When Did We Become Our Parents?

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My youngest sister got married last month. During the anniversary dance—when all the married couples are called to the dance floor, and the longer you’ve been married, the longer you get to stay—it hit me that my parents and everyone else in their age group are now the grandparents and the oldest generation there. Logically, this makes us, the now-adults who formally took over the kids’ table, the parents. When did this happen?

Thank you to the invention of social media. Millennials reminisce a lot. We reminisce over Little Mermaid bedspreads, inflatable furniture, and mixed CDs. We pray for an *NSYNC reunion the same way a generation before us did for New Kids on the Block, and we cringe at the 90s mom jeans that line the racks at Target.

And then there’s the movies and music I loved as a teen. If “The Lizzie McGuire Movie” was a person, she’d now be old enough to drink, and Jesse McCartney’s “Beautiful Soul” was released more than two decades ago. Somewhere in between blasting Avril Lavigne’s “Sk8er Boi” on my portable CD player and learning to love skinny jeans just in time for them to go away, we grew up.

I’m not in denial that I’m an adult. My husband and I have owned a house for 11 years, and this year marks my ninth year of parenting. I see how fast time goes just by looking at my children’s faces or our full calendar hanging on the kitchen wall. But why is it just sinking in that I am “the parent”?

All of my grandparents have passed on now, and maybe that’s why it feels like it’s time for the next generation to step into a new role. Besides the obvious — raising children — I do the kind of things that I’d once roll my eyes at my parents for doing. I question new technology and feel sentimental thinking about things that happened 30 years ago. I wake up at 6 am on Saturday mornings to prep for a day of soccer games, have a reliable evening skincare routine, and if I stay out past my bedtime, I feel it for a week. A children’s dance recital can move me to tears, and I can embarrass my kids by doing nothing other than making small talk with their teachers.

I have a greater understanding of the decisions my parents made at my age, but I also wonder if they, too, still felt like they were 18 while making said decisions. My parents seemed so much more mature than me at the age I am now, although I suppose a child’s perception of a grown-up is somewhat of an illusion.

I was back on the dance floor, dancing to Frank Sinatra’s “You Make Me Feel So Young” with my husband, our kids observing from a nearby table, when it hit me—we’ve become our parents.


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