This column has always been unabashedly and without apology pro-parent. That is because I am one.

That is not to say the viewpoint of young people has no value and should not be presented. It does, and it should.

One of the most common problems among youth and parents is expressing love for one another and recognizing it when they see it. When my children were growing up, I was sure it was a one-sided love affair tilted in their favor. In hindsight, they said "I love you" in a million ways. I just didn't look for it in the right places.

What if the only flower on my rosebush that they were forbidden to touch that they tore off without a stem and squeezed to death before it could get into water wasn't an act of defiance? Suppose it was love.

I don't want to think about the scores of times they put their report cards in front of me and pointed proudly to an A and I replied, "The A is fine. Now you ought to get to work on those other two C's."

I remember times they said nothing when I punished them for borrowing my clothes, cosmetics and car and ended with "When are you going to grow up?" Was it possible they were trying to look like me? Trying on my life to see how it fit?

Were they lying when they told me they turned down a part-time job because it didn't pay enough? Or were they sparing me the disappointment of knowing they had failed at something?

Never a day went by that they did not pay me the sincerest form of flattery by yelling at their brother the way I would have yelled, enforcing rules the way I wrote them, serving as an informer when I wasn't there to see it.

They spent their own money for my Christmases and birthdays, bragged to everyone how strict I was, told me the truth when I punished them for it and kissed me every night at bedtime when I had said "no" to them no less than 100 times.

Love is elusive. It can be as sticky as a sucker in your hair, as pungent as bubble gum in your face, as awkward as a colorful rock pressed in your hand or as risky as a forbidden flower on a rosebush with nothing left but a crushed blossom.

© Erma Bombeck

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