Photo by Petr Kratochvil via
It can be hard to imagine this, but parents are people too. They were people before you existed. They were people when you existed, but weren’t an actual person yet. When you arrived, they had hopes and dreams for what you might be. They gazed at the fleshy shit generator you were at the time, and wondered what kind of person you would become—what your talents would be, whether you’d be smart, funny, happy, and sweet. What you’d mean to the people around you. They saw a clean slate, a chance to right what they had wronged in their lives, a promise for a brighter future.
Your parents are people, but to be fair: they used to be deeply naive people. They know better now. Of course you’re making the same mistakes they’ve made, and of course you didn’t become a heart surgeon with a flourishing and fulfilling family life. It’s likely that you have no idea what to do with your life and your Media Studies degree. You drink too much most nights—much like your mom. Well, as long as you’re happy, they’re happy. But are you, really? Happy? Are they?
We asked some friends all over Europe to talk to their parents about whether their lives are turning out like their parents hoped they would.
Benn, 23, United Kingdom
Benn works in a call center
Benn: So is working in a call center what you had in mind for me?
Benn’s dad: To be honest, as you know, you weren’t really planned. I never felt ready for you, so I’m just happy you’re 23 and haven’t been on Jeremy Kyle yet. It’s a bit of a piss-take that you dropped out of your O levels or whatever it was.
They were A levels.
Yeah, same shit. You’re 23 and cleverer than me—plus you make about the same amount of money I do, so good on you.
What did you expect me to be doing by this age?
I always wanted you to grow up to do something where you can get rich quick—like working in finance or something. Because if you’re doing something where you’ve only “made it” by the time you’re 50, I’ll be too old to give a shit. I never really had a plan for what you should be doing. You got into grammar school by yourself, and I was always proud of that. Most of what you’ve done since has been a gift to see, really.
What would you want for me in the future?
I doubt you even care what I want. Just to be happy, have enough money, stay out of debt, and maybe make me an ugly grandchild one day.
Isa, 38, Spain
Isa plays bass and sings in Triángulo de Amor Bizarro
Isa: What did you imagine I would be like when I grew up?
Isa’s mom: Well, I raised you in all the freedom to make your own decisions. I always said that you can be whatever you want, but you have to work and take care of yourself. We don’t have any connections in the government and you’re not an heiress. Our family has always been dedicated to photography, so I probably thought photography would be something you’d be interested in.
What do you think of what I do now?
I never could have imagