The Other Side of the Fence ~ Lessons I’m Still Learning from my Parents

The Other Side of the Fence ~ Lessons I’m Still Learning from my Parents

Let’s face it. We have all come to the conclusion at some point in our lives that our parents simply don’t know nearly as much as we know.  In fact, as teenagers, we often think our parents are some of the least intelligent people on the planet.  We consider them to be out of touch, old-fashioned, and downright clueless.  We also feel that they simply have no idea who we are as individuals.

During our childhood, our parents are teaching us many lessons about life. They cram as much as they can fit into the short span of 18 years that we live under their roof.  Much of what they teach us is intentional, but more of what they teach us is demonstrated through their actions.  The choices and decisions they make, the way they react to any given situation, and the behavior they model, teaches us far more than any of us ever realize at the time.

What amazes me is that much of this untapped wisdom is being stored in our brains for a later time, and we have no idea that we have access to this information for decades.

I first began to realize that my parents weren’t totally clueless when my first child was born.  As I have gone through the past 26 years of parenting, I have been through many situations in which I relied on the education I received from them to raise my three sons.  As the years have passed, I have come to realize that I was fortunate to have parents who have been willing to stick it out and be there for me every moment over these past 52 years.

I’m now at a point in my life where many changes are taking place.  My youngest child has just graduated from high school and will soon be entering his first semester of college.  My oldest child is about to become the father of twins which means that I am about to become a grandmother.  To be honest, it’s challenging to adjust to both of these life changes, and it’s pretty overwhelming to have them occur at the same time.

Why is the idea of becoming a grandparent so hard to comprehend?  On one hand I’m really excited. I can’t wait for the twins to be born. On the other hand, I have been struggling to pick my grandmother name for most of my daughter-in-law’s pregnancy.  I can’t wrap my mind around being called anything that depicts “old”.  I still feel like I’m in my twenties or thirties. I know this because each time I pass by a mirror I am shocked to see the wrinkled face that stares back at me.

I don’t know about you, but the concept of grandmother conjures up a picture in my mind of my grandmothers, who I remember as being very, very old and very, very wise.  I lost one grandmother when I was twelve years old.  She was in her seventies.  I have fond memories of sitting in her large lap, playing with her button collection, and the warm smells that came from the kitchen as she cooked all day long just to serve us a meal.  I loved Granny with all my heart, but the word “old” always comes to mind quickly when she is in my thoughts.

I lost my other grandmother just a few years ago. Because she lived longer, I had the blessing of getting to know her, not only as a child, but as an adult.  A strong woman of faith, she instilled much of her wisdom into my life before she passed away. While “old” doesn’t define the memory of Mamoy quite as much as my other grandmother, her portrait of strength and wisdom seem to put her in a place that I view as a great distance from where I am now.  I still view myself as the learner, certainly not the one who might be expected to dispense wisdom.

The main reason I had the blessing of knowing my grandparents is because my parents made sure to involve them in my life.  We didn’t live near them for much of my childhood so my parents had to make the effort to nurture those relationships.  They have continued to demonstrate the same lesson over the years with their own participation in the lives of all of their grandchildren.  They have four sets of grandchildren and each set lives in a different state. Over the years, they have spent much of their time traveling from state to state to be at birthday parties, ball games, recitals, and holiday celebrations. They work hard to nurture the relationships and do not let the miles separate them from their grandchildren.

As difficult as it might seem to accept becoming old enough to be a grandmother, it is far more difficult for me to accept the fact that my house is suddenly very, very quiet and my nest is just about empty.

My youngest child has always wanted to catch up to his brothers.  He has spent half of his life wanting to be grown up like them. He can’t wait to be on his own.   We have a close relationship, but he makes it very clear that he is going to be making his own decisions now.  It’s a bit of a challenge because he is technically still living under our roof. In his mind, he is already on his own, but physically, he is still here at home until school starts.

Since the time he entered high school, it has been obvious that with each passing year, he has decided that my husband and I are growing more and more old-fashioned, out of touch, and clueless.  I’ve spent the better part of those years explaining to him that he’s wrong.   In fact, I’ve even gone so far as to tell him that I totally understand his viewpoint because my parents were clueless when I was in high school.  I have done my best to make it clear that I am actually so much more in touch than my parents were and he should be grateful he has such a cool mom.

As you can see, at this point, I am still in denial as I am making the assumption that my parents were, in fact, clueless when I was in high school, and that I could not possibly be clueless myself. It’s hard to accept the fact that my son has likely assigned me a “clueless” ratio which is probably very similar to the one I assigned my parents back in the day.

Over the last year, it has been downright painful to watch my baby boy reach the conclusion that I am more of a nuisance than anything else.  With respect being something that has been redefined by his generation, his honesty about his feelings has been brutal at times.  I’ll admit that I had similar thoughts about my parents back in the day, but I would never have voiced these thoughts to them out loud.

I realize that all children grow into teenagers.  At some point, most teenagers know everything and most believe they are all invincible.  Most of us remember that we too, thought we knew everything, and most of us now know that nothing could be further from the truth.

The mistake we make is in thinking we can teach this lesson to our kids when they are 18, when in fact, they will not be ready for this wisdom for another 30 years.

My parents taught me years ago how to survive and thrive during this difficult season of my life, I just didn’t realize it at the time.  I now know that this lesson was stored away for a time such as this, so that I could recall what was taught and use it to move forward.

Somehow, my parents managed to survive those years when I thought I knew everything.  I may not have voiced all of my innermost thoughts, but I’m sure they knew what I was thinking. After all, they were once teenagers too. I know there were times when their hearts were broken as they watched me flounder and make mistakes. All the while I was so certain that I didn’t need their advice or their help, yet they were always there anyway, waiting for me to let them back into my life.

As I now sit on their side of the fence, watching my kids move on in life, I think back to those days and realize that it was I who was actually the one who was clueless.  I can now feel and understand the hurt that I brought on my parents when I reflect back to some of the things I said and did.  It’s a wonder that they survived and that they still let me in their home for a visit.

I know it was a long and painful process, but I also know that my parents will always be my biggest fans.  They are more proud of my accomplishments than anyone else on the planet.  They will always think I am beautiful.  They will always feel my hurts and disappointments, and they will likely feel the pain to a stronger degree than I do myself.  I know this because when my kids are hurting, the pain is indescribable.  I know this because I finally understand what my parents were trying to teach me for all those years.  They taught me the true definition of unconditional love.  They have always been right by my side, and that will never change. I will never be able to express my gratitude for their determination to love me no matter what.

As I continue to learn this lesson in letting go and releasing my children into the world,  I pray that I can pass the same knowledge to them that has been passed along to me. And I’m also hopeful that I will live long enough to see my own kids unlock this nugget of truth and view the world from the other side of the fence. I would prefer the inscription at my final resting place to include the word wise rather than the word clueless.

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