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Susan Netzel: Passage of time presents new view of parents

Oscar Wilde once said, “The optimist sees the doughnut, the pessimist sees the hole.”

In other words, life may be perceived differently at different stages in our lives.

As a child, you adore your parents. As a teen, your parents annoy or embarrass you.

As you get older, you have a tendency to only remember things about your childhood that you disliked, or places you were not able to go.

There are many things that young adult children don’t know about their own parents’ lives, therefore they are cynical and judgmental of their mom’s and dad’s parenting skills.

Back when I was a 20-something, my perspective was slanted. What I chose to remember about my “awful” childhood was that my parents were always arguing and yelling at us kids. They both drank beer and smoked cigarettes.

They bought their first home far away from my school, which required me to walk 13 blocks back and forth every day.

Plus, they always gave me a curfew. I rarely saw them show affection, mostly because my dad worked nights and my mom worked days. We never went on a family vacation like my other friends did. The only time my dad took time off was in October so that he could watch the World Series.

Fast forward 40 years and I finally understand how difficult it must have been for both of them to work full time and schedule their work hours so one of them could stay home with us kids. When they bought their first house, they never forced me to leave my friends and transfer to a new school.

Although money was tight and there were bills to pay, that never prevented them from handing out money to others in need, or my dad folding a $20 bill to the size of a quarter so mom wouldn’t see him sneak it to one of us kids.

Having three other siblings, I can now see why it seemed like they frequently consumed alcohol. Having four kids within 11 years is a lot to handle and if a beer or two helped ease the stress of a hectic work and family life, then so be it.

I used to think that we never went any place like my other friends did, but now I reminisce about weekly family picnics with many cousins at an Erie County park, and summer trips to “the lake” in Angola, visiting relatives along the shores of Lake Erie.

All those “awful memories” of my childhood that I remembered so vividly while in my 20s have turned into precious and wonderful memories of days gone by. My family wasn’t rich, but the lessons learned are priceless.

Sometimes I regret that my clouded perspective prevented me from appreciating my parents more.

Looking back, I realize that they did the best they could on a shoestring budget, not unlike many families of today. When you become a parent for the first time, you are inexperienced and blind to what lies ahead.

You make on-the-spot decisions that will affect the life of your child for years to come. Lessons continue to be taught and learned.

That’s the cycle of life. Live it, learn from it, dismiss the negativity and pass on the positive to future generations.

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