Parents can drive us bananas
When I was in college, I spent one of my fall breaks driving around the Northeast with my friends Nachie, Geoff and Theresa.
One of our stops was the New York City apartment of Nachie’s mother, and the opportunity to observe Nachie in his natural habitat proved fascinating. Nachie is one of the most easygoing people in the world, but I noticed that even he chafed at suggestions and guidance from a parent. When his mom gave him careful instructions on how to select the best bunch of bananas at the market, he came as close to losing his temper as I’d ever seen.
“Mom, I’ve bought bananas before!” he yelled.
Of course, Geoff, Theresa and I found this hilarious.
“Nachie doesn’t need his mom anymore,” Geoff said.
“He knows how to buy bananas,” I said.
I sometimes remember this story when I visit my own parents. Though I’ve never yelled “Mom, I’ve bought bananas before!”, I’ve certainly had my “Mom, I’ve bought bananas before!” moments.
The thing is, I think almost everybody has these moments. Almost all of my friends report having them. Some of them report other types of difficulties. For instance, one of my friends often gets into political arguments with his parents, occasionally losing his temper — a pattern of behavior he’s trying to change.
Another friend recently went on a disastrous family vacation with her parents and sisters. The source of discord, she said, was her mother’s insistence on going to the beach every day; my friend has two toddlers, and she found packing a bag of supplies every morning, loading the kids into the car, driving 20 minutes and spending the bulk of the day away from the comforts of home hugely stressful.
“Couldn’t you just not have gone to the beach?” I asked. “Couldn’t you just have said that you needed a break?”
“I had to go,” my friend said. “Not going wasn’t an option.”
My friend is a stubborn, strong-willed person. And yet she is unable to assert herself around her parents. Unlike me, she seldom has “Mom, I’ve bought bananas before!” moments. Whether this is bad or good, I cannot say. All I know is that I expect to have a “Mom, I’ve bought bananas before moment!” every time I see my family.
Last weekend I went to my parent’s house in Maine with some friends and we had a great time. My parents tend to be on their best behavior when my friends are around, and they kept their questions and critiques to a minimum, though they couldn’t resist bringing up one of their current concerns, the condition of my sandals.
“Don’t you think it’s time for new sandals?” my mother said.
It’s true that my sandals are in a pretty sorry state. However, I just don’t see the need to buy new ones right now.
“I was thinking I would just throw them away at the end of September,” I said.
“You might consider throwing them away sooner,” my mother said.
“OK,” I said, despite having no intention to do so.
It was in the parking lot at the beach that I finally had my “Mom, I’ve bought bananas before!” moment.
I had driven everyone to the beach in my parents’ car, and my mom turned to me while everyone was unloading the car. “Do you have the car keys?” she asked.
“Yes,” I replied.
But I don’t think she believed me, because she repeated the question on our walk to the beach. “Are you sure you have the car keys?”
“Yes, I have the car keys!” I yelled.
Which might have been a bit of an overreaction. Because my sisters and I do sometimes make mistakes.
One of my friends pointed out that on an earlier trip to the beach my sister had to run back to the house to fetch the beach pass, despite everyone repeatedly asking each other whether it was in our possession, and assuring each other that it was. This incident provides some insight into why parents ask the same questions over and over again. They know that sometimes when their children say “Yes” it really means “No.”
For dinner one evening, I agreed to grill some chicken. I had never used this grill before, and I’ve only grilled once or twice in my life. As a result, I found it necessary to consult my father, who started up the grill and came outside every once in a while to offer advice and check on things. Not once did I feel like yelling at him; he was supportive and patient and we had a nice time standing outside waiting for the chicken to cook.
I wouldn’t go so far as to say that I needed my dad’s help, mainly because it would be out of character for me to admit such a thing.
But it made things a little easier, and I was glad to have it.
Foss Forward makes a weekly appearance in print, in The Gazette’s Saturday Lifestyles section. You can email Sara at firstname.lastname@example.org.