The Bittersweet Transition: When a Parent Becomes a Human
“I felt a bit lonely so I decided to watch some TV and there was this show on it called…” my mother went on in a conversation I was having with her.
But I was caught off guard because a rather undesirable yet perfectly normal aspect of my mother’s human nature presented itself to me — something that I didn’t really think about ever before. My mother felt alone?!
At first, I failed to understand why I was caught off guard. I mean, it’s perfectly normal for a person to feel alone. My mother can feel alone too — what should be so surprising about that? And it wasn’t as if the conversation was a cathartic expression centered around my mother’s loneliness.
She said it in passing! She was telling me about something she saw on the television. It was literally the most insignificant, and indirect reference to her perfectly human tendency to feel a bit alone at times. And it still caught me so off guard. I was surprised by the fact that I was so surprised. And I couldn’t understand why, until a bit later.
You see, as kids, we tend to not view our parents as humans. Every aspect of our relationship with our parents enforces our tendency to put them on a pedestal. They do serious shit, after all. They work long hours. They run a business. They pay their taxes! And they’re authority figures for us — as we have to ask them for permission to do the smallest things.
For instance, my father is a doctor turned businessman. The memories I have of him as a kid were of a busy man who worked late nights and rarely had any time for me. He would wear the same clothes every day — a crisp white shirt, and trousers. He had the most intricate systems in place to ensure his office and our home would run smoothly. He was strict and wasn’t so generous with granting permissions.
On the other hand, my mother was the head of a small religious group. Whenever I went with her to religious gatherings, I would see everyone treating her with a lot of respect.
I just never saw the ‘human’ parts of my parents. I always saw them on a pedestal. And hence, I never saw them as humans.