Remember my “Over/Under” column a few weeks ago? There’s one thing that I didn’t put on the list that I should have: Parents. Parents are most definitely underrated.
I didn’t always think so. I remember when I was growing up, I thought that my parents were pretty standard and also a little boring (sorry guys). Mom, like most moms, was always killing my vibe by trying to get me to eat my vegetables and Dad was cool, but he was mostly good for taking me and my sisters on rides around the golf course on the Cushman and making ice rinks in our backyard. In high school, it was the standard struggle for independence/mad at the world/ “you don’t understand me!” kind of thing.
It wasn’t until I hit the college scene that I realized that my parents are actually pretty cool people. I had always gotten along with my parents, but I had also always taken them for granted or, what’s worse, I would fall into the habit of comparing them to the parents of other people.
In reality, Paul and Melissa Richter are two of the best people that I know. If I wasn’t their daughter, I’m pretty convinced that I would still want to hang out with them. It’s not like I’m friends with my parents. I firmly believe that parents shouldn’t try to be friends with their children because the nature of friend relationships is fundamentally different from parent relationships. It’s complicated, but basically I’m lucky to be their daughter and if I wasn’t their daughter I would want to be friends with them.
Paul and I are two peas in a pod. I am a spitting image of my mother (with the exception of my hair), but for the most part I act just like my father. We like to browse record shops together and we’ve perfected the art of making cheese. Once, when there were a lot of pinecones in the backyard he and I created a game where he would flip them to me with his hockey stick and I would take my pitching wedge and chip them into the field next to the house. When I accidentally put buttermilk on my oatmeal, Dad ate it for me because he couldn’t stand to see it go to waste. He faithfully woke me up for 5:30 a.m. swim practice even when I cruelly told him to “go away.” Every year on his birthday, he bikes a mile for every year he has been alive. He still plays hockey every week and last year he trained for, and ran, a half-marathon, even though he had never been a runner except for a short stint in high school.
It’s pretty cliché to say “my mother is the strongest woman I know,” but I’m going to say it anyway because it’s true. Melissa Richter runs our household. She works, cleans, balances the checkbook, makes most financial decisions and still manages to be a gourmet chef. The kitchen is my mother’s stage and she loves to perform. Over the years, she has perfected countless recipes and kept us all well fed. I blame her for my unapologetic love of good food. She and my father did a mountain bike race on our tandem bike when I was a sophomore in high school and last year, while on a bike ride, they ended up in the middle of a Memorial Day Parade. Kids were cheering for them. She is calm and cool under pressure (and during arguments, which drove me nuts as a hotheaded child) and has never been afraid to voice her opinion.
Parents aren’t perfect and they aren’t superhuman. Realizing that they aren’t superhuman can be difficult, but once we get over that hurdle and appreciate them as human beings we can fully appreciate all the great things parents do. My parents aren’t just good parents; as people, they are really cool. They have interesting hobbies. They do fun things.
I am finally big enough to realize (and admit) that I was not an easy child to raise; I didn’t know how to smile for roughly the first three years of my life and I have always been stubborn and temperamental. Yet, my parents managed to teach me right from wrong, up from down, in from out and took my door off its hinges when I was being a brat because “a door is a privilege.” Additionally, the monetary investment they have made in me is huge, and cannot be overlooked or go unthanked.
For much of my life, I was naïve enough to assume that everyone came from a nice home like I did, but of course I eventually grew up and realized that that was not at all true. However, if you’re one of those people who is lucky enough to have awesome, great, or even just good parents, you’re pretty lucky. Thank ‘em.