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July 14, 2012

On the Go: It's hard to pin down a definition of 'parent'

Daily Star

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The Wikipedia definition of "parent" is "a caretaker of the offspring in their own species."

But, thanks to dozens of teachers and librarians over the course of our lives, we know by now that Wikipedia is not a reliable source. And so, I'm forced to explore this definition all on my own, lest I run the risk of having to do any more research.

One probable definition of the word "parent" could be "one who cleans up our mess." And what a mess that must have been. My parents had the bright idea to buy a piece of property with a spacious backyard and a creek running right through it, but had the misfortune of having a child whose best dish was the mud pie _ and still is, might I add. Children are messy, messy creatures, and parents have the responsibility of cleaning up our messes just long enough until we can do it ourselves. Somehow, through years of "take your shoes off before you come in the house," and "wash your hands, it's time to eat," our parents manage to raise us so that one day, we will be able to clean up our own "messes" _ hopefully before we grow old enough to use it in the more dramatic, figurative use of the word.

Another possible definition could be "teenager wrangler." Parents are along for the ride of the adolescent years, despite their desperate desire to be anywhere else. We have to hand it to them, they do their best to parent the moody, temperamental aliens that replaced their darling angels seemingly overnight. I'd like to take this moment and personally apologize for anyone who ever had to interact with my 13-year-old self. My parents especially. Despite anything I may have said, putting up with me makes you cool.

"Personal transportation system" is another possible definition for the noun, although it's only temporary for most. After the child can drive herself around, the definition changes to "constant gas-tank checker" or "one who still watches out the window as the child backs out of the driveway three years after receiving her license."

When the child is away from home, a lot of the time "parent" means, "just a phone call away." And since this becomes the definition, it's very confusing to the child when the parent doesn't pick up her home, cell, or even work phones. What else could she possibly be doing but waiting around for a call from us?

These are all probable definitions, but not one of them is sufficient enough. I learned from my own mom and dad that the meaning of the word "parent" takes on all of these definitions and more over the course of a 19-year-old's lifetime, and still has many more to encompass as time goes on. However, if I were to take an educated guess at what would be on my own parent's Wikipedia page, it would probably say something like, "loving, supporting, at-times-embarrassing, fun couple that my sister and I are lucky to have."

Happy anniversary, Mom and Dad.

Adrian Adamo, a 2011 graduate of Oneonta High School, is a freshman at Emerson College in Boston. 'Teen Talk' columns can be found at