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February 03, 2009


February 3. Day 218.

For years, someone and I have been having an ongoing argument about something. This topic comes up at regular intervals, about every six months, whether there's a prior directly aggravating factor or a much older trigger; the conversation unfolds in generally the same way every time (starts with reproaches on both sides, then simmers to a frustrated or resigned "Let's just set this aside, since we're not convincing each other," and either moves to an icy chill of days or weeks or a friendly continuation of how things were, pre-talk.)

This someone (ok, fine, my dad) brought up this topic (ok, fine, something related to our family) again today.

As we reached minute 40 and the conversation was drawing to an end, I had a thought: Could we draw this to a close, once and for all? Could we each accept the other's different attitudes and approaches? I came up with a proposal that would give him a chance to get these complaints off his chest, and then we'd lay the subject to rest, forever. We are so close, and there are sooo many many other things to talk about...

"I have an idea," I told him. "Until I turn thirty, you can raise this subject as often as you want to. We can talk about it, I'll listen to what you have to say, no hestations or objections, but the day I turn 30, we don't bring it up again. Do you agree?"

"Fine. I agree."

Gained: A ceasefire, dated August 2010.

I imagine my request made him sad. Or maybe he just thought I'm being childish, narrow minded, heartless, impatient, intolerant, a disappointment. As he reads this (since he is one of my most faithful readers), his heart will probably beat faster with sadness or indignation. Maybe he'll also be upset I'm blogging about it, or perhaps he will feel he's failed in some degree as a parent, if the daughter he raised acts differently from his beliefs and wants to close a line of communication like that. Or maybe he'll laugh. "My own daughter? Making such a dramatic request? Of course I'll relax! Just stop taking everything so seriously, kiddo! Don't get an ulcer over this. I rest my case," he could say with his gentle smile.

These transitions are hard, and as my parents age and my life becomes more enmeshed with theirs (after the cocoon of college and living in a distant city), I fear they're only going to get harder. A few days ago, my mom stopped by my house without calling and I snapped at her. That was unkind of me. She would never get angry if I came home unannounced. She'd run up and hug me. I have a key to her house (which was also mine until recently), while Mr. A and I have decided not to give keys to any of our relatives. Why didn't I open the door and welcome her in?

Is that what growing up is? Drawing a thicker line between yourself and those closest to you? From having people wipe your butt and read you stories every night to telling them "Please don't talk to me about that subject," or "Please don't come over without letting me know first." That can't be right...

Ideally, a kid would never stop seeking the counsel of his or her parents, and I treasure advice from both of mine. I mean that. I'm really blessed in that department. Yet how much influence should they have when I raise my kids? On the flipside (and far more frightening): how much influence should my sister and I have when they make medical decisions? Will I read these words one day, in the distant future, when I can only imagine their advice or desires, and weep with regret?

With that, gentle reader, you're getting a glimpse of my life btb (beyond this blog). As simple and light as everything might seem here (happy grad student! career aspirations! tango and dessert! dashing boyfriend!) there's more to it than that...

What's the hardest thing you've ever asked your parents???
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