50. Blue’s Stages of Development

I don’t know whether you’ve heard of Blue’s stages of development. They refer to children’s evolving perception of their parents. They are based on years of anecdotal data. Unlike many systems that describe human beings, they haven’t been memorized by any undergraduates or discussed in seminars. You can decide, as you read, whether and how much this article is tongue-in-cheek. I haven’t decided yet.
In stage one, the child wants to grow up to be just like Mommy or Daddy. In the child’s mind, Mommy or Daddy is the best thing one can be. If you’re Mommy or Daddy, it does wonders for your ego every time you hear, “I want to be an endocrinologist when I grow up,” or whatever your work has inspired your child to dream. Someone has decided, albeit at a very impressionable age, that you represent the pinnacle of human excellence. Of all the misconceptions children verbalize, that’s the one you probably feel least like correcting.
This stage lasts until preadolescence, which, I think, keeps happening earlier and earlier. I hope it never happens prenatally. In stage two, the child is never going to be anything like her/his parents. His/her parents are embarrassments. The child’s friends may say, “I wish my parents were like yours,” and really mean it, but that doesn’t help. They only say that because they don’t have the intimate, thorough knowledge of your faults that your child has. Those friends are probably embarrassed about their parents, who, your child thinks, are great models for you to follow.
As adulthood sets in, the young adult keeps thinking, in dismay, “I just sounded like my mother/father.” Especially if that young adult has children or works with children. And so maybe there is a valiant effort to be different – maybe the adult works hard to weed out every trace of the inner parent. But it’s no use; the parent is part of the person, and can’t be removed. It gets more complicated disapproving of a trait when you house the trait within you. You can blame your parents for making you the way you are, but it’s not very productive; sooner or later, you have the power to decide who you are, and you’ve got to take responsibility for the decision.
With stage four comes acceptance: I am like my parents in some ways, and different in some ways. I feel okay about the ways I resemble them, and okay about the ways I’m different. Or if I don’t feel okay about it, I’m in charge of making the appropriate alterations.
Like all the other systems for dividing life into stages, this only works for the people for whom it works. If you’re an adolescent who thinks your parents are wonderful, or an eighty- year-old who still hopes you’re not like your parents, ignore this article.

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