Adolescence ends when you finally admit you still need your parents

Psychologists say that increased fighting between adolescents and parents is part of a natural process of a child breaking away and becoming independent. But has anyone else had an adolescence that extended 25 years? 

Yep, instead of a few years of being a teenage bitch, I spent more than two decades trying to separate myself from my parents. At the age of 26, I moved 1,000 miles away from my childhood home just to get some distance. It didn’t seem like that was the reason at the time—I was merely starting a fun new life with my husband-to-be.

In hindsight I realize I had a compelling need to build a life that would show my family and myself just how different we were. You might think that my parents must be horrible people. In fact, just the opposite. If you met them, you’d love them and accuse me of being an ungrateful brat (which I probably am).

It’s not like I cut out my family and never spoke to them again. I flew back regularly, I called, I sent Christmas and birthday presents; I just didn’t really welcome them into my life. I’m still not certain why I needed to venture into the world like an orphan, but lately I seem to yearn for their familiar faces.

The past few visits, I noticec the similarities more than the differences. When I look at my hands, I see the hands that held my hair over the toilet while I vomited—I was an excessively pukey child and my mother once had to wash steak and peas out of my hair in the middle of the night at a campsite. That is love. When I initiate conversations with strangers in the elevator, I hear my dad’s cheery voice, and I recall how my brothers and I mercilessly teased him for being so damn friendly (apparently this was as bad as petty theft in my family). When I talk to my brothers, I remember our snow forts and the summer we played every day with the box the new refrigerator came in.

Yes, we are different, but I feel more accepting of the differences. And I can’t deny—nor do I want to anymore—that we are the same, too. Where the similarities once annoyed me, I now find them comforting.

My mother visited for the long weekend to help me out with my daughter while my husband is out of town. Having her here took care of me, too. In between the games and laughter, we had some deep, long-overdue discussions. I'm sure there are more on the horizon, but we both feel more equipped to have those talks. 

Finally, I think I can safely say that I've moved beyond adolescence. I’ve grown up enough to let myself need my parents again. 

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