The following quote is taken from the movie Parenthood (1989). It is an exchange between the somewhat stern grandfather and patriarch, Frank, played by Jason Robards Jr., and his adult son, Gil, played by Steve Martin:

Frank: “You know, when you were two years old, we thought you had Polio…Did you know that?”


Gil: “Yeah, Mom said something.”


Frank : “Yeah, well, for a week we didn’t know. I hated you for that. I did. I did. I hated having to go through that… caring… worrying… the pain… It’s not for me. You know, it’s not like that all ends when you’re eighteen, or twenty-one, or forty-one, or sixty-one. It never ends. There is no ‘end zone.’ You never cross the goal lines, spike the ball, and do your touchdown dance. Never.”


I find this exchange remarkably vulnerable and honest. Being a parent is a very vulnerable position. A child usually doesn’t realize how much it hurts his parent when her child is in pain. Children that do realize often manipulate that realization (as described in the posting Cutting off his nose to spite his parents).

It is not easy to live every day with this vulnerability. Worse yet, is that it comes with a child’s growing independence. It is bad enough tolerating how anxiety-provoking it is to have a child when he is younger. There is the fear of fulfilling the role and being a good enough mother/father. There is the constant worry of doing enough, providing enough, protecting enough, encouraging enough… but not too much. Add to that how you cannot be there every second. At least when he is younger, you have a fair amount of control. You, as parents, decide where he goes and what he does.

As your child ages and matures into a teenager, not only does he not appreciate all the effort and sacrifice and emotion that goes into this, he RESENTS it. He sees it as an infringement on his life. He curses you for it. He begins to do more and more that is outside your control and protection, even outside your awareness. His peers become a more dominant influence in his life. He shuts you out. He self-destructs, makes bad choices, experiments, blows opportunities, and generally makes a lot of mistakes. All you can do is watch for many of these incidents. For others still, you suspect that such incidents are happening, but you don’t get to hear about them. But Frank is right. Children never stop being children to their parents.

It is not easy to tolerate this fear for your teen’s safety and lack of ability to control and protect him. It is a painful secret that parents can partly resent this power that their children have over them. This is the real courage of what Frank says. That is why he felt the way he did about the Polio incident. He hated that what happened to his son could affect him so much emotionally, could hijack his life, and there was so little he could do to stop it from affecting him. Furthermore, there was nothing he could do to protect his son. For someone who is used to being in control, this is intolerable.


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