"Is it possible for a parent and a child to evolve beyond the given roles and form a bond worthy of friendship?"


Martha Miranda

Martha Miranda resides in Los Angeles and is working on her general studies courses at West Los Angeles College. She would like to transfer to Cal State University, Long Beach, and earn a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Information Systems. In her spare time, she enjoys reading, cooking and yoga.

A Mindset That Was in Shackles

I have come a long way from where I used to be. Things that were once my top priority have now become insignificant. People whom I couldn’t imagine living without are now just people I used to know. As I take some time to reflect on who and where I am presently, I am led to ponder the ways my adolescence has impacted my current state of mind. That crucial period of my life, the relationships I formed during my teenage years, and the circumstances and experiences of that moment in time, have certainly shaped the way I view the world now.  I have discovered that it isn’t what we think about that makes the difference—but how we think.

I grew up in a strict household where my mother believed that tough love was the way to go. Her motto was “My Way or the Highway.” Consistent discipline was very effective for her.  Since she had such a sporadic work schedule, work demanded most of her time and energy. When she did have some free time, however, she took the opportunity to point out all the tasks that I had failed to complete correctly. Instead of enjoying herself, she stressed over the upkeep of the house and making sure that I was contributing to its upkeep. I can remember numerous occasions when she woke me out of my sleep to ask why one of my chores had not been done satisfactorily. 

It was difficult for me to see my mother as anything other than an authority figure who was always judging me. Whenever I asked why I couldn’t do something, she simply replied, “Because I said so.” If I even sounded like I was trying to defy her, she would punish me. She never allowed me the opportunity to express myself. Although I know that my mother loves me, as a child it was difficult to believe it. I can hardly remember a time when I really laughed with her or considered her my friend. There were moments when all I really wanted from her was a hug and to hear her tell me I was loved. I seldom gave her my opinion or told her a joke because I felt that she would take something I said the wrong way. If she was happy, I hardly ever saw a smile.

Is it possible for a parent and a child to evolve beyond the given roles and form a bond worthy of friendship? It is contended that the authoritative parenting style is the most effective method of raising a happy and healthy child. (Cherry)  An authoritative parent finds equilibrium for discipline and nurture in order to allow the child to feel secure and self-confident. An authoritative parent refrains from being too aggressive and allows the child the opportunity to learn from his or her mistakes. Through this approach, children express a vigorous disposition, develop positive social skills, and regulate their emotions in a favorable manner.

My teenage years were less than favorable. After ten years of living a comfortable lifestyle, in a safe neighborhood, my family and I abruptly had to move out of the only place I had ever called home.  The apartment building that my step-dad managed, where we lived in a spacious two-bedroom unit with a backyard and full amenities, had just been sold to a new landlord. The new owners fired my step-dad from his position and forced us to move out of the apartment complex in three days. As if being a teenager wasn’t enough of a daunting experience, my proximate circumstances would find me in one of the most trying times of my life.

As we traveled hastily to East Los Angeles to live at my step-aunt’s house, my mother, step-dad, younger sister and I struggled to find comfort in living together in a cramped room.  It was very difficult for me to cope with the transition. The only way I knew how to deal with it was not to deal with it at all. I spent a lot of time bottling up my emotions. I would go to school and pretend that everything was normal; all the while, my sister and I were sleeping on the floor at someone else’s house.  I remember thinking that once we found another home everything would go back to the way it was. My parents scrambled to find a new house for us to live in. My step-dad struggled to regain employment, and my mother’s debt limited her options.  It took them two years to get back on their feet.

Eventually, my parents purchased a home in South Central Los Angeles. I remember vividly the moment my mother received the keys. We were all so excited that we hurriedly cleaned and moved all of our belongings. My sister and I helped my mother paint all the rooms, and we even agreed on color schemes. My step-dad set out to revamp the kitchen and bathroom, add a laundry room, and expand the front porch. These tasks seemed quite challenging, but for my step-dad, they were a pleasure.  For the first time, I felt that we were on our way to establishing a bond after much strife. 

Right after my fifteenth birthday, however, my step-dad was diagnosed with cancer. Since my mom worked long hours, she was unable to take him to his chemotherapy sessions.  I spent two months accompanying him. A hospital bus would pick us up, drop us off in front of the cancer center, and take us back home when we were done. In the hospital, I waited impatiently for my step-dad to finish the treatment sessions that were supposed to make him feel better. As he walked out, he looked worse.  I watched my step-dad struggle to eat, walk and even use the restroom. The chemo didn’t seem to be helping, and three months after his diagnosis, my step-dad passed away.  I started high school a few weeks later.

