I think I finally know how parents with teenagers feel.
The Quebec provincial elections will take place in a matter of days, and the media is overripe with editorials, opinions, commentaries, letters to the editor and a whole lot of controversy, on both sides of the debate. There has been an undercurrent of Us vs Them with Quebec and Canada taking distinct sides and exchanging accusations of being portrayed unfairly.
The French media accuses the English media of downplaying the real issues or focusing on the stories that make them look like 'rednecks' or racists. The English media questions the relevance of Quebec politics to Canada and vice versa; some wonder whether or not the debate should really take place, while yet other members of the English media appear to be pleading the case for Canada, asking that the country not be torn apart by language or culture.
And yet, instead of a rich ideological debate about history, culture and identity, all I can think about is how parents feel when they're faced with a strong-willed teenager, angrily demanding their independence when they're not even eligible to apply for their own car insurance.
Think of it like this: you have a beautiful child with a mind of their own. They have distinct opinions and a fiery temperment. You love them for those qualities; it's part of what makes them unique, part of what makes them who they are. And yet these same qualities cause all the rifts between you, the fights that often result in slamming of doors and breaking down into tears. They want to leave, but they don't have the means. You don't have the heart to let them go and you don't want them to undergo hardship when they do.
Then one day, they turn around and demand that you give them everything they need to live on their own. They want the car, the couch, the tv, a few months rent, whatever was put into their education or savings funds for the future. They also don't want you to be involved in any of the decisions they will now be making for their future, even though you will continue to indirectly fund them.
As the parent, you're aghast. You don't know where all this comes from. There's the emotional turmoil of being cut out of your child's life, the bewilderment at the anger directed at you after all you've done for them in their lifetime, the balking at the sudden entitlement for this young person to continue to live at your expense as if you're a chequing acount. You debate, you reason, you cajole, you cry. The demands remain the same.
And it goes on. The door slamming, the tears, the frustration, the demands, the inability to understand each other once more. After awhile, the argument gets stale. It's always the same. You don't want to have it anymore. You're tired. You just want to go to bed.
Then one day, you wake up and it's over. You're through fighting. You come to a final compromise and your child finally leaves, maybe with a few concessions, maybe fewer than they wanted. As they leave, you're filled with a sense of concern, muted by the fact that you must respect the choices of others, that you must trust them to find their own way in life. You know that you will always be there for them, if they fall on hard times, if they come back because they've run out of money or need to do laundry.
Perhaps you don't believe that they will make it out there, but it no longer matters, because choices have been made. The child also leaves with a feeling of relief, free to become their own person, but knowing in their heart that this home is where they will come back, if things should go terribly wrong.
It's with this feeling that I watch the Quebec debate unfold. Editorials have stated that Canada is not relevant to Quebec. Perhaps the feeling is more mutual than I would have ever thought. I'm still concerned about Quebec and love what they bring to Canadian culture (poutine, the Habs, French style, joie de vivre). I would be sad to see them leave. But independence is an issue that has risen to the forefront and is not going away anytime soon. Maybe it's finally time to cut the cord.