My wife and I have a couple of friends with a five-year-old. He’s a pretty nice kid, but every time I’m around him, I’m overwhelmed by how much he reminds me of me as a little kid. That’s not really a good thing, and it’s not really a bad thing, it’s just an observation thing. He’s one of those particular little kids who is very into certain things, and not at all into others. I’m not explaining it well, because it’s kind of an intangible quality, but when I talk about it with Sarah, she knows what I mean because I haven’t fully grown out of it.
We both agree he’s a lot like me. We also have both agreed that we can’t really tell his parents that. While we don’t mean it as insulting, I’m not sure it could be taken as non-insulting by them. They’re politically conservative, and Christian. Neither of these is the issue either. The issue is that if you’re a conservative or someone who considers them self Christian, I am something of a nightmare scenario for their child to grow into. (While this may sound like some somber self-realization, it’s something that we both laugh about.)
Now, like I said they’re my friends, so obviously there is a degree to which they like me, but there is a big difference between liking a guy you see at most once a week for a couple of hours, and your child.
This couple reminds me in a lot of ways of my parents when I was a child, and this got me thinking about that aspect of this situation. Now, I get along pretty well with both of my parents, but there is a big difference between my parents in their fifties, and my parents in their late twenties/early thirties (which they were, when I was 5).
My parents read this blog, along with witnessing other aspects of my life, they have a pretty good idea of who I really am, and they’ve mostly accepted it, and I’ve never doubted for a second that they love me. However, 33-year-old me went back in time and met the 30-year-old version of my Dad, or the 28-year-old version of my Mom, and I was as open with them about who I am as I am now, and then told them “I’m your 5-year-old son all grown up,” I have to believe they’d be pretty panicked, maybe a bit furious, and they’d probably start reevaluating everything they know to be true.
The key is, that I’ve had 33 years to break them in, for us to grow together, and so in their 50’s they’re not panicked, or furious about who I am. While obviously, they have helped to mold me into who I am (I’m not sure they want that credit) my sister and I have helped shape who they’ve become too. It’s kind of an amazing process, and one that I’m not sure we reflect upon enough, and I’m really grateful for it.
Now, back to my friends for a minute; I have no doubt that they will love their kid no matter what, and if he turns into a loud-mouthed liberal who enjoys saying shocking things, they’ll end up being fine. But I’m not sure they deserve to be burdened with that possibility at this time. (I should mention, they will absolutely know this is about them if they read it, but I’m pretty sure they’ll never see it.)
The reason I even write about it here, is because of how it has allowed me to reflect on my own family. For a long time, I wasn’t open about who I am with my parents, like most of us, I tried to keep a more ‘innocent’ or ‘polite’ face around them. I never feared that they wouldn’t love me, but I worried for a long time that if they knew the real me that they wouldn’t like me very much.
Once I began to allow myself to be MYSELF around them (I still try to watch my language around them, my dad has read the word ‘fuck’ in my writing many times, but I think the only time he heard me say it was when my son was squirming while I changed a poop diaper), I started to feel more relaxed, and more at peace, and I finally began to accept who I am.
(The photo at the top of this post is not only one of the most embarrassing/dumb photos I’ve ever taken, it was Facebook profile picture when I met my wife. She fell in love with that. Can you believe that?)