A comprehensive review of my parents

Pierre’s parenting is inconsistent, while Maria acts like a Queen Bee (‘You owe me your life’)— lecture style no longer compatible with today’s software requirements

For the sake of anonymity, my father’s name is Pierre, and my mother’s name is Maria. My name is (not) Orono, the eldest of three boys, at age 16. I have two brothers, aged 12 and 7, who I don’t feel like naming for this review.

Pierre is in his middle 50s, and looks it. He’s tall, hairy, used to be slender, with a square face, graying brown hair, and old eyes tucked behind a pair of tito-core glasses. He’s a round but not wide person; he just has an incredibly large and round belly. The best description I can think of is that he looks like he swallowed a medium-sized beach ball. You’ll usually find him wearing a long-sleeved button-down work shirt, or a polo shirt, psychedelic tie-dye, or a T-shirt prominently featuring a graphic of a dad-rock band such as the Rolling Stones.

Pierre has a rather jolly personality, but not as overly jolly as most jolly people are. I call him a jolly and turbulent walking encyclopedia written in 2005. He is incredibly smart and knows about all sorts of things, from before 2005, but this falls apart when you ask him about current-day topics. He tries his best to stay up to date, but he is, as I said, in his 50s.

Maria’s age is a difficult equation. Like many of her age and style, (she’s a bonafide tita), she prefers to lie about her true age, so I’ll just give you a range from 35 to 50. She’s shorter, surprisingly fit, with a rounder, sharper face and dark brown hair. She’s starting to grow crows’ feet around her eyes, but besides that, and the general manner in which she carries herself, she looks a little young for her age, which, no doubt, she’ll be ecstatic to hear from me.

Maria does, however, carry herself in a manner that gives away that she’s both a mother and a tita. I mean tita in the sense of the style and mannerisms associated with the stereotype. My mother is usually found in a basic uninspired floral patterned dress or top, usually paired with a pencil skirt, atop boringly beige sandals. At home, she usually goes for the sundress or the nightgown, all of which look uninspired. But not as uninspired as my father’s wardrobe.

Maria’s personality is a lot more turbulent, but she’s still generally a pleasant person. It’s just that with the amount of work she gets (even sometimes working on Sundays), it’s hard for her to stay composed. Which is understandable, but still annoying. She acts like a Queen Bee, or like “a gay man trapped in a woman’s body” as she puts it. She is always ordering me and my brothers around. But to her credit, she is far more diligent than my father. And far more engaged with me, as well.

Now that you have a vague understanding of how my parents look and act, let us get into the meat of the review: the critique of their parenting.

Pierre isn’t very strict with me, or diligent, when it comes to imposing rules. And like many men of his nature, he isn’t as engaged (or clingy) with me as my mother is. Pierre’s parenting style is inconsistent, which is a problem. He takes a hands-off approach most of the time, preferring to let me make my own mistakes, learn my own skills and my own lessons. He’ll happily point me in the right direction, but he’ll do no more. My interpretation is that he’s cutting corners in parenting. Which sounds bad on the surface, but impressively, he manages to do as little work as possible, whilst letting me experience what he had as a child: self-taught lessons.

My grandmother’s lecturing style is really, really painful to sit through. It’s like hostile bible study

Where Pierre falters, though, is in the inconsistencies. When I screw up, make a mistake, blunder, slip on a banana peel, etc., Pierre uses this as an opportunity to chew me out, when he doesn’t know that I’ve already internalized all of the lectures, and tend to do it to myself already. So there I am, hearing two lectures at the same time, one from my father, and one from inside my head in a way that closely resembles both my father and my grandmother’s lecturing styles. Which is another thing; my father lectures like his mother, and that is a supreme criticism in my eyes. My grandmother’s lecturing style is really, really painful to sit through. It’s like hostile bible study, with a dash of booming yells.

The parents photographed by the author using his dad’s Leica Digilux 2: ‘Parental omnipotence’ could be terrifying’

Clearly, on the Pierre half of things, I’m not too impressed. Using a hands-off approach does provide me with immense freedom and liberation, but his inconsistent, and at times random, lectures and chew-outs do very little to help, other than to worsen my days. Not to mention his lecture style comes from an outdated parenting source, relying on an obsolete generation that is no longer compatible with today’s software requirements. Pierre’s parenting style has a strong foundation in the hands-off style and freedom that he provides, but there is a hefty amount of updates needed to it, major bug fixes required. Especially those outdated lectures.

Maria is similar to Pierre in that hands-off approach, but she is dissimilar in that she doesn’t give grandma lectures. Rather, she gives updated, modern lectures—which are arguably much worse, because they sting a lot more.

Instead, Maria gives pragmatic, practical advice, like ‘Remember to always have a drink of water after every alcoholic beverage…

Maria’s strengths in parenting are the same as my father’s, but she has one extra strength up her sleeve, which I call the “motherly advice” ability. My mother gives some amazing advice. Not advice like “With great power comes great responsibility” or “Make sure you appreciate the little things in life,”—no, of course not; she knows that I have philosophers to look to for advice like that. Instead, Maria gives pragmatic, practical advice, like “Remember to always have a drink of water after every alcoholic beverage, if you want to avoid getting smashed,” or “Don’t drive drunk, but if you do, have about two glasses of water and make sure to piss a lot after to get as much alcohol out of your system.” Advice that I need right now—as a 16-year-old in the midst of a pandemic? No. Advice that I’m going to remember, cherish, and follow for the rest of my life? Absolutely.

But I need to air out my criticisms, and that would be my mother’s Queen Bee attitude, where— if we follow through with our analogy— my brothers and I are the worker bees, constantly feeding her and pleasing her, mostly out of fear. My mother’s famous line is “I gave birth to you, you owe me your life,” which I doubt she’d enjoy if her mother said it to her, but I digress. This line is the perfect showcase of what is wrong with the Queen Bee attitude. My mother believes she is owed service, at any time, in any place she wants, which can get rather problematic. I can be mid-conversation, or worse, mid-argument with a friend, when my mother comes in and demands a gin and tonic, with botanicals, on the rocks.

This parenting style of “you owe me your life” is, as you can imagine, straining, tiring, and problematic— obviously not for her, but for me. It is a major design issue that I would like rectified, especially since I enjoy the advice sections of the style so very much.

And this is where Pierre and Maria differ. Where Pierre offers freedom, and is notably not strict and understanding, Maria is controlling, strict, and uninterested in understanding. My mother wouldn’t let me leave the house without supervision before the pandemic hit, and then it was too late. My mother also has a bunch of embarrassing rules and tendencies, like texting me constantly while I’m out on dates or otherwise. This style of total control and, as I’d call it, “parental omnipotence,” feels limiting. It’s very unlike the freedom that Pierre offers.

Overall, my parents have some good foundations in their style, and some good core concepts, such as the freedom my dad likes to offer, and my mother’s truly good advice. But the bugs and outdated design philosophy in my father’s lectures and inconsistencies are inexcusable. And my mother’s strict “parental omnipotence,” combined with her Queen Bee attitude, is a terrifying thing. But that’s what I have to deal with, at age 16. I guess I’ll survive.

Self-portrait by the author: ‘I guess I’ll survive’

I’m giving a strong 4 to a light 5, out of 10. Strong core concepts, but there are some major inconsistencies, and design flaws that hold back the potential of those concepts. Do tell me what you’d rate Pierre and Maria, either in the form of a comment, or an email.

Originally published in

Orono Arc

Obviously, he wants to remain anonymous—at 16.

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