What my parents taught me

I always taught my parents had a pretty standard way of raising their kids. I always just assumed that everyone who raises children, more specifically girls, has the exact same approach. Turned out, after a number of baffling conversations with my friends that I was wrong, we definitely had a unique experience growing up. Obviously there were the stereotypical moments of slammed doors, screaming and untidy rooms that come with the teenage years (for me this started when I learned to walk and talk but it continued to throughout my teens).  My parents felt really strongly that my sisters and I should be independent and not be afraid of the world around us, not just because we were going to have to face it eventually, but because we were girls, and sometimes it’s not always easy for women to go off into the world. They just wanted to make sure we were always equipped for what lay ahead, whether it was good or bad. ’ Even though we were all raised by the same people my sisters and I are very different.  My older sister has a bubbly outgoing personality. She has her own unique, pretty classy, sense of style. Though creative in her own way, she’s very different to me, I like to draw, write and read, then write some more and if I can, avoid human contact for days on end. In terms of the way I dress I tend to throw something whimsical on and head out the door. I’m more shy that both my sisters. The youngest lady of the family is a budding musician and has a wonderful ability to cut you in two with a smart comment. She dresses like she should have been around for the emergence of grunge and don’t piss her off because she is a gold medalist in karate and she just likes to challenge everyone to a fight (she doesn’t actually fight people but she does ask them to quite frequently).  We have all got pretty unique personalities but I think most of what our parents taught us growing up is what we have in common.

My parents always taught us to speak our minds. Because of this we have a fondness, neigh, devotion to arguing.  My sisters and I like lull people into an argument, we throw out a topic, see what people say, wait for them to say something racist/sexist/generally insulting and then rip them to shreds to the point where they have no idea what their original point was. Many a boyfriend has been caught in this manner, we wait, allowing them to fall into our trap, then we pounce just as they think they are free and clear, could be hours later, could be a week, but we will pounce because we enjoy arguing so much. We were always told to say what was on our minds and not be afraid to speak up if we had an opinion on something, even if it was directed at our parents. Well, that was a pretty big mistake on their part because they couldn’t get us to agree to anything. They told us to do something and we questioned it straight away. ‘Empty the dishwasher’. ‘Why should I empty it, I am not the only one who uses it’. In fairness, what could they say to that, we made a valid point and telling us to just do it would only lead to more ‘why’s’ so they would just walk away.

They answered any question we had about whatever we say on the news or heard on the radio. This meant that we were having political debates about abortion when we were eight. I recently got into a discussion with my Da about racism, where I got so over enthusiastic about the whole thing that my voice reached a new pitch and I’m fairly sure dogs could hear me.  At the end of the argument I told him it was his fault I’m like this. If he had taught me to shut my mouth and not have an opinion then I probably wouldn’t have turned into what sounded like a screeching cat.  On the other hand I think he really enjoyed being able to have a debate about something with me.

The flip side of this is that we always knew how to express ourselves and do so openly, within the comfort of our own home though, we let ourselves go. My poor mother still leaves the room when the three of us our together because she can’t keep up with the conversation that can Segway from  in depth discussions about Rihanna’s latest style choices or why unicorns make good pets. Sometimes she closes the door and tries to block out the noise, but we continue to annoy her by sending her snapchat videos. She always looks very worried when she walks in on us while we practice are interpretive dance moves in the kitchen. Despite her clear discomfort with our open craziness, she never has and probably never will, tell us to stop or to not be silly in this way, just like she never prevented us saying how we really felt.

My parents also taught me that I could do anything I wanted, once it didn’t hurt anyone. I was allowed a tattoo when I was sixteen (My mother got one the same day by the way).  There is never judgement about hair colour choices, she never stopped us dying our hair, wearing what we liked and studying what we wanted in college. There was never pressure to study all day or to get exceptionally good marks, and there was never a punishment for not doing well. Honestly, I think the lack of pressure let me find my own drive and I was able to get to where I wanted without anyone over my shoulder telling me to do better or do more. They let us make our own choices about pretty much everything, even we they knew we would regret it

My parents they me to be self-sufficient, so even if I don’t have a house, car or dream job at twenty-five, I can at least feed myself. My sisters and I were using a washing machine from a young age, we all had jobs to do around the house, which I was surprised to learn not everyone had when growing up. They basically taught us we could survive on our own if we had to, and I’m pretty sure that was all they really wanted, that and they both worked full time, having extra help around the house was only fair, something only hindsight as an adult has shown me. I do believe that once we reached our sweaty, smelly teen years they probably regretted teaching us this stuff because whenever they needed the washing machine we were always using it.

All of the things they have taught me aren’t necessarily bad, and their parenting is not to blame for my incapability to accept adulthood or anything, in fact they have given me a pretty good foundation. In fact I think that they gave me the opportunity to make all the decisions and mistakes I was supposed to. They never forced me to act any particular way, they just let me be and gave me the freedom to have my own voice.  I know that even though right now I’m not necessarily where I expected to be once I left college, I’ve still come pretty far and I have a lot less finding myself to do because I was already allowed to do that.

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