Should we search for ways to resolve the problems that distress us or just accept these difficulties as a part of life? It was hard for my family to deal with my step-dad’s death. I remember thinking how unfair his death was. I would stay up at night crying and asking why. I sought comfort from my mother only to find her being distant. Instead of embracing me, she found any reason to scold me. We argued more and more. I felt that she just didn’t care about me; I stopped caring, too. I did anything I could to get away from my mom and get out of the house. I looked forward to going to school just to hang out with my friends. I hardly went to class, and felt like I was smart enough to take care of myself. I hadn’t yet realized, however, how dumb I really was.

Instead of facing my problems at home, I ran away from them. I began experimenting with drugs, battled with low self-esteem issues, and struggled in abusive relationships.  I wanted so desperately to feel accepted and loved. I surrounded myself with friends in order to feel normal; to feel happy. In a roomful of my peers, however, I felt alone.  No matter how hard I tried, I felt like there was something missing.  Then, at the age of 17, I had my first child. Although my mom tried to help me after my son was born, our relationship was almost non-existent. I refused to listen to any advice she had to give. I left her house on my 18th birthday with my almost two-month-old son in my arms, and didn’t look back. I did not speak to my mother again for almost a year.

Within the last several years, I have come to accept that everything that happens, good or bad, happens for a reason. I recognize that my mother’s intentions were always to protect me and provide for me, not to hurt me.  At the same time, our inability to communicate properly and honestly hindered us from establishing a deeper connection. I was afraid to let her into my personal life because I felt that she hurt me when I needed her to comfort me the most. She, on the other hand, was dealing with emotional issues of her own: having just lost her husband and having to raise two teenagers by herself. We were both afraid to speak up, out of fear of rejection. Our mental fear to step out of our comfort zone, to let go of past hurts and disappointments, forced us to live the alternate life of resentment and doubt.

It wasn’t until I became a parent myself that her world became clear to me, and I could understand where she was coming from. As a child, an adolescent, struggling to find myself, I couldn’t possibly see the world through anyone else’s eyes. It is unfortunate that most people refuse to see things the way they truly are. As a young mother of two children now, my eyes are finally open. Parenting does not come with a handbook. Mistakes will be made. However, the struggle, the pain and the sacrifice, makes sense.

My mother and I have since mended our relationship. I have learned the true meaning of hard work through her diligence to raise my sister and me. She has empowered me to strive for more out of life. Now, she encourages me to continue my education and constantly reminds me that I can achieve any goals I set my mind to. Through her example, I can raise my own children with integrity and strength.

I look forward to my sons telling me stories of their day and asking me what this word means and whether I like the joke they just told. I look forward to great friendships with them as well. Being a parent is an intriguing task and an unparalleled privilege. It is filled with challenges and uncertainties.  However, I can rest assured, through it all, that I have an open mind and am willing to embrace new ideas and adapt to different environments.

For most, the experiences I went through would have left them in a paralyzed mind frame. For me, the challenging parts of my life have encouraged me to keep fighting and striving for more. My mother has shown me, in her own special way, the value of hard work and that anything is possible for anyone who is determined and diligent. It took some personal experiences and hard knocks to bring me to a state of reality. As a teenager, I enjoyed the fantasy of the world revolving around me. I believe that is why so many teenagers are angry during this time of their lives. They believe from childhood that the world is centered on them. When things occur against their favor, many teenagers cannot control their emotions. They cannot think logically; they become upset and revolt. They ask, “Why is this happening to me?” They ask, “What did I do to deserve this?”  They might even exclaim: “Am I really that horrible?” Maybe they are not asking the right questions.

In life, there is always a lesson to be learned, an obstacle to overcome, a test to pass to make one stronger and wiser. As a teenager, fear consumed my life. It paralyzed me. I am not where I want to be in life, but I am content with being able to have made it from where I was: from a mindset that was in shackles. I am free from what once kept me in bondage. For some people, it takes a long time to gain mental clarity. Others never truly find this clarity. Now that I am here, I owe it to myself “to keep going, to keep growing, to never stop knowing” (Terry Brown). I am discovering that thinking critically goes hand in hand with resilience, which is becoming my strongest asset.

Thank you, mom, for teaching me this valuable lesson.

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