Nobody wants to be like their parents…or like the adults they remember growing up. The ones who were clueless…or uncool. The ones who seemed to forget what it was like to be a kid. The ones who rhapsodized about the good old days and the way things used to be.
And we’d like to think that we’ve succeeded in this mission—in avoiding the curse of getting old and growing up, basically. Because we’re *younger—*both in spirit and in mentality. Because we have a new generation’s understanding of this whole parenting thing. One that is informed by the exciting, different industry we work in, or the kind of political activism we’re engaged with, or because of the self-improvement influencers we follow—or the fact that we even know what an influencer is at all.
But here’s the cold hard truth: You’re not different. You’re like all the other parents that ever were, just like your parents (even if you have made some critical improvements). The poet Audre Lorde’s children had to break this news to their parents. “You think just because you’re lesbians you’re so different from the rest of them but you’re not,” they told their moms, “you’re just like all the other parents.”
Audre and her partner fancied themselves revolutionaries…but where it mattered, they were as Ozzie and Harriet as everyone else. They were as old (and old-fashioned) and ordinary and out of touch and conservative as everybody else who ever procreated. And so are you!
This isn’t something to be ashamed of. It’s just the reality of bringing life into this world, of being responsible for young vulnerable souls that can’t fully take care of themselves yet. It’s what happens when you “decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body,” as Ellen Cantarow wrote. Once you stop fighting it, you can realize that it doesn’t really matter. You can stop putting artificial distance between you and other parents, between you and your family.
What matters isn’t how you see yourself or how others see you, what matters is that you’re present. What matters is that you love your kids. What matters is that you be what, and who, they need you to be. As different as we all are—different political beliefs, different sexualities, different nationalities—we are all in the same boat. We’re all in charge of the next generation and being changed by that incredible honor and responsibility in the same ways.
Accept it. Embrace it. Love it.