Remember, Our Parents Are People Too
I thought it would be fitting to write this on Mother’s Day because …it’s Mother’s Day and it's a day for celebrating one of our parents or even multiple people. Before I continue, if you’re reading this then read parent as anyone who has played that role or a similar role in your life.
This post is also very timely because just a few days ago someone asked me what cuisines my mum likes. I was genuinely stumped. My mum is a Jamaican woman, so I know that she likes Jamaican food. Other than that, I have only seen her expressing her opinion on new foods: “this too oily”, “this too small” or “this nuh nice”. This was another wake-up call for me because as I continue to transition into manhood (whatever that is), I am more conscious of my parent’s mortality, age and multifacetedness.
I am sure that many people can relate. When I was younger I saw my parents as immortal superheroes that could solve any problem and make everything okay. I even remember being upset - even annoyed - when they couldn’t make certain things happen. In my head, I couldn’t understand why not? As I have grown up and I have been able to understand life a bit more - more specifically, how much salmon, council tax and petrol costs - I now understand that this life no be easy. Things don’t just happen with the click of a finger.
I have also become even more impressed with my parents. They came to this country, knowing very few people and they have managed to carve out a life for themselves …from scratch. I get nervous at the thought of leaving the part of London that I live in. I cannot imagine making the leap to go to an unknown country with no safety net, little possessions and plenty of desire. More impressively, they created …me. I am joking - well, only half-joking because it’s not easy to raise a human that eats like a horse.
So what is the point of this blog post?
I want everyone to start treating their parent(s) like the multifaceted people that they are. We need to start getting to know our parent(s) with the same enthusiasm that we give our potential romantic partners.
Since the pandemic, I have been a lot more intentional with getting to know my parents outside of them being my mum and dad - outside of them being providers. If I am completely honest, this first started because I started to realise that my parents were ageing. That coupled with the pandemic and all the hysteria around COVID, I started to intentionally sit down and allow my parents to express their whole selves.
I have been more intentional about spending deliberate time with them outside of the context of their homes. This is the first practical step. Go outside and touch grass with your parent(s). Go for a walk, a meal or anything that you both enjoy.
Ask them specific questions about their childhood, upbringing and the memories that stand out the most to them. Ask them about their dreams, their goals and their perspective on the world. Ask them why, ask them how and ask them to elaborate. This is particularly important for me because you get a sense of how they were moulded and why they now do certain things. As I mentioned before, I did not think that my parents could make mistakes. It wasn’t until recently that it occurred to me that it was even possible for my parents to suffer with poor mental health. After growing up and understanding how they grew up, I was able to start giving them (a lot) more grace.
Finally, I have started to take more pictures and videos with my parents too. If you know me, you know I love taking pictures anyways but because I saw my parents as an immovable constant in my life, I never saw the need to take pictures with them. Document as many memories as you can (parents or otherwise). A picture can outlive your memory and your future self will be grateful for it.
Understanding your parents as people and not just as your providers will completely transform your relationship with them. Today is the perfect day to make it happen.