When you are kid, you imagine that being an adult is much easier than being a kid and it seems to be that way at least in the beginning. Then, you start dealing with real adult issues like a career, money, major decisions, marriage, children, and health crises and you realize being an adult is hard work. It makes you wish that adulthood was a childhood nightmare that you could wake up from.
In the last couple of years, my life has given me a variety of adult lessons and while I have had adult lessons in the past, they weren’t thrown in front of me all at once. Growing up I never saw my parents’ adult problems because they did such a good job hiding them from us and while I appreciate that they did that, I wish that they hadn’t because they didn’t prepare us what adulthood was all about. Most of my childhood, I never saw my mother cry and I never saw my father show emotion until I was 17 years old when my 20 year old cousin passed away. My kids have seen me cry, they have seen me hurt and at my worst and I don’t know whether my parents were right for hiding adulthood from me or whether I am right for letting my children see it.
What I don’t remember about being a kid is how poor we were and I didn’t even realize that were poor until I was an adult because my parents hid it so well. When I was 15, my dad became sick for the first time. He died before I turned 19. It was not until he was hospitalized in 1995 that I realized the extent of how sick he was.
My parents never let us see the tragedies of adulthood, only the triumphs. Growing up, I lost grandparents, uncles, and cousins and my parents never let us see the hurt that consumed them with these loses. When my father died, I knew loss for the first time and I was devastated. It was as if a part of my heart was ripped out of me and I grieved for years, as did my siblings.
While I understand that my parents did everything they could to protect us, did they not really prepare us. In my eyes, my father was as tough as they come, and my mother, she was as resilient as a woman could get. In the days that I watched my father get sicker and sicker and my mother lose parts of her soul as days came and went, my world was shattered because I knew my parents weren’t tough or resilient because they were merely human. It makes me think about my health now, my brother’s recent cancer diagnosis, my struggles with my marriage, the financial issues my husband and I have dealt with for the last two years, my failed relationships with my brothers, the physical distance between my sisters and I, and my parenting as a whole. I wonder whether I am preparing them for adulthood by letting them see me when I am most vulnerable rather than hiding it as my parents did.
Do you prepare your kids or do you protect them? That a dilemma that every parent has to face and it is another thing that makes being an adult so hard.