I was your stereotypical, teenage girl in high school. I liked to stay up late, go to Sonic with my friends, hang out with my boyfriend, listen to loud music, and procrastinate on studying for the ACT. I dug my heels in the ground when it came to getting a job or driving my siblings around, and one needed to precariously tiptoe in my room to avoid stepping onto piles of books or clothes.
As one can imagine, this did not make my mom happy. We bickered constantly and knew exactly how to push one another’s buttons. I thought she was overbearing and ridiculous; she thought I was rude and lazy. There were weeks when we barely spoke at all, holidays when I left my family to hang out with my friends because my mom and I were at such odds and arguments during which we would hurl painful and vicious insults at one another. I remember distinctly thinking that once I left home, I would just never come back. I would live a grand, adventurous life in Boston, with no rules or restraints or expectations, and my mom would stay home and boss my younger siblings around instead of me. I would be free and so, so happy.
And then I did it. I left home, came to college, and entered my new life. I was free to go where I wanted when I wanted. I could study at any time of the night without someone telling me to go to bed, I could spend all the money in my account, and I never got bugged to wash dishes or make my bed. No one yelled at me or kept me in line or disciplined me. And for a long time, I completely loved it! The freedom was exhilarating, I adored Boston, and I had new friends who made sure I never felt lonely or too homesick.
But with time, as my room got messy and my assignments started piling up, as I walked around with shadowy bags under my eyes, I felt overwhelmed by all the internships that my classmates had while I barely got out of bed on the weekends. My happiness started to diminish.
As humiliating as it was to admit, especially to myself, I slowly started to miss home-cooked meals, my mom chiding me to put my phone down, and her insistence that I get to sleep and stay on top of my work. I realized that while college is amazing and BU is a wonderful community, absolutely no one was looking out for me the way my mom always had. Throughout my time in school, she always had my back and would drop everything to help me or my siblings. However, I was so insistent that I had everything under control and that I was in the right. Even when I would put off an essay to go out with my friends or say I had no time to help out when I was just sitting on Tik Tok, I simply never noticed or cared about my mother’s actions.
When I left home my mom began to take stock of our relationship as well. We started to have meaningful conversations on the phone, where she offered me advice and wisdom. The distance kept a buffer between us that allowed me to take her advice without feeling like a little kid and that showed me the truth behind her wisdom. She apologized, deeply and profusely, for the things she said in the heat of anger, and I did, too. I began to miss her and my family at home so much, more than I ever imagined I would. I was so excited when finals finally came to an end and I could see them. Since college has started, my mom has come to Boston four times, and each time has been better than the last. We have so much fun together now because I acknowledge all the life that she has lived and that I need to listen to her, while she acknowledges that I am a grown woman and that our relationship needs to shift accordingly.
It’s important to note that I am still messy while she is a neat freak. I am still a night owl while she is an early bird. And I still sometimes (even often) make decisions that she might not be ecstatic about. But distance has truly made our hearts grow fonder, making possible what I thought was impossible, like being so excited to travel home and see my family or having a wonderful time in Boston together. This past weekend she came up for Parents’ Weekend, and I cried when she had to leave because of the fun and love we shared while she was here. I never ever would have imagined that when I deliberately traveled 1,136 miles away from home for college.
As long as a relationship with a family member isn’t abusive or damagingly toxic, I think it is important to keep an open mind, even if it seems like the relationship will never recover. Some people, even if they love each other very, very much, just work better when they’re not under the same roof. Sometimes relationships just need time and space to mature, grow, and evolve. I had little hope that my mom and I would ever be close, but ironically, the distance between us allowed us to grow a much stronger and healthier bond. Family is everything and more, so don’t give up faith that there can be happiness within your family again as you all grow and realize the importance of love and support for each other (again, as long as the conflicts don’t involve any type of abuse).
College is allowing me to grow as both my own person and as a daughter/sister/friend, and I think that type of personal evolution will be a great gift when it comes time to truly shift into the real world.