Let me be frank with you: I dread going home to spend the holidays with my parents, where I grew up. Very little will have changed there, and yet I have changed so much. The chasm between my present, experienced reality and my parent’s conceptions of my life is growing ever wider: a giant, insurmountable wall blocking almost all meaningful communication.
Going home, for me, is folding myself into a little box–as though I myself am to be one of the presents to be put under the tree. I will be asked lots of questions that I don’t want to answer, about my love life (non-existent still, thank you SOO much for asking) my politics (you can stop worrying, Mom and Dad, I’m already a stone’s throw left of your political comfort zone and how much worse can it really get from here?) and my beliefs (do you REALLY want to have a theology argument with me right now, Mom and Dad? You know that I have enough education and debate skills that I can ‘win’ this conversation regardless of the veracity of my opinions, right?). I’ll try to demonstrate who I am now, and that will inevitably lead to conflict with SOMEBODY as I step out of my expected family role. I’ll have lots of moments where I’ll feel like fifth-wheel to the double-date of my parents and my sister and brother-in-law, and I’ll have a few moments where that feeling is justified. Someone will have an emotional melt-down (cuz family is hard on all of us) and I’ll step in to smooth the waters and provide more support than I have free to give, simply because that is the deep pattern that I’ve established with my family and desire alone is not sufficient to break free of this deeply-tread path of action.
In short, I do NOT want to go home. Part of me would rather be anyplace else.
I know as a matter of fact that my experience is far from abnormal, unfortunately for all of us. As it turns out, being an adult and having parents is HARD. (I’ve also heard that being an adult and having lost or been estranged from your parents is also hard. This is a no-win scenario, guys.)
I feel really conflicted about all of this. After all, I was born into great privilege. My family is financially stable; well-educated; white; supported by the community. I was well taken care of, and was giving many opportunities for success. My parents provided for me all the way through college, and even now, they still help out with a few niceties. How is my level of frustration justified? Shouldn’t I feel grateful? Why am I so much more likely to dwell on the criticisms that I have of my parents as compared to their many parental successes?
I don’t have any answers, except to continually confess my self-centered perspective of family and intentionally remind myself of the good things my parents did model for me–including diligence, stability, Christianity, commitment to core values, fulfilling personal responsibility, besides the financial support.
If any of you are farther along on this journey than me, I would love to hear your insights.