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A Birthday Celebrates Three People

Currently listening to: Crowded House – Hey Now, Hey Now*

April is my favorite month. It’s a month of celebrating spring, a month closer to summer, and yes, my birthday. I have not properly celebrated my birthday in years – homework, bad weather, traveling friends and family – but I was determined to do it right this year. I celebrated for eight – count ‘em – days! On the day of my birthday, I went to Hula Hut with my sister and had – for the second time in my life – a hamburger. I know, I’m an anomaly. I don’t normally eat beef, but after realizing that a well-made burger is kind of like a mouth explosion of tastiness, I now seriously consider ordering one off the menu. And this culinary discovery is something I will remember about college.

While noshing on my hamburger, I thought about how my birthday was a milestone for my parents, too – their youngest daughter is now 22. I wondered how it made them feel – I imagine it might make them a little sad, a little lost that their baby is an “adult.” Well, I’ve been an adult for a while now, but my birthday just served as a reminder of that fact. Even now, when I tell them about my work and projects, I think they still see me as they wished I stayed forever: eight years old, playing on a tire swing, declaring that I will never, ever drive a car. Waterworks are in order come May 23, 2009.

I also thought about how my relationship has evolved with my parents since I started college nearly four years ago. Geez, I remember the summer after my senior year and right before I started in August 2005 – I was so ready to leave the house. I longed for my independence, to be free of my parents’ rules and curfews and having to make my bed every day. Unfortunately, most of what they taught me stuck – I make my bed nearly every day and am the compulsive cleaner in my apartment.

Some tenants of our relationship that stand out:

  • Space – I think physical space and time away from your parents can bring you closer together. You find ground in your independence, and most parents learn to let you go. I am thankful that mine did.
  • Decisions – This was the most startling aspect of our relationship. You move away from asking for permission and advice and start telling your parents your plans. A huge step for me was deciding to visit San Francisco during spring break my junior year. I had saved up, made travel arrangements, and had my own agenda – and told them afterward. I did let my dad double check everything on travel Web sites – can’t be too safe!
  • Financial independence – for some, I realize that college means being financially dependent on your guardians or student loans. I had my first “real” job in high school, and earning my own paycheck taught me the value of saving and paying for “fun” – travel, dates, shopping, etc. My jobs in college also allowed me to maintain a degree of financial independence. I never have to explain to my parents why there is a charge on their credit card – some even at 2 a.m.!

Maybe some of you already had this type of relationship and trust with your parents earlier on. Maybe some of you still haven’t achieved this balance yet with your parents – and you’re in OR past college! But understand that, for many, college marks the time when you start treating yourself like an adult – one with responsibility, maturity and perspective – and that others will start treating you as such.

*I normally use a song that I am listening to as I write LC posts, but for this post, I wanted to find a song from my birth year, 1987. What a surprise it was to find that one of my favorite songs was a top number that year! I put it on repeat for five minutes.

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April 13, 2009 | | Comments are closed for this post

1 Comment to A Birthday Celebrates Three People

Archana, I LOVE the picture of you an your dad! So precious :)

And I’m so glad I got to celebrate your bday w/ you at the Plain White T’s concert.

April 15, 2009
— grace
photo of Archana