Thursday, January 27

No matter how old you are, returning to your parents’ house for Christmas turns you into a teenager

“Come on, get up, it’s already late.” Your mother or father enter the room where you sleep, they have not knocked on the door, they raise the blind and they even begin to give you instructions. “You have clothes on the floor.” “You are going to combine breakfast with lunch.” “Have you called your aunt yet? I don’t know what you’re waiting for.” “I already told you last night that you were going overboard with the wine.” It seems the typical teenage awakening only that you are 31, 35, 40 or 47 and you are spending a few days at your parents’ house.

The phenomenon can happen at any time, when you return to the family home for a couple of days or on vacation, but the Christmas background is especially conducive to that space-time confusion. You arrive with your suitcase to spend the holidays and you land in a house that is yours but not, or that is not your house but yes.

There is your room, or perhaps it no longer exists, it has become the ironing room, a new living room, an office, or all at once. You sleep in your childhood bed next to the ironing board, your mother’s books, what’s left of your stuffed animals; The closet is full of clothes that are not yours or your brother exchanged the room for you, although he placed your things in the same order so that you would not notice the difference so much (I do not hold a grudge, seriously). You find some rules and routines that sound familiar to you, but that are no longer yours. Your parents seem to see you as that half-done being at 15 and you see yourself snorting and cursing them softly like when they wouldn’t let you out after twelve.

And it is bundled. But why? I ask the psychologist Violeta Alcocer. “It is well explained from attachment theory: the first solid bonds we build are with our parents and they leave an imprint, not only on a subjective level, but also emotional, cognitive, physiological, and as a consequence of all that, there is a behavioral effect”. Over the years we build other bonds and mature, and our identity as an adult, as a friend, as a traveler, as a co-worker, as a partner, as a boss, as a mother, of so many things, overlap with our childhood and adolescence. But it is to arrive at the parents’ house, and boom: “When we are in his presence, the body remembers and the primitive circuits of attachment are reactivated”.

The same happens to them, it is also a question of roles. “All those physiological, emotional, cognitive circuits are also activated … It is difficult for them to see the adult as such, it is the ‘you will always be my child’, and although they try to treat you differently, we feel the same as always” , explains Alcocer. That makes us have the feeling of being trapped in sensations, conversations and demands, on both sides, that seem not to change. “The reactions of our parents spur our own reactions and vice versa.”


There, somewhere, is ‘the box’. Yes, that box that years ago you filled with high school folders, some Super Pop, forgotten CDs, a diary, and even with notes from the faculty that obviously you have never needed again but that, for some reason that we all do not know, we still have. . Christmas is that moment when your mother or father, unexpectedly, when you are about to take a nap or are getting ready to go out, they tell you: “Well, here’s that box, let’s see if you can check it once. Or take it away. Let’s throw it away, eh? “. Your inner peace is broken. Not the box, not the box.

Just get the conversation out of the way for people to share all kinds of anecdotes. Patri, her mother wakes her up screaming “let’s see what you have to wash, I’m going to put a colored one.” Sara’s parents open the door to her room without knocking, they don’t want anything concrete, just to check that she’s okay. His mother calls Raúl ‘my child’ in front of other people, even though he is already 46. “Come on, go to sleep, you have to work tomorrow,” they tell Vanesa, who has already entered quarantine. “Are you really going to have that coke now?” His mother asks Jose.

Having children does not end this space-time hole, it may even make it worse. If your room still exists, it is no longer yours to be your children’s room. There are times when you don’t know how that dwarf is jumping like crazy on your bed while you’re the one telling him that it’s okay, that he’s going to break it, that you have to go to sleep. Other times you have the feeling that at any moment social services will come to take away your custody. It’s when your mother says: “But have you seen how long her nails are? They have to be cut right away.” Or when you come back from a walk and your father says to you: “Have you seen how the boy turned out? With the cold it is, really”.

I know that there are those who will read this and feel nostalgic or sorry. These days you have to deal more than others with deaths and absences. So we would do well to soak up these little conflicts, all those primitive circuits that are activated. Because as the great Joan Didion, who died only two days ago, wrote: Life changes fast. Life changes in an instant. You sit down to dinner and the life you used to know is over.