There is something interesting happening at my house. Lately my teenagers are making pronouncements about our, their parents', personalities. What's more, these pronouncements are eerily accurate. We'll be cleaning up after dinner, and one teen will start talking about the way I like to do things, or about a habit of their father's that they find quirky: generally amusing, but now and then annoying (as most human foibles are amusing up to the point at which they become annoying).
Not much of a revelation, this? I beg to differ. Not only do the boys' forays into personality assessment mean that they are looking outward, not something younger teens do, but that they are able to take stock of their childhoods, to take the long view of their lives with us. It won't be long now before they tell their therapists all the ways that we failed them.
(Note: Neither son is in therapy. YET.)
The humanizing of one's parents is so important. I myself came to it very late, too late, because with a depressed parent I could not separate and test boundaries the way kids need to do. So I am glad that my own children are taking a different, more traveled, road.
The other day I found myself able to laugh at myself in front of my children and refer to something I do as "crazy." Everyone else laughed, too.
I cannot overstate how important these developments are. They allow my children to understand that we love them imperfectly, to be sure, but also in the best way that we know how. That people have idiosyncratic peculiarities and weaknesses, but that does not (or should not) diminish our care and concern for them, and theirs for us. That while there may be no perfect, there is good enough. And 'good enough' is both good and enough.
I recently learned aboout a dynamic (not a salacious or even an uncommon one) within the family of a close friend of mine, and it surprised, even shocked, me. It went against what I thought I knew about the personalities of the relevant players. I mused to my husband, "You really never do know what goes on in other people's houses." And he replied, "I've never once thought I know what goes on in other people's houses."
In their newfound comprehension of their parents' inner workings, my children would not be surprised by this conversation and what it suggests about me and their father, I think, and that makes me smile. I smile because there is only a small step from understanding us to understanding themselves within the context of our family, a larger but manageable step to understanding themselves as they are outside of our family, and a final step, the essential one: understanding other people.