10 November 2008

Parents

So much for 'The apple doesn't fall far from the tree.' Here are three stories of women and their families.

1. My girlfriend is a teacher and one of the most conscientious people I know. Her family is ├╝ber successful, and though they are warm and kind people, they inadvertently squash her ideas and dreams and make her feel 'less than.' As a result, she often doesn't see how much good she is doing by educating our youth and how much she has to offer the world, in general. In spite of her well-intentioned but ego-crushing family, she sings to her students, laughs a lot, and loves nature, art and being creative.

2. A student who could easily be described as a hippie (from Berkeley, no less) who I've known for over two years just happened to mention during dinner the other night that all four of her grandparents were survivors of the Holocaust. My student is as grounded and solid a young woman as I know, and despite her legacy of surviving genocide, she loves traveling, is completely open-minded and wants to work in a non-profit when she graduates from college.

3. A woman I work with describes her very conservative Catholic parents as sullen (her father) and foul-tempered (her mother). Her parents don't approve of her boyfriend because he married very young and then got divorced, and her parents don't approve of her sister for being a lesbian. In order to keep the peace, both sisters simply keep their personal lives to themselves. Her sister has gone so far as to rent a separate apartment so that when her parents come to visit, she can say she lives there (and not with her partner). This ruse has gone on for years and years (I think it's nearing a decade now), and it blows my mind. Again, in spite of this family dynamic, the woman I work with is funny, generally cheerful and shrugs off just about anything someone might find shocking. For example, she described this all very matter-of-factly, as if she were talking about the toaster not working again.

Since I don't have children yet, I can't speak authoritatively on being a parent, but I can only imagine that all of these parents do the best they can. ('If you lived their life, you'd do what they did,' like #2 in this post.) As I grow older, I have more and more sympathy for parents. It must be one of life's greatest challenges. And we expect perfection from our parents, so who wouldn't eventually fall short in some way?

What I gleaned from these stories is just how resilient people are and how everything is a choice ('life is 10% what happens to us and 90% how we react to it,' as in this post). I know there have been psychology studies that have found that people can bounce back from just about anything, be it the death of a loved one, divorce or any other (insert awful seemingly insurmountable event), and eventually return to their former state of happiness. It is still inspiring to see it in practice, though. These three women are intelligent, successful and generally positive, and it makes me want to pull those old-sticks-in-the-mud (we've all met some) up and say, "Look! You, too, can be empowered and in charge of your own life!"

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