Your Mileage May Vary (or it already has)

  1. You believe EVERYTHING your parents say: This typically will range from when you are a child to mid-to-late teens. A fat man in a red suit comes down the chimney every Christmas Eve and delivers toys to all the children around the world? Sure! If you keep making that face it will stick that way? Absolutely! The stork brings babies? Of course! Rover just went to sleep on that road and never woke up? Poor doggy! If you say it's true, Mommy and Daddy, then it must be! This is that magical stage where, no matter how outrageous, you generally believe everything your parents tell you with little exception. As the years go on in this stage, how much you believe wanes a little, but you will typically at least give your parents the benefit of the doubt if you encounter information that counters something they've told you, at school for example.
  2. You know EVERYTHING and your parents are STUPID: Like the old Fresh Prince song goes, parents just don't understand! This stage in your life where you believe that you know everything because you're not a child anymore and your parents don't know jack typically starts in your mid-to-late teens and can last until around your mid-20's. You're graduating high school. You're going to college. Most of your parents' warnings go unheeded. They don't know ANYTHING! You've got it all figured out. You are all grown up and any points your parents try to make is - at best - out of touch with today's world. At worst: total bullshit. Don't party too much or you'll fail/run out of money/get hurt/die. Psshhh! Whatever, Mom! Stop sleeping around or you'll get a disease, or pregnant! Oh, shut up, Dad, even if I do get pregnant, I'll be able to handle that and school JUST FINE, thank you! Not only do you have life figured out at this stage, you've also completely understood world politics (this goes mainly for the University-enrolled) and you know the answers to all the world's problems. Why don't we just make you President of the world right now genius??
  3. Holy shit, your parents were RIGHT!!: This humility-filled stage is where real life starts kicking your ass and you realize that maybe your parents were onto something after all. This is where you graduate from college and you don't have a job and that shiny new degree doesn't seem to be holding up to its end of the bargain and bringing you job offers. And you're either a) Homeless b) have a crappy apartment c) have to go back to Mommy and Daddy to live. Or, if you didn't attend a university, you're shoulder-deep in marriage troubles, babies, and bills by now. How many times do you ask yourself "Why didn't I just LISTEN??" when your parents tried to tell you x, y, and z and maybe you wouldn't have just screwed up in all those ways you just did. You also know enough by now to know that YOU are actually the schmuck who doesn't know ANYTHING. Your parents were right. Damn straight life is hard. And you have to do the unthinkable (considering everything you had said to them during the second stage): ask your parents for HELP!
  4. Wait just a damn minute here. Your parents really WERE full of shit!: The age this stage starts can vary widely, but it's probably late 20's to early 30's. This is the odd stage, similar in some ways to Stage Two, where you realize that, indeed, your parents are just as mortal as you are, screwed up just as much you did when they were growing up, and were just flying by the seats of their pants and making shit up as they went along, just like you are doing right now! They didn't have life figured out. Maybe they still don't! You come to the startling realization that (if your parents are doing well) your parents' lives are doing great NOT because they always knew what to do, but mostly because of dumb luck, that the results of their choices were always half-chance, just likes yours have been. You were still just as stupid in Stage Two when you thought your parents didn't know anything, but the difference now, you realize, is that you were too dumb to see just how bad it really WAS! You first come to these realizations when you start feeding your children the same kind of crap your parents used to feed you for a variety of reasons including convenience or simplicity. Also, you regret the regrets you had in Stage Three and come to the conclusion that maybe it was a good thing you didn't listen to them in Stage Two, that you had to make your own mistakes so that you could learn from them and it's good that you have the knowledge you gained from that now. And the world is different today and a lot of their opinions are out of touch, especially if your parents were racists or bigoted in some way. And, finally, you come to the biggest - sometimes endlessly depressing - epiphany of all: You've BECOME your parents!

After the last stage ends, sometime in your 30's, you're all grown up. You're there, more or less. You are an adult. You've completed your development into a man or a woman. You are your own person, finally. And if you're lucky to have parents that still don't try to control you or tell you what to do, you can talk to them as peers who just have a few decades of experience on you. You can laugh together about the crap they used to tell you and how you're telling your children the same crap now. You can cry together about all the pitfalls of growing old (thinning hair, wrinkles, sore joints).

There might be a Fifth Stage, similar to the Third, where again come back to a realization that you still might have a thing or two to learn from your parents, that maybe they weren't as full of shit as you thought in the Fourth Stage, but that is just speculative on my part since I'm not there yet.

One final thought: maybe nobody ever really does "grow up" after all. Maybe you'll always make it up as you go along. Maybe you never will grow up and your parents never did, either.

BookReader says: I think most people have "maturity caps". Some reach their maturity at 13, and never get any more mature, others at 30, some at 65. But either way, once they reach their cap they never get any more mature. That's my theory anyway.

Kit says: I second BookReader's assertion, and add that alcohol abuse, especially in the early teens, tends to halt development. For example, my father started drinking and stopped maturing in about 8th grade.

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