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Wednesday, November 10, 2010

WHEN DO WE BECOME OUR PARENTS?

Perhaps the most common joke at a high school reunion is when someone inevitably makes the observation, "Gee, when did we become our parents?" To me, the answer is simple: at age 40. Actually, a lot depends on when we were born as well as our offspring, but it is fair to say the transformation begins in our early 40's. In our twenties, most of us are still learning to spread our wings and begin our careers. Love or lust typically raises its ugly head during this period, and along comes children. At this stage, I don't think we're our parents quite yet as we are still learning to find our way through the world and how to cope with the ankle-biters around us.
As the kids get older and enter grade school, we're now in our thirties. At this stage we are still relatively active and fit. We are also coming into our own professionally. Both husband and wife remain active, be it developing a career or helping with the kids' homework. Retirement is still a nebulous concept to us. No, we're still not there yet.
As we enter our 40's though, we start to observe several subtle changes around us. For example, we start to attend more weddings, showers and funerals. Oh God, the funerals. Long time friends and family members suddenly and mysteriously begin to pass away and we become conscious of our own mortality. We also start to observe and celebrate silver and golden anniversaries, not just our own, but of friends and relatives.
You notice that your parents are slowing down, their hair is getting whiter, and they are beginning to have trouble with their teeth and hearing, not to mention walking. In contrast, your children are now teenagers and abuzz with activity and chatter as they are discovering the world around them. Not surprising, it's around this time when you become acutely aware of rising insurance bills and you start thinking about pending college tuitions, weddings and other substantial bills in the not too distant future. And this is where I believe we truly become our parents; as we find ourselves stuck between generations. It is this period when we come to the realization that we share the same worries and concerns our parents experienced and we are shocked by the ephiphany that we are no different than they were. We have the same interests, the same humor, the same type of friends and social activities. It is something we all must experience sooner or later.
I don't wish to demean parenting in our 20's or 30's, but we really do not grasp the significance of it until we reach our 40's. I see everything prior to it as nothing more than a learner's permit, but it is our 40's that defines us as parents and how we'll be remembered as such. It is typically at this time when we go back for a high school reunion, look around at our old friends and notice they look and act remarkably like how we remembered our parents and their friends. It is then that you know with certainty that you have indeed become your parents. Don't dismay though, consider it a right of passage. We all go through it.
Keep the Faith!
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Tim Bryce is a writer and the Managing Director of M. Bryce & Associates (MBA) of Palm Harbor, Florida and has over 30 years of experience in the management consulting field. He can be reached at timb001@phmainstreet.com
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