Wednesday, March 19th, 2014
Joe DeProspero has two sons, a wife, and is complimentary birth control for anyone who sits near him in a restaurant. His writing has been described as “outrageous,” “painfully real,” and “downright humiliating.” Author of the dark comedy fiction novel “The Boy in the Wrinkled Shirt,” Joe is working on releasing a parenting humor book. He currently lives in New Jersey and can be found on Facebook or followed on Twitter @JoeDeProspero.
Before I say anything else, I want to make it clear that not all parents are worthy of respect. The father who walks out on his wife and kids, only to show up on their doorstep 11 years later doesn’t instantly become an admirable man. And surely, there are too many mothers and fathers out there who abuse their children, either verbally or physically. But if your parents put a roof over your head, clothed and fed you, sacrificed their time and energy for your benefit, are generally good people and you still find yourself treating them like second-class citizens? Then this blog is for you.
Soon after my mother died in 2012, I developed a hypersensitivity about people not respecting their parents. I wanted to shake them and scream, “You’re luckier than you’ll ever realize!” But the sad fact is, it won’t hit most people until it’s too late. And these are the people bawling uncontrollably in the front row of the funeral parlor. These are the people soaking in all the sympathy because, even though most of those tears are products of guilt, onlookers will perceive them as pure grief and nothing less. I wish I could say I haven’t seen this myself.
Look, I’m well aware that arguments are going to happen. Dreadful ones, in fact. And an unblemished relationship where both parent and child get along swimmingly into adulthood is practically impossible. But there’s a difference between being occasionally at odds with your mother and refusing to call her for a year because she crossed a line that you didn’t appreciate being crossed. Put another way, it’s one thing to unfriend an old high school buddy on Facebook because the constant pictures of his cat annoy you. It’s yet another to shout at, run from, or worse yet, ignore a parent because they’re in your face too much or aren’t filling the exact role you envisioned. I promise there will come a day when you wish they were in your face again.
I wasn’t always so sensitive to this. But two major changes in my life altered my perception of the parent-child relationship. One, obviously, was losing my mother before I ever expected I would. Those “everyday, nothing special” conversations became what I longed for, and despite having a good relationship with mom, I started beating myself up about how I didn’t do more for her and with her. Another, frankly, was becoming a parent myself. Because now I see the heart and soul that goes into it. I see the multitude of personal sacrifices it takes, and I see the undying, relentless love I have for my own children. If either of them grew up to treat me with indignant disrespect, I would feel like I’d done something terribly wrong in raising them.
Maybe I’m able to say these things because I always had a good relationship with my parents. But were there times when I felt they intruded on my privacy? Yes. Were there times when I felt that they truly didn’t “get me” and disagreed with my life decisions without sound judgment? Absolutely. But I was raised with a firm understanding that your parents demand respect. Period. Thankfully, I listened.
It’s a cliché, but I’m going to say it anyway. If I reach even one person with this blog, it was worth writing. If I convince just one person to give their parents the type of attention and love they deserve, then I’ve been successful. And to be clear, I’m not suggesting reverting back to the 1950s where calling your father “sir” and mother “ma’am” was the norm. But your parents are indispensable pieces of your very being. Give them the honor they deserve, or be the guilty one weeping at their funeral, as you sadly think of how you could’ve done things differently.
I was somewhat reluctant to touch on such a somber subject this week. But I see far too many people complaining about having to call their mother once a week, or rolling their eyes through the transport of their dependent father to his doctor’s appointment. There was a time when you couldn’t so much as breathe without their help. These aren’t strangers on the street, folks. And if anyone is worthy of dignity, don’t you think it’s them?
As always, feel free to join the conversation by adding a comment below! Would love to hear from you.
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