I visited my parents tonight, with a taped version of The Look for Less in hand for them to watch. It was the first time I'd seen them since THE TALK last week. All things considered, we ended on a relatively good note then, but I still wasn't exactly expecting rainbows, butterflies and puppies at home. (I'm not entirely sure what that means. It's not like my parents live on Sesame Street and have that stuff in the house usually, but I'm sure you get it.)
My mom got home before my dad, and in the middle of her sudden lecture to me about the importance of maintaining on-time payments to build good credit, she let me know that my father noticed that I'd "changed" after our last talk. I wasn't sure initially if that was a good or bad thing.
My mom clarified that he mentioned that I seemed softer, and he was more willing to listen to me this past time because of it. "You know your daddy," she said. "He can be very stubborn."
I can be stubborn too. Very stubborn. My father and I had been butting heads over the past few years; I was playing the role of the defiant teenager. So I was a bit of a late bloomer with the whole rebellion thing... about 15 years late. That’s because I finally found something worth fighting for. Someone worth fighting for.
Rather than dealing with everything directly, I found avoidance easier and just closed myself off from my parents as a result. I began creating a barrier around myself so that it wouldn't hurt so much when we did fight. I tried not to care as much about the parents who I loved so much while I was growing up. It was slow and subtle in the beginning. I didn't call quite as often, and my visits became less frequent. The next thing I knew, I found that I no longer greeted them with the big smile, hug and kiss which was once the norm. I am usually a very affectionate person, but I couldn’t even remember the last time I showed that side of myself to them. I was merely cordial, and that was really sad.
When I was finally ready to talk to my dad about marrying Taer, my first instinct was to continue with my “You can’t tell me what to do anymore” attitude. I was ready to push, knowing he would push back. I was ready to be disowned. I didn’t think there was any other way.
My mom was convinced that I had a chance, but I had to be willing to take the first step. However, it couldn’t just be any first step; it had to be the first different step.
It’s so easy to fall into a particular pattern with the people around us. We develop relationships with people based on what we learn to expect from one another. I had learned to expect staunch adherence to an outdated belief from my dad. He wouldn’t listen to anything I had to say, so I decided to not say anything after a while. I just wanted to be heard.
I didn’t think about the fact that he, too, just wanted to be heard. Here I was, with all my chatter about validating feelings, and I wasn’t paying that exact respect to my own father. I grew too accustomed to our stubborn pushing.
So I took the first different step. I squashed my stubbornness and told him how much I loved him and asked that he listen to my plea. It was how I should have approached him a long time ago. And it worked. He noticed. He felt like I heard him, and he listened to me in return.
It isn’t all fixed yet. But my parents did laugh a lot as they watched themselves on the small screen. My dad even made some really bad jokes and danced around in his own silly way, a side of him I hadn’t seen in a while.
When I left, I kissed and hugged both my parents, and I told them I loved them.
It isn’t easy taking unfamiliar steps, and the first few will probably be wobbly. But if I do it first, then I can at least hope for some unfamiliar steps to be taken back in my direction. Pretty soon, we’ll both be sure of our footing, and we’ll be on a better road together.