviously, I was totally oblivious to this fact because I was so young, but the more stories I hear and the more I actually listen to what my parents say and the stories they tell—I realize that they sacrificed so much and worked so incredibly hard to give me, my brother and my sister everything they possibly could. I have never appreciated this more than I do now. As a young person, struggling to find a job and start a life of my own, I cannot imagine how these two did it at my age with three children to boot.
Part of the reason I appreciate them the way I do is because my mother and father both had pretty rough childhoods. My father’s mother passed away when he was very young, which I will never be able to comprehend. He survived by his amazing siblings and his aunt (my great aunt), Mimi. May she rest in absolute peace. My mother was never really loved or appreciated by her mother the way a daughter should be. She and her father had a wonderful relationship, but he passed away as well. My mom and dad’s past was a driving factor in their ambition to have their children be provided for and loved in all the ways they were not. They gave us absolutely everything we needed—everything that they never had.
My parents fell in love, got married and had three (annoying but lovable) children. I seriously asked them the other day if they were kind of bummed that their kids turned out to be such weirdos, and my dad responded, “I’m just happy you guys are still around, and we didn’t accidentally kill you or anything.” Precious, right? That’s a Hallmark Moment right there. As the years pass by, I have learned so much about these two people who are more than just my mom and my dad. Learning about them has also cleared up all the confusion as to why I am such a weird and quirky person. Those apples did not fall far from that tree, people.
Sometimes it’s hard to take away the title of “mother” and “father,” and look at our parents as actual people—people with flaws and personalities and dreams. When I was younger, they were just my mommy and my daddy. They cooked for me, drove me places, bought me stuff and gave me hugs and kisses. They were basically put on this earth to cater to me. That’s what my young mind believed. You get older, and you start to see your parents in a different light. As you grow, they grow too. You see that they have bad days. They have stressors and anxieties and moments where they just want to quit. Just like us twenty-somethings. You begin to relate to them in a way you never could before.
They’re real people. Whoa.
Ever since I moved back home a few years ago, I have spent double the time I used to spend with my parents. I actually enjoy their company! Who would have thunk it?! I like staying in on Saturday nights and watching Lifetime movies with my mom. I love going to Blackhawks games with my dad and talking about Game of Thrones the whole ride to the arena. I genuinely want to spend time with these people. They’re not just my parents; they’re my friends.
I no longer want my mom to drop me off a block away from the mall, so that I don’t have to be seen with her. I don’t want to pretend that these two people who made me, raised me and still love me more than anything are not a part of my life—and I can’t believe that as a thirteen year old I ever did want to do that. I guess that’s something that every kid has to go through. You have to slam your door and blast some angry music. And I know this is something that my kids will do to me as well. I’m sure my future kids will complain to their friends that my husband and I just don’t understand them. Just like I did to my friends when I was younger.
But here’s the kicker, they understand you better than anyone.
They know you better than anyone. They might know a slightly different version of you than your friends know or your boyfriend knows, but they have been there since Day 1. Hell, they’ve been there before Day 1. So the next time you have a free moment between classes or on your way to dinner with friends, give your parents a call. Something I never did enough of when I was away at college was call my parents. We e-mailed and texted, but I never really took the time to sit down and just talk with them. And years later, now that I know better, I wish I would have because they are hilarious, kind, amazing people whom I love and appreciate deeply. I want to know their opinions. I want their advice. They have wisdom to share, and I am more than willing to benefit from it.
As twenty-somethings, we want to be independent. We want to break away from our parents’ help and start our own life. We want to make our own decisions and make our own mistakes. And our parents are going to let us do all those things, but they are also going to be there if we decide that we’re not ready to fly away just yet. They’ll be there if we get burned out. They’ll be there if we need twenty bucks. They’ll always be there to welcome us back into their homes and into their arms. Now go call them. You’ll be happy you did.
Katie recently finished her undergrad at North Central College in Naperville, Illinois. She enjoys wasting hours on Facebook and tweeting things no one cares about. When asked the question, “Do you do marathons?” She promptly responds, “Of course! Which show?” Follow her @KatieGarrity! Or read her personal blog where she talks incessantly about Ryan Gosling and hummus here!