Raising good parents

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By: Cathy Chen <cchen@hilite.org>

Two weeks ago it was, “You talk on the phone too much.” Last year it was, “You are not walking out of this house dressed like that.” My entire life it’s been, “Why can’t you just keep your room clean?”

And that’s just the nagging. I haven’t even got to all the other things my parents do that hurt me or drive me crazy. But nagging is a good place to start because most parents do it like it’s their job. It is irritating beyond words, especially because my parents are pretty good at it, but over time I’ve discovered a way to keep it to a minimum, and sometimes even eliminate it altogether for a while.

First thing is to give them a chance. Parents would be much better parents if they knew what was going on their kids’ lives. I’m guilty of throwing “You wouldn’t understand” in my parents’ faces all the time, but often I’m just saying that because I don’t want to talk to them or I don’t want to explain. But why not?

“The phone bill says you used 3,000 minutes last month. You talk on the phone too much.” Instead of getting annoyed and angry right away, which is my default response, I explain that a lot of it is for homework help. So now they know I’m not spending 3,000 minutes a month talking about boys and shopping. They think I’m spending 2,800 minutes a month doing that.

Now here comes the hard part. This is my chance to give them a chance to understand, but I really, really don’t want to do it. First of all, I don’t think they’ll understand. Second of all, I don’t like talking about touchy-feely stuff with my parents. It’s weird. But then again, I know they care about me and want the best for me, so even though it might be awkward, I decide to give it a shot.

I let them in on some of what’s been going on in my life for the past month and why I needed to talk it out with a couple of my best friends. I don’t tell my parents everything, and I don’t give them details or anything close to details, but for some reason, they kind of understand, and they’re not mad.

But can I honestly say that all those minutes were spent talking about “important” things? No, and when I think about it, 3,000 minutes, also known as 50 hours, is kind of a ridiculous amount of time to spend on the phone per month. So we compromise. (Icky word, but it’s not always so bad.) My maximum is now 1,100 minutes, which is less than half of what I used before but still over 18 hours and slightly ridiculous by their standard. It’s a compromise.

Recently, I’ve been able to see more clearly the struggles my parents have to deal with when raising my sister and me. Regrettably, I can’t say that I’ve made their job easy in the past, but there’s still time to change that.

It’s called raising good parents. The only “instructions” they have for raising us comes from us. If we can’t show them who we really are and what we think and what’s going on with us, then we can’t expect them to know how to deal with us most effectively. And that’s when crazy misunderstandings lead to crazy disasters.

My relationship with my parents is getting better, but there isn’t a happy ending to every situation. (I’m still trying to figure out how to keep my room clean.) But our parents will always be our parents no matter what; nothing can sever those ties. This relationship is definitely worth the effort.