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The following is an essay I wrote under the title 'Do you think parents are only useful once you have grown out of them?'. It was inspired by one of Mark Twain's quotations: 'My father only saw sense by the time I reached 21'. While the essay may be full of youthful idealism and not applicable to many, I believe it is a useful explanation to our parents for our past behaviour.

Do you think parents are only useful once you have grown out of them?

It is the old cliché found in some form or another in so many television series and books: "Oh Dad, you're so embarrassing". This is quite probably the most common criticism of parents made by children. Leaving aside Freudian theories on the root of this 'conflict', it is clear to me that this criticism is very often justified.


When we are young, our parents want to appear 'trendy' and accessible to their offspring. Sadly, their enthusiasm for the task very often outweighs their ability, leading to the embarrassment mentioned in opening. This embarrassment is probably most acute in the times immediately preceding and during the first throes of adolescence. It is here that we still think of our parents almost as demi-gods who are restrictive yet somehow omniscient. It is hardly surprising, therefore, that the sight of our parents trying to keep up with modern trends - and inevitably failing - causes conflict in our minds. John Mortimer comments on this conflict in his book Clinging to the Wreckage, in which he says that his parents asked him about his school and he, "as usual, found it impossible to tell them." To speak to these falling angels about matters so mundane seems unnatural.
As we grow older, this conflict fades as we come closer and closer to a realisation of our parents' imperfections, forgetting how they used to 'repress' us and forming real opinions about two human beings we know little about. It is at this time when many form firm, loving friendships with their parents - friendships which will last long into their lives after leaving home. Unfortunately, every proverbial silver lining must have a cloud. Equally, many children reject their parents, longing to leave home and form their own life in freedom. Occasionally, when short of money, they will telephone home and exchange pleasantries - another much-loved cliché - in the hope of some assistance. The parents yearn to see their child and when he does return - with his girlfriend, his wife - they long to hold on to him, leading inevitably to conflict with the other half. This leads to many hushed conversations between couples about to visit 'Grandma'.
Despite all these problems, some ancient feeling that our parents are more knowledgeable than us remains, leading to another conflict when we watch them growing old and regressing to a child-like dependence on us. For those who have rejected their parents, this responsibility is too painful to bear, hence the success of so many nursing homes.
In conclusion, our parents can become very useful to us as we grow older, becoming either life-long friends or merely dependable sources of money. However, by this time most children have fled the nest and gone their own way, thus out-growing their parents.

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