The other day I was talking to a colleague at work. Turns out this coworker is dating a new guy, and her parents don’t approve of the relationship. In fact, her mother says she’s losing sleep over it. The reason for her parents’ disapproval is immaterial. What’s important is how much mind space this issue is occupying for her, and rightfully so: New relationship, Parental Approval, The Future – Yikes.
When we said our goodbyes and vowed to talk again soon, I couldn’t help but feel a sense of serenity. My parents will never be up in arms. In fact, they’ll always rest quite peacefully too.
What I mean is this: I can get a tattoo, dye my hair blue and elope to Timbuktu. Who’s going to stop me? As a parentless young adult, there are absolutely no obstacles of parental pressure or guilt in my way. I have a shiny, paved yellow brick road ahead free of familial strife that comes from parents wanting what’s best for you – or what’s best for themselves for you.
(To be fair, I do have Rutenberg parental pressure and feel compelled to state this because if I do not, I predict a phone call to come shortly after publication of this post reminding me to watch myself because Rutenberg parental pressure is very much alive. For more information about my Rutenberg family unit, please see The Gang’s All Here.)
Nevertheless, parental pressure in the form of my parents vanished forever the day my mother died. And I think that’s partially why, 48 hours after her death, I adopted a puppy. It was a rash, purely emotional decision that brought me great joy. I remember my heart pounding with excitement as I carried the still unnamed puppy into my mom’s apartment, creating an area for him in the kitchen where he could eat, sleep and poop to his heart’s content.
Not only was my mom not particularly a dog lover (she liked the idea of dogs), but the apartment building had a strict “no dogs allowed” policy. This was the first dog in that apartment EVER. It was elicit. I was breaking the rules. My mom would have totally freaked.
But a couple hours later, as I sat on the kitchen floor, a sleeping puppy in my arms with my two best friends from business school beside me, I burst into tears. How was I going to do this? I knew exactly how much work this was going to be; I raised a puppy several years prior with an ex-boyfriend. It required around-the-clock supervision, not to mention a lot of carpet cleaner. (For the puppy that is, not the ex-boyfriend.)
I gave it the good ol’ college try and with the dog-sitting support of family and friends, I lasted 8 weeks. Ultimately, I made the wise and responsible decision to give the puppy to my friend’s parents. I happen to know that Jasper is summering in Maine right now, and I am more than happy with my decision to give him up.
I think my point is that even without the presence of real parental stress, I somehow end up struggling with the same sort of issues, pressures and challenges that my friends with parents face. I know that I’m lucky that my mom died when she did and not any earlier. Her wisdom was absorbed. Her lessons taught, and her hopes for me heard.
So, I’ll conclude by admitting that I’ll probably never get a tattoo, dye my hair blue or elope to Timbuktu. And I know enough about my mom to smile and realize that she would be most relieved to hear that first confession.