‘Love Letters’ is a Petal + Sass blog feature that regularly asks a group of diverse women in their 20’s and 30’s about their experiences with health, sex, emotional wellness, body image, college, careers – and what they wish they had known themselves as teenagers. Visit the ‘Love Letters’ To My Former Self page to learn more about the contributors.
Question Posed: What was your relationship with your parents like in high school? Did they understand you? Could they have been better supportive at the time? How? Has your relationship changed much 10+ years down the line?
Miss Peony: My parents and I did not get along well at all. I was very challenging. If I was required to drink a glass of milk at dinner, I wanted to know why, and if it was so healthy, why they weren’t drinking one, too. And it was my body, why did they get to dictate what went into it… I needed a logical answer to every question, and I was also keenly aware of what I felt to be “injustice.” That they had complete authority, which seemed like a grave injustice to me, and I was constantly fighting them. The more I argued for autonomy, the more my parents tried to control me, and the more I rebelled from their control.
After I got to college, our relationship improved dramatically. Once I had more space, things got a lot better. One of my biggest fears is getting a kid who is as challenging as I was; I mean, as a parent, you have to keep them safe, which means you need to be able to say no and make choices for them. However, with me, I think I would have benefited from a lot more space to make mistakes.
I think that has probably lasted into my adult years. I definitely understand them more now, and we are able to talk more like old friends now when we see each other (being able to legally drink with your parents helps a lot!) but I still tend to keep any troubles in my life from them so as not to worry them. The older you get, this definitely makes it harder to be truly close.
They loved me very much though, that was never a doubt. I wasn’t allowed to go to friends’ homes for sleep overs or have friends come over, couldn’t do what all the cool kids were doing on weekends, but we were very family oriented and would always be there for each other. It was a strange combination of smother, love and laughter. While I was living with my way too old boyfriend, we kept cordial contact as we were in the same town, and I would often go for dinner at their house, but I wanted them to see that I could do it on my own. Growing up, my family had moved around a lot, and I needed stability and friends on a different level than they could possibly understand.
Looking back (and looking forward as a future potential parent), I think explaining the “why’s” would have helped me better understand why they were so scared or restrictive. They could have explained why they did not want us to go to a friend’s house, or what would help them feel more comfortable as parents. It would have been helpful if they talked to use about uncomfortable things more often – and talk with us instead of at us – or involved us all in some of the decision-making. Fortunately, my parents did always let us be ourselves, and for that I am eternally thankful, because much of who I am today is because of them.
Now, I call my mom and dad almost every other day. We even make sex jokes; I tell them the problems I have in my relationship, I fight right with them, and there’s no where else I want to go but home when things are turning to shit. Getting older, I can finally understand why they were the way they were, and I love them for it.
Miss Rosebud: Growing up, it was basically just me and my mom. We had a very good and close relationship, and still do. We usually talk every day, whether it’s through text, g-chat, email, or phone. I have always been able to be “myself” around her and we usually don’t have any real issues. We went through a bit of a rough patch when I went through my bitchy teen years and when she and my dad were going through a divorce, but things settled down as I got older. When we do have issues, we usually explode and move on quickly. It makes me happy that we have managed to be close through various different life stages.
I really do admire a lot of her traits, particularly now that I’m a mother myself. She lets things go, doesn’t make things too “heavy or weird,” is incredibly supportive and generous, is interested in my life but not obsessive, let me figure things out for myself (for the most part), is present but not cloying, and has the most incredible spirit–she’s a lot of fun (more fun than I am, frankly!). She also fought rabidly so that I would have an easier life than she did. Now that I’m older, I’m realizing that these things aren’t always easy. The one thing I wish I’d had, and what I’d like to provide for my child, is a broader support network than I had — as I said, it was just me and my mom. It’s good to have people, and, particularly now that I’m out of school and am not constantly surrounded by friends, it would be nice to have a larger family (directly related or otherwise).