At what age do you stop blaming others for your own choices and behavior? At what age would you start recognizing the intangible, yet important gifts you received out of your elders? Sure, sometimes those gifts were disguised, were hidden under tissue paper in shopping luggage filled with everyday necessities like soap and deoderant. As you excitedly pulled out and threw aside the ordinary white tissue, perhaps you hoped for a brightly wrapped, pretty gift beneath. Maybe you wished there were a frilly blouse, some lipstick, or a new record album (I am adult dating myself, for sure). Your gifts may even have been disguised as structures or rules you broke or pushed against all the time, and hated.
I remember the treatment packages my mother used to send out me at college. She was such a practical soul, not often prone to expressing her innermost feelings when she was younger, though the girl got better and better at this as she aged. My friends obtained homemade cookies, pretty sweaters, make-up, pocket money, and other goodies within their packages. I got letters with suggestions and reminders not to abandon my religion, not to be “too crazy with boys”, sanitary napkins, (ofcourse not my favorite gift) boxes of tissues, jars of Vicks Vapor Stroke for chest colds, and occasionally a small trinket like a belt, or socks. I was often disappointed and sometimes puzzled. There were times when I actually felt deprived. I didn’t think of the struggles my parents were going through at a time when my father’s business for which he had worked for 41 years, went out of business. I actually didn’t let myself think many times about the financial sacrifices they had to make to send me to an expensive university, way above their means, even with my scholarships and financial aid. I actually didn’t think about the possibility that I was letting them down when I decided how the only school I would initially consider wasn’t right and changed my mind multiple times.
I actually didn’t think about how my parents allow me to make some big choices that were odd and alien to them, and that frequently worried them. Yet they gave me the gift of autonomy, as well as the gift of being allowed to fail at times without (too many) judgments, and so they never rejected me, even when they will disapproved of my actions.
I certainly wasn’t an auto dvd unit kid, and if I wanted to, might have given lessons on how not to enjoy parents when you’re a young person, but I did grow up. Going through some difficult and even devastating life events made me understand and prefer the love, the support and the wisdom I received from my parents and grandparents. The thing is, many of us wait till we and our parents and grandparents are old enough to be so set and stuck within our habits and ways of behaving, that it’s very difficult for us to break out of our learned behavior and to as well as express our appreciation. Our loved ones may even be dead before we all begin to see the amazing gifts they gave us, and how they influenced us.
I wish this weren’t so , but I know it is for a lot of people. I would like to tell this to my adult kids, as I age and it is clear that I am merely a mortal with a finite life. These people aren’t likely to hear it though, till they are ready and prepared.
Recently, a little person I know and dearly love, stuck a bunch of glue-backed pretend colored gem stones in a corner of my family room antique wood floor. They had fallen off, or had been removed from a hand mirror she had coated and decorated with a kit I put bought for her. They did appear the floor, but I overhead the girl mother telling someone that it was my fault because I had given the girl the kit. I let it go once i heard that, and didn’t react. I won’t pretend it didn’t astonish me just a bit.
It did make me wonder anew, (I have pondered this often) what the “magic age”, or phase of life is when young people end automatically finding fault with their mom and dad, and begin to work on making adjustments within themselves. Then too, when do they start remembering the smart things, the encouraging things, the particular complimentary things parents said to them that buoyed their spirits and made them feel, even quickly. that they could tackle anything? Why does it seem, that they need to remember the particular mistakes, the foibles, the gifts they hated? Why does she keep in mind with disdain, the keyboard that you gave as a birthday gift because you thought music was a genuine passion? How about the expensive sneakers you thought were a total waste of money, but you saved for because he wanted them so badly, or the karate lessons he had to have that you couldn’t simply afford, yet knew meant a lot to him?
There is absolutely no magic age, of course , when we begin to appreciate and understand what our elders did for us. We are all different and mature at different rates, physiologically, mentally and socially and psychologically. We have learned in recent times that the executive function area of the brain doesn’t completely develop until a much later age than we had previously realized. Then, too, there is now some scientific evidence that is coming to light about how our neuro-anatomy can even be permanently transformed or affected prenatally by medication or alcohol use, certain types of experiences, and genetic input.
We may all live on the same planet, but we all exist, to some extent, in our private universes that are designed by a variety of factors. Most of us often put our own biases and encounters into our opinions and perceptions of other people and events. I think that is our first instinct. It’s just that it is pretty hard to truly understand others through lenses totally colored by our narrow encounters. In order to get along with others who behave, and who think differently compared to we do, (which is pretty a lot everybody else in the world) we have to phase outside of ourselves and expand our own private universes.
So , I try hard to do this. In some way it is easier to do with close friends, and even with strangers in the grocery store who chat while we are in line, and say things about politics and current events that make our skin crawl. I try to listen, though, to find out where they are coming from, when I argue. I try to respect their factors of view whenever I can. Also i do it with clients, knowing that a coach must be open to how other people think and feel, and not put them in boxes. It is our job to help them break free of their boxes. It just feels harder regarding my own kids when there frequently isn’t much reciprocity on the part of a number of them.
As a daughter in whose parents and siblings (both a lot older and parental figures in a few ways) are gone, I remember and enjoy so many things about them all now. Like a parent, I spend a lot of time pondering and wondering when my kids will start to remember and to appreciate in a similar way, or if they ever will. I hope they will, and that it won’t be once i am not here. I hope they will won’t have to undergo as many of the extremely trying things I have endured in order to reach that place of understanding.
Iris Arenson-Fuller, CPC, ACC is a personal lifestyle coach, writer/poet, mother, grandmother, re-homing expert who founded and happened to run a licensed adoption agency for 3 decades. Iris has been through many studies and has reinvented herself several times. She loves helping others going through large life stage changes do the same.