One of my favorite comedians is a man named John Mulaney. (Thanks to Barbara Alvarado for suggesting I listen to him. You were right. He’s my cup-of.) ANYWAY, John Mulaney has a comedy album titled The Comeback Kid. On it he spends some time discussing his childhood and his parents. I really love that part. The album is available on Amazon and clips are on YouTube for free. He doesn’t really need a plug from me, but he is funny and worth a listen. At the time he didn’t have children (I think this is still true). I also do not have children. I assert that fact here so anyone reading this can feel free to dismiss my opinion as claptrap because I have no practical experience in the field.
John Mulaney makes a joke about how people today will say things like, “My Mom is my best friend.” He answers, “Why? Was she a bad mom?” He tells how he and his parents were not friends.
I totally identify with that. I love my mother dearly, and I always have, but from the age of two until I turned about twenty, we were combatants. I feel that is as it should be. My Mom is the only person in the world who has ever told me to go back to my room and put on a slip. My parents fed me and clothed me and told me not to pick on my brother and enrolled me in school and forced me to stay in clubs and on teams when I wanted to quit. My parents corrected me (especially my Mother). I would not tolerate such an impertinence from a friend. My parents were my bosses!
Michelle Wolf in 2016 claimed “nobody likes their boss.” Grammatical awkwardness notwithstanding, I agree. Though I always loved my parents, they bugged the crap out of me. They told me what to do. They made me use good manners and shamed me when I acted selfishly. They decided where we went for vacation, and when. They gave me chores.
To their credit, they also gave all of their children the right to privacy. We could read any book we wanted. We could go outside and play, and as long as we didn’t get into trouble, what we did with that time was our own. They allowed us to have time to share stories and things we read at the dinner table.
My father taught me how to drive, how to shoot a gun, how to find missing tools, how to read blueprints. My mother taught me how to cook, to clean, to sew, to dress (wear a slip under a light-colored frock). My parents provided the opportunities to go to museums and on picnics, to fairs and amusement parks.
I had a good family life and the right parents for me. I have always believed that parents and children are perfect for each other, and parents have one big advantage. They know more. They know more about their children than anyone else, including the children themselves.
My mother now lives with me, and we get along pretty well. We are friends, and we have had to learn to switch places on certain matters. It’s my house, so I pay the bills. It’s my house, so I allow the pets to come indoors. (When I was a kid, we were not allowed to have the pets indoors. Things are different at my house.)
BUT, no matter how things change, one thing will not. Mother is still THE MOTHER. She doesn’t boss me around, but she is still the boss. I love her, but I don’t like to be bossed. I didn’t like it at work either, but I need a good boss. We all do now and then. We need someone to remind us we have responsibilities. We need someone to keep us on task occasionally.
I’ve moved around a good deal in my life, and I have had some terrific friends, but many have moved away. We’ve lost track of one another. My friends, sweet and dear as they are, are social peers. I can discuss things with them that I would never share with my parents, but I am not committed to changing their diapers if the time ever comes. I contend once that commitment is made, the person is no long a friend, but a family member. Certain acts of service make a person a family member in some way.
I don’t think parents should expect to be liked all the time by their kids, especially when the kids are young. There’s too much training and correcting to be accomplished, and it’s mostly one way (special situations not included).
Listen, my Daddy has been dead for over thirty years, but he’s still my Daddy. He’s still the person I could lean on and trust the most in times of trouble, and Mother is of the same caliber. I’m glad they’re not just friends. I’m glad they’re permanently my parents. Paraphrasing Emily Bronte, friends are the leaves on the trees. Family are the stones beneath me, of little visible pleasure but more necessary and more permanent in my life.