Arts, On Campus, Column

What I Learned From The Moms And Dads Of Parents Weekend

Parents’ Weekend at Boston College is like a puzzle—it’s all about figuring out which kids goes with which moms, which dads.

Sometimes the pieces work, and it’s easy to see how a family is related. They’ve got identical blue eyes, the same high-pitched laugh, a similar way of gesturing when they’re excited, or maybe even a shared interest in football or the ballet. Suddenly, it’s clear why your friends are the way they are. Their appearances, likes and dislikes, habits, and idiosyncrasies fit into this big picture and seem to make sense.

Other times, there are jarring distinctions between moms and dads and their sons or daughters, making it feel as if there is no way they all could have come from the same household. Trying to understand them is like forcing together pieces from completely different puzzle boxes.

I have always enjoyed, and still do enjoy, this kind of parents’ weekend game, because comparing and contrasting families inevitably makes me wonder how much of my mom and dad my friends see in me. I don’t think I’m much like them, but everyone else argues otherwise.

They say my mom and I resemble each other because we have matching haircuts with bangs and lots of layers. They say we often talk about the same things (usually about my dog), in similar ways. They say we both smile with our eyes.

When it comes to my dad, they tell me that I’ve got his work ethic. They tell me that they find it funny how we both like spicy food and still go to all the superhero movies together. They tell me that I get my smarts from him.

While I’ll admit to sharing those few things with my parents, there are certain parts of me that aren’t as easily explained by my being their child.

I don’t have my mom’s thick Brooklyn accent (it’s “coffee,” not “cawfee”), I don’t care for golf (sorry, Dad, but it’s a boring sport), and I don’t have a stomach for blood, leaving dental and nursing school (that’s what my parents did) out of the question.

Differentiating between myself and my mom and dad is confusing, bringing the old nature versus nurture debate quickly to mind.

Do I like jalapeno peppers because my dad and I genetically have a high tolerance for spicy food? Or do I like them because my dad always cooked dishes that made my eyes water when I was growing up? I honestly couldn’t say—but either way, I am the way I am, in this case, because of my parents.

Biology and environment can’t explain everything about me, though. Some things—like how I ended up an art-loving, poetry-writing, English/Perspectives major with two parents in the medical field—just don’t click.

There’s got to be more to us than nature and nurture, than our parents’ DNA and the way they raised us, than puzzle pieces that do and don’t belong. We’re more complex than that. We are, at least in part, what we choose to be.

Our parents may have given us a set number of pieces to put together in a particular way, but our lives are far from being children’s games with predetermined outcomes. Maybe we can’t change how the pieces match up, but there’s no reason why we can’t decide for ourselves what the picture will be that they create.

For me, Parents’ Weekend has always been a good time to think about who I am. Senior year, things were a little more complicated—because while it sure is nice to be reminded of where you came from, it’s even better when you realize that you have control over where you go.

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September 28, 2014

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