Childhood and Heroes

Sitting on the bus the other day I saw a little boy and his dad and I could just tell that this little boy LOVED his dad – his dad was his hero. I think we all grow up with a similar state of mind, psychology calls it the Oedipus and Electra complexes, but what struck me is when does this stop? Why?

maybe this is why we stop admiring them...

maybe this is why we stop admiring them…

Growing up I loved my parents (mom and dad, I know you’re reading this, relax I still love you), they were the smartest, strongest, best-est people I knew. I have very fond memories of my childhood and I am still very close with my family, but this year I have come to realize just how much I am different from my parents, how much I’ve grown into my own person independent of them. And yet when I was a kid, as I’m sure most kids do – I kind of wanted to be my mom. This is especially true for certain careers like doctor, firefighter, police officer, or vet.

Aww how cute. It is in the manual...

Aww how cute. It is in the manual…

What struck me on the bus is that the father was likely a construction worker, he had oil on his florescent yellow jacket and his hands were calloused. While there is nothing wrong with being a construction worker, I don’t think it’s something a ton of kids dream of. Maybe as teenagers they become more interested, and certainly from what I’ve heard it’s a high paying position. One that may make me rue the day I decided to spend 10% of my life in school for psychology, but it’s not one of those jobs that people tend to brag about, not the jobs that get you automatically labelled as a “fine upstanding citizen.”

This little boy clearly didn’t care at all – you could tell this little boy thought his dad was even cooler than all the superheroes combined. Which made me smile, but it also made me wonder when did I develop dreams of my own? When did my life plan become “please just let me have my own life.” In a completely loving way. No seriously. I love them. But do I want to be them? Certainly not. Especially not yet.

I’m enjoying not having bills and a mortgage payment to worry about, and while I regularly play parent when I am in the Village – getting groceries, taking the dog to the groomers and making dinner – I am not ready to have to do these things for anyone other than me. Grocery shopping on Saturdays and remembering to feed my cat before I leave for the night is enough thanks.

The big joke has been around the family for years, that well if this psych thing doesn’t pan out I can come back work in the “family business.” Which it’s a cool business, they’ve really done well from the days out of the basement when Molson’s announced they were closing the factory. But I have no interest in workplace health and safety. I think there was a time where this was at least vaguely part of my plan though. Maybe?

I went through a number of career options growing up, none of which seem even vaguely related looking back. I still remember the first time I talked to my parents about what I wanted to be when I grew up. I remember this being in response to some sort of school assignment that required me to do something on what I wanted to be when I grew up. Like I had a clue in grade 2. Sort of. I would love to say I remember the exact cutsie wording of telling my mom I wanted to be like her when I grew up, and I’m sure I said something to that effect, but what I really recall is going out to the garage and asking them what I wanted to be when I grew up. And I guess I was still at that age where I expected my parents to tell me everything I needed to know, including what I wanted to do with my life. We settled on marine biologist that night, but from there I jumped to chef, then forensic scientist, on to pharmacologist, then straight up doctor after doing my undergrad in psychology, then finally after a year of undergraduate I settled on psychology.

Sounds like I’ve got it all figured out right? Not really. I still don’t know what my end game is – do I want private practice or hospital? What area should I focus in? At this point I’m not even sure what I am having for dinner. Let alone where I want to be 10 years from now.

Watching the little boy on the bus, my heart smiled, but I know that 5, maybe 10 years from now he’ll hit a phase where he tells his friends his parent’s are lame/uncool/a pain. He’ll complain that his parents won’t let him go out, or that they wouldn’t lend him money, or that they made him finish his homework before going out. Regardless of how close kids are with their parents, there is always that one period in their lives, where they just wish they were older because quite frankly, mom and dad are “cramping their style.” I was super close to my parents, especially my mom, but I won’t lie, I went through it too.

Yeah... this is what normal will be to my kids...

Yeah… this is what normal will be to my kids…

Why? Maybe it’s some sort of strange rite of passage into adulthood? Maybe just an excess of hormones that have yet to be properly calibrated? Maybe social pressures? Kids laughing at them or making fun of them because of their parents or their relationship with their parents? Or maybe it’s just part of growing up, we have to become autonomous functioning adults, and our parents only know us as their babies?

It kind of made me sad, to look at this little boy and all his adoration, and know that one day he would probably yell at his dad for “ruining” his life, or that he would eventually stop looking at his dad with adoring eyes and switch to rolling eyes. My nephews are in the adoring phase and I wish I could freeze them their forever. It breaks my heart that unless I let them away with just about anything, I am likely to become a member of the “uncool adult crowd.” Damn growing up sucks.

dad vs mom

Today, I value my parents for entirely different reasons than when I was a kid. I admire their strength in the face of adversity, I admire the sacrifices they made for us kids growing up so we would never go hungry, I admire my dad for taking a potentially devastating bit of news and turning it into perhaps the best thing that could have happened (though it did also kind of take over our lives). I admire my mom for always putting others first and taking care of everyone, even though I wish she would put herself first sometimes. In short – I admire them for who they truly are, flaws and all instead of the flawless beings I praised as a child. And I guess for all their style cramping – they are the reason I have made it to where I am today.

So hey, thanks guys, you’re pretty cool after all.

So maybe that’s the consolation prize? That little boy may not unconditionally love and adore his dad forever, but one day he will love and adore his dad, not because it’s part of being a son, but because growing up has taught him that his dad is worth the admiration.

Seems fair.

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