EXCERPT: 'Permission Slips: Every Woman's Guide to Giving Herself a Break'

"Mom, I had to go to public school!"

You can't win. My son is only three, but I'm taking as much video as possible. In ten years, I want to be able to look back and remind myself that, at one time, he was adorable, and he liked me. Write yourself another slip: When it comes to your children, you have permission to do everything wrong. Because according to them, you did anyway.


It takes having kids before you realize that maybe your parents weren't all that bad, crazy, ridiculous, or lame. How many times did your parents tell you, "Wait until you have kids!" Of course, you'd smugly vow to be so much better, cooler, funnier, funner, or nicer than they were. Cut to twenty years later-- you're saying the exact same things to your kid that your mom said to you.

Are there any relationships more complex than the ones we have with our parents? I was barely twenty-three when my mom passed away. We fought like cats and dogs (or I should say "mothers and daughters") for most of my teens. Luckily, we made up before she died. My dad and I are very close, although he lives in Chicago, so I see him infrequently.

Parents are frustrating because you can't change them. Of course, you can't change anyone, but at least with men there is the illusion that you can change them. (As we discussed, you will learn the bitter truth at some point.) And your kids--well, you're convinced you can direct them.

But the parents? No matter how old you are, one of them will always give you that look of disapproval, the look that says: I wanted more for you. Unfortunately, you can't change their expectations. If they wanted you to stay in a nine-to-five and you quit to join the Peace Corps, they will be disappointed.

If they wanted you to get married and you got a divorce, they will be disappointed. If they wanted you to be a Jehovah's Witness and you became a Pentecostal, guess what--you let them down.

It's okay to do that, because usually you're right. My dad was disappointed when I quit my nine-to-five. I wanted a storybook ending to my life, and he thought that was impractical.

In fact, he'd had so many part-time jobs that he thought my job at the legal firm, with its pension and 401(k), was a storybook ending.

I disagreed. After many years, my handsome prince came in the form of The View, but if that hadn't happened, he'd probably still be giving me that I-told-you-not-to-quit-a-solid-job look.

Parents come around to your way of thinking once you have success. If I was still temping and taking the bus to auditions, my dad would not be happy for me.

I think I understand my mom a lot more now that I have hopes and dreams for my son. Our fi ghts were about my rebellion.

She saw that I was in pain and thought the church could take it away. I saw different, and my journey took me down a few paths she wasn't thrilled with. I'm pretty sure that she would be proud of me now, and I know she would be crazy about her grandson. A great freedom comes from making peace with your parents.

And it's ultimately a compliment to them when you declare your independence from their expectations. It's like you're telling them, "You raised a person who thinks for herself and congratulations, because I'm finally gonna do what I want!"

So write yourself a permission slip to disappoint your parents a little bit. You never know when they might come around.

Sherri Shepherd: 'Permission Slips'

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