Tuesday, July 30, 2013

5th Wheel at the 4-H

This past weekend I attended the local 4-H County Fair... 

...as the fifth wheel on a double date... 

...with my parents

This is what rock bottom looks like people. Soak. It. In.

Now don't get me wrong, I love hanging out with my parents. But even the allure of a free chicken BBQ dinner couldn't overshadow the glaring fact that I was the youngest person under the Curtis Pavilion as far as the eye could see. Now I'm exaggerating a little of course but there's no exaggeration to the number of times we were stopped by random people.

I've never thought of my parents as being like totally super popular [insert hair flip here] but I gotta tell ya, we couldn't walk three feet without being stopped by 3rd cousin Martha or Classmate Jimmy to exchange an endless array of "how's life treatin ya'" and "gee wiz haven't seen you since the graduation of '71!". And if my parents didn't know the people walking by, the couple they were double dating with did. Meanwhile, throughout this endless receiving line of ex boyfriends and distant relatives, all I wanted out of life was a funnel cake. Is a heaping glob of golden delicious mixture of grease and dough topped with an abhorrent amount of sugar too much to ask for?! I think not but I kid you not when I say it took 35 minutes to travel the 20 feet to the funnel cake station. 

Just when I thought all hope was lost and I was truly the last twenty-something alive in this geriatric version of I Am Legend, I saw my 21-year-old cousin Kaitlyn emerge through the crowd. I swear I've never seen someone so beautifully silhouetted by the setting sun before- a halo of light angelically encompassing her head. Honestly I can't tell if the hallelujah chorus I was hearing was in my head or coming from the Jehovah Witness stand two tents over who lure you in with the promise of a free face painting and then tell you you're going to hell for the second piercing in your ear (long story). But nonetheless I was overjoyed to see someone I knew who didn't have the word "boomer" associated anywhere near their generational title. I ran up to Kaitlyn and turns out... she had come with her parents too! Feeling slightly less pathetic, I sat down with them for a minute while they ate. Half a chicken dinner later I noticed my parents and their entourage leaving and jumped up to follow them- not because I'm a glutton for punishment but mostly just because I'm a glutton (they were headed near the funnel cakes).     

Later on, still one stomach shy of a funnel cake, I was once again dangerously close to slipping into a comatose state- this time as a result of listening to my dad and a friend discuss the fascinating origin of sayings such as "pass the buck" and "dead as a doornail"(seriously I couldn't make this stuff up). But as fate would have it, the gates of heaven opened once again and I saw one of my very best friends Jamie- glorious, glorious Jamie- waiting for me outside the barn. I immediately broke off from my parents without a second thought and ran to her like a lover would run to a prince through a flower filled field. (And I am fully aware of how truly psychotic I sound but I don't think you are thoroughly grasping the state of boredom I was in.) Turns out... she had come with her parents too! 

So it got me thinking. Do we cling to our parents throughout childhood- always in need of their constant care and company- desperately try to detach ourselves throughout our adolescence and college years, only to be glued right back to their side afterwards coming full circle? 

After thinking about that for a second, momentarily distracted by a rogue sheep that had escaped it's pen and was now hurtling through the barn, I concluded that that couldn't be the case. Plenty of people don't end up on double dates with their parents after college. What was it then? Was it only me and a handful of others? That's when it hit me. 

Parents aren't our crutch, they're the ultimate rebound.

Now hear me out. While I'm fully aware that the term "rebound" is generally used for dating (or as Urbandictionary.com would put it: "the act of going from one relationship to the next right away to avoid the pain of a breakup") it totally makes sense to use it in regards to our parents. They are the only people who are always there for us when we have no one else to turn to. If a girlfriend or boyfriend just broke up with us, if we're confused about our next possible career move, if we need help with money... parents are always the stronghold we go crawling back to. Heck, they're even our rebound from our rebounds on some occasions.

And you know the unbelievable part? Unlike actual rebounds in the dating world, our parents will never complain about how much we use and abuse them. Sure, they may give us subtle hints here and there: 

"Have you tried looking for a new job lately?" 
"Don't you think it's time to start paying your school bills?" 
"Do you think that maybe it's time to out the bowl of raw brownie batter away, take down his picture, and stop sobbing to Adele's Someone like You on repeat every night?" 

Yes, they may give petite pushes, but overall our parents are unconditionally happy to fill the void of whatever event or person sent us spiraling in search of a rebound in the first place. 

And how do we thank them in return? I don't know about you but for a lot of us, we ditch our parents at even the slightest possibility of better time (a date, a movie with friends, a dinner with roommates). We leave them high and dry without so much of a second thought; all the while knowing full well that they'll be there to pick us up even when we don't deserve it, even when they don't want to. Because they're our parents. And it's something us selfish, child-less, twenty-somethings can't even pretend to understand at this point in our lives.

But even when our self-centered spirits take us from the ones who help us the most, that night at the fair still ended somehow exactly as it should have: my parents and me in the horse barn, Jamie and hers under the karaoke tent, and Kaitlyn and hers happily packed into their mini van. 

So next time my parents ask me to accompany them on a possibly fun but overall abominable double date, I'll forget all the pain of this previous outing and happily say yes. Because isn't it time our parents earned our company when we don't need something in return? When we don't need to be picked up, or handed a check, or told that we're "way too good for him"? When we're not looking to be rebounded?

I think so. 

So pass me a portion of the questionably purred potato salad at the Chicken BBQ and heap on an extra load of long drawn-out stories from glory days gone by. Because in the end, our parents will forever be the all around, solid ground, rebounds to our crazed, hazed, and dazed lives. And ya know what? I don't think either group would have it any other way.

But seriously. Don't go on a double date with your parents. Learned it the hard way.

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