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Moving On, Moving Out MAG
I was always a “little kid” to my parents. It didn't matter how old I got, the fact that I had friends and other interests besides Mom and Dad, or that – especially in high school – I started to live in a completely different world from theirs; I was always “Davey,” especially to my dad. And for the most part, I didn't mind.
My brother is the stereotypical teen who spends a lot of time alone in his room. He may not fight with our parents, but he resents them. I think there's a whole background of how he wants to be seen as different from how they tried to raise him, and, in general, he isn't big on family. And that's fine by me. I completely understand where he's coming from. When your parents make you go to church every Sunday, try to control who your friends are, and don't let you go to parties, there can be bitter feelings.
More so today than ever, kids – teens especially – live in two drastically different worlds. One, obviously, is our family. The other is our social life. At home, we have nobody to impress. At school and friends' houses, we're always trying to climb the ladder. Make friends. Fit in. Dress right. Get ripped. Look good. Be funny. At home, none of that matters.
There's a difference in the goals of these two worlds for teens. At home, we have to be “good”: not make a mess or talk back, always do your chores and homework. But when we're trying to impress others, we'll do almost anything. That's why at school, “good” kids may make fun of others, talk differently, even walk differently.
Teenagers have a natural desire to be accepted. We need, more than anything, to fit in. Since we are constantly told that our parents love us no matter what, we focus our energy on our social world. In addition, we all leave home at some point – many go to college, where finding friends feels even more important – so the social world seems more and more important to teens. Eventually, it always wins.
The desire to dissociate from our parents, then, makes sense. They represent home life, “good” kids, nice little boys who aren't ripped and don't fit in. When we're trying to survive in the social world, we don't want to be seen with our parents. We know that we won't be with them forever, and, more than anything, we want to grow up, and hasten the inevitable.
I know this because I'm living it. I lead two completely different lives, and I know how hard it is to balance them. I've seen what it has done to my brother's relationship with my parents – the distance is painful. So, I didn't think it was a big deal that my parents still clung on to their view of me as “little Davey.”
Parents don't want their kids to grow up, begin to resent them like they resented their parents, and leave home feeling bitter. Parents want nine-year-olds who listen, help out, and give kisses when they say good night. So I let them cling to Davey. I was okay with being their little kid who would never leave home, who would make sacrifices in the social world to have a good relationship with them. Part of me even wanted to stay like that forever, to stop time and live forever where I'm happy and they are too. But as I grew, despite both our efforts to hold on, that world has been fading.
My memory is filled with events, not even very long ago, of me as a kid with my dad. I remember him going out to do errands. As he backed out of the driveway, he would call through the car window, “Oh, and Davey? I love you” with a big smile. In recent years, instead of saying I loved him too, I would tell him to go get the groceries. So now he doesn't say that anymore. Social life over home life.
He used to ask me about girls – a cardinal sin. The two worlds don't mix. I told him to stop being so awkward, so he stopped asking. He used to jump on me, shouting, “I'm falling!” and squash me into the couch. That ended when I was 14 and yelled at him to cut it out.
He used to call me Davey. One day I told him, “I'm sick of being treated like a little kid.” He asked what I meant. I explained that in a year I would be leaving home, but I still had to follow all his rules. “I'm still ‘Davey,' and you still think that this is the center of my life,” I said, motioning to the house around me. The next day, he called me David. And I felt my stomach sink. To me, and maybe to my dad, “Davey” meant I was still his good little nine-year-old. “David” meant the end.
I find myself torn between these two worlds. I want to be an adult – to do what I want, choose my friends, stay out at night. But inside, I still long for that bear hug, the progression of bear hugs from “baby black bear” to “daddy brown bear” – the hardest bear hug of them all. Or games of HORSE in the driveway. Or helicopter rides on his shoulders. Or how he used to jump on me and shout, “I'm falling! Catch me, Davey!” And he would land on me, and we would laugh, and I could never push him off.
Now I regret pushing my dad away more than anything. But I can't live at home forever. My home life and my dad aren't the center of my universe the way they once were, and I think that has been hard for both of us to realize.
I'm lucky; having seen my brother's strained relationship, I had 16 beautiful years of childhood, and I did my best to make the most of them. It feels like it's ending now, but I think it's time. Too often, kids push away too hard. They separate from their parents at 13 or 14. Sure, every kid wants to grow up. Realizing that you're leaving something behind, though, can be painful, even more if you only realize after it's too late.
And parents face the opposite problem: they pull. They have 13-year-old infants who must follow every rule, be home at this minute or else, comb their hair a certain way, eat this, think that. Parents need to see the problems kids face, the struggle between two different worlds where one will win every time. Kids grow up. It would be helpful if they had allies in that process instead of dictators.
If I could, I would go back and do some things differently. I would hold on to my family more, but I don't think the outcome would be any different. Looking back, I realize how lucky I was that even though I made mistakes, I was able to enjoy life at home. I'm just ready to move on.