The summer before my freshman year at Hillsdale I felt like I was going nowhere. I couldn’t wrap my mind around why things hadn’t panned out with the girl I liked in high school, I worked three part-time jobs, and I was training for my first collegiate Cross Country season. I was constantly tired, irritable, and quickly losing any excitement I had ever felt about going to college. My life was in transition and I didn’t know what to do.
My frustration climaxed one night, about a month before college. I asked my parents to sit down with me in our living room. In the midst of releasing all of my pent-up anguish, I told them that I didn’t think there was any point to spending time with family. I knew I was commanded to honor my father and mother, but I was going to college, so I didn’t see the point anymore.
The conversation felt like it lasted a long time, and I did most of the talking. My parents said they knew transitioning to college was hard, but they were also hurt that I was ready to throw our relationship away. That night I went to bed with an uneasy feeling, unsure of how to move forward.
After 19 years of growing up with my parents, I was ready to throw it all away. Thankfully my parents loved me and had a much longer memory than I did. They knew this kid trying to grow up before he was even born, while the first thing I can remember is being stung by a bee while on timeout at my birthday party when I was four.
Now as I approach my college graduation, I’m thankful they stuck with me, even when I didn’t stick by them.
In hindsight, it’s really easy to look back at all of the good times had growing up. Before I was 10, my dad rewarded me with a chocolate Frosty for accompanying him as he drove an elderly lady home from church once or twice a month. I remember around the same time, my mom worked with me to read, even if it meant I read Captain Underpants when my two older sisters read cultured books, like Little House on the Prairie.
What I’m most thankful for — what I forgot that summer and my parents didn’t — was all of the hard things my parents experienced with me growing up.
I forgot about my dad taking me to a Busch Gardens waterpark on a family vacation because I wasn’t old enough to appreciate another day of Colonial Williamsburg. I forgot about my mom having to put up with me bad-mouthing her when she worked as one of my recess aides during elementary school. I didn’t think of all the times my parents paid to go on vacation and I told them the place they planned to go was “stupid.”
Had my parents given up on family that night — as I thought I wanted to give up on them — my last four years of college would not have so fulfilling.
Beyond paying for much of college, I’m thankful my parents were available to admonish me, to encourage me, and to visit me from time to time. I’m thankful they were willing to talk when I came home from college and felt burnt out. I’m thankful they told me to keep up my grades, when I was tempted not to care. I’m thankful that my mom sent me cards on holidays, even if I never reciprocated. And I’m thankful that my dad always tried to attend my cross country races, even if it meant driving nine hours from my home in Metro Detroit to Michigan Tech in the northern part of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.
Parents are an advantage, not an obstacle to adulthood. My parents definitely aren’t perfect, but they’ve always helped me to succeed, even when I couldn’t see it.
So now as I’m about a month from graduating college, I’m not going to repeat the same mistake I made four years ago. As I get a job and take the next steps of adulthood, I look forward to talking with my parents about it and possibly moving close to where they live. Our relationship will change, but that doesn’t mean it has to weaken. I’m beginning to see the wisdom in honoring your father and your mother.
Thanks Mom and Dad.
Mr. Carter is a senior studying politics and journalism.