Turning into my parents

An insurance company advertises that they can save you money, but they can’t keep you from turning into your parents. I guess all of us become more like our parents as we age, no matter how often we told ourselves as children that we would never say or do certain things that our parents said and did.

The other day I was preparing to mow the lawn and the mail carrier said, “Looks like someone is getting ready to have some fun.” I laughed and told her, “No, but it has to be done.” Instantly I remember how many times my mother and my father said the same thing about lawn and garden work or about housework: “It has to be done.” I felt at times that they were committing themselves and their children to a lot of chores that really didn’t have to be done. Pulling weeds was never my favorite summertime activity. But they justified their own efforts—and the efforts they demanded of their children—with that simple slogan, “It has to be done.”

Both my parents grew up during the Great Depression. There were probably a lot of things that “had to be done” in those days, from growing their own vegetables to taking small jobs to earn a few coins to help support the family. Then they had the wartime years, where certain things “had to be done,” such as going without food to help feed the soldiers and collecting scrap metal and rubber for recycling as part of the war effort. Many of their peers settled into more comfortable lives in the Fifties and Sixties; but for my parents, life remained full of chores and duties that had to be done.

I wrote an essay in college about my parents’ “work ethic,” saying that I hoped I would not be as duty-driven as an adult. Some years I have succeeded in living up to my college dream, treating the things I do at my job as things I get to do, not things I have to do. At home I try to reduce the work that has to be done—as I’ve written before, one hour of lawn work a week is enough, in my opinion. My children have had chores, but they were meant to teach them life skills, not as something that “had to be done.”

To my surprise, that slogan of my parents came out of my mouth as naturally as if I invented it myself. “It has to be done.” The grass has to be mowed. The city will fine me if my lawn exceeds a certain height, and given all the rain we’ve had lately and all the rain in the forecast, there was only a window of a day or two open to get the grass cut.

What things do you say or do that you learned from your parents? J.

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11 thoughts on “Turning into my parents

  1. “Whatever you want”. A phrase my mother uses A LOT when she doesn’t want to make a decision herself. I sometimes catch myself saying it, too. Hate it!

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  2. “What things do you say or do that you learned from your parents?”

    I never thought about this much but after reading your post, I realize I am the spitting image of my father. He was a very frank man and resigned to the fact that people either love him or hate him for it. I advise my son to “Be himself” wherever he goes and I suppose that is pretty much the short version.Thanks for the question. I haven’t thought about my father in awhile. He passed away in 2008.

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    • Interesting answer, Wally. When helping a young man and a young woman prepare for their wedding and marriage, I ask them to describe the marriage of their parents. They often recognize the traits and the expectations they learned in childhood and are unconsciously imitating. When the trait is negative, they are told that they have to work consciously to change. J.

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      • Well like I said its complex. I love your counsel about working consciously,though. Without that one can just drift right into generational negatives and never know it.

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      • I thought I was going to mow the yard today. But we just had a freak heavy snow storm. After days with temperatures in the upper 80s and low 90s, it’s in the 30s now, two days before Mother’s Day.

        I’m calling this Wringer Weather. That’s Spring, with Winter on both ends. Since early March we have had two bomb cyclones and one tornado. I can’t wait to see what happens next. New Mexico weather is never boring!

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