Parents are people too. It’s a strange statement, as it seems so obvious. But throughout this pandemic, I’ve learned what it actually means.
Parents are special people. They make sure their children are happy, safe, and healthy. They make special sacrifices for those little toddlers who break things wherever they go, for the annoying kids who run around the house all day making messes they don’t clean up, and for those teenagers who think they’re better than everyone else and do whatever they want no matter what parents say. They make sure we have what we need, and in return, what do we do?
Early on in the pandemic, my grandparents decided to leave the senior citizens apartment complex they had just settled into in Arlington, Va., not all that far from our house. With much help from my dad, they packed up and moved down to a country home in Rappahannock County, Va. The property there also has a guest house, which in these pandemic months, my family tries to go to almost every weekend. My dad has been staying with them since April to help with my grandmother, who hasn’t been in perfect health, so it’s fun to see him on those weekend visits. That leaves my mom and brother with me back home. Let’s start with Mom.
My mom is a therapist. It’s her job to comfort people and make sure they feel secure. Her patients confide in her, which means she needs the utmost privacy during appointments. After she moved to teletherapy, maintaining that privacy has become tricky. She calls her patients from her “office” in the attic, but she can still easily hear us from downstairs. This means that my brother and I can’t interrupt or ask her any questions except for the last five minutes of the hour. This is tough, especially since she works from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. most days with a break only at 12 noon.
My brother has especially struggled. He is a senior in high school, and has been applying to a lot of colleges (but not able to visit many places in-person). Many of the SAT sittings he registered for were canceled, and he is really annoyed that his last year at school is “ruined.” He’s been taking his anger out on us, and doesn’t do a lot of the things asked of him, which ends up rebounding on me in a negative way.
Amid all this, I think I’ve realized my role.
I’m the girl who wakes up almost 20 minutes after her alarm goes off, with multiple prods from her mother. When she finally gets up, she only has ten minutes left before school starts, in which her mother always reminds her to do all her jobs and eat her breakfast, and then stays around to make sure she does it, sometimes causing her to be late for her first patient. I’m the girl who stays in her room most of the day, complains about what’s for lunch, barely gets outside, fights and pushes the boundaries.
And yet, still Mom wakes up early to make me breakfast and make sure I get up on time, uses her one break to make me lunch, encourages that I get at least a little outside time every day, and comes up with solutions to the problems I create.
She shouldn’t have to do all this.
That is what I learned—a little late, and it took a global pandemic, but nobody’s parents should have to do all this for children who don’t give anything back. I wanted to make her happy. I wanted to make up for all the struggle, and late nights, and early mornings, and stress that I’ve caused her.
So I have—or at least, I’ve started. I make my own meals sometimes. I clean the kitchen every few days. I get up on my own, do my jobs myself, and stay calm when trying to come up with different boundaries.
Not everyone realizes how much parents go through. Being an adult seems hard enough, but having to also deal with noisy, unhelpful kids? I don’t know how they handle it. What we all need to understand is that parents are people too, and they should be respected and treated accordingly.