Prompt: When you were a kid, did you want to have the same job or a different job than your parents when you grew up?
As we age, we’re repeatedly asked to talk about our role models and heroes. Adults put a great deal of pressure on kids to do this, whether for a church group, school report, or college essay. Much of the time, they’re simply courting flattery by expecting their child to claim that their parent, grandparent, or other family member is their hero. It would, some parents believe, be only right given all the time, effort, and money they spent raising them.
It was therefore always extremely awkward when I never claimed my mother or father were my role models, though not necessarily on their end. Rather, it made friends, friends’ parents, and teachers uncomfortable that I would not cede how important my parents were towards my development, especially when I later claimed that I was my own role model (a title I held until I entered college and which I’m not embarrassed about). To the world, a child that doesn’t admire their parents is an ungrateful child.
But there wasn’t much to admire about my parents. There still isn’t. Yes, I know it’s incredibly shameful and rude for me to say this, but it’s true. Even if you interrogate me – “Didn’t they feed you? Clothe you? Buy you nice things? Isn’t the car you drive currently being paid for by your father?” – I wouldn’t be able to honestly claim my parents as my role models. Hell, I have a hard enough time picking out birthday cards for them – every saccharine sentiment screams hypocrisy.
The fact of the matter is that my parents birthed me, bullied me, and then demanded that I credit them with every accomplishment I’ve achieved, mistakenly believing that, even if they fucked up a few times, they were still responsible for giving me my virtues. However, when you’re raised in abusive household by parents that are abusers, victims, and perpetrators of the whole sad cycle, you don’t owe them anything. The fundamental parent-child dynamic is broken. It doesn’t matter that they can be kind. It doesn’t matter if they still support you financially. What matters is that you had to survive them – and a role model is not a person you survive.
So while I am fully aware that my parents have had an effect on my personality, career path, and values, I refuse to acknowledge it. I don’t think they deserve it. I can be friendly with them. I can be kind. I can continue to try to build a healthy, mutually respectful relationship, but I won’t give them power over myself or my life. What I am I created on my own – at least until I was able to find actual role models.