Lesson 94: Dang it, Ive turned into my parents

Published 3:47 pm Thursday, October 7, 2010

Maturity is a bitter disappointment for which no remedy exists, unless laughter could be said to remedy anything.

Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.

It happens to most of us, and youre probably no different. While youre growing up, your parents constantly try to influence your behavior by making little comments or lecturing you on various topics.

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Mind your manners. Pick up after yourself. Buckle your seat belt. Show some respect. Dont play with your food. It feels like theyre going to drive you crazy; youve heard the same thing a thousand times. Okay, okay, you say. I get it already!

Then one day out of the blue you hear yourself say something that your mother or father had said to you and that you swore to yourself youd never use on anyone else. Its like an out-of-body experience. Where did that come from?

Ouch. Just like that, youve turned in to your parents.

First, allow me to extend my sympathies. You never intended for it to happenin fact, you were probably determined not to let it happen. Youre probably wondering where you went wrong.

You didnt go wrong, of course. This is just one of those little jokes nature plays on us. A lot of what we call maturation occurs when we arent paying attention, and this is a great example of that phenomenon.

You dont really turn in to your parents at least not completely. But our upbringing stays with us our entire lives, for better and for worse. Much of who we become is shaped by the teaching and example of parents. Its often impossible to deny or reject that influence, and you probably wouldnt want to.

Many hours have been spent on psychoanalysts couches trying to make sense of parental influences and in many cases trying to undo the accidental damage that they may have caused. As youre likely to discover for yourself, its impossible to be a perfect parent. Remember, your parents are the products of their parents.

And understand that your parents did the best they could. Much of who you are is a product of their influence. Thats not all bad.

Excerpted from The Graduates Book of Practical Wisdom: 99 Lessons They Cant Teach in School by C. Andrew Millard, published by Morgan James Publishing, available in bookstores and online. &opy; 2008 by C. Andrew Millard; all rights reserved. For more information visit www.wisegraduate.com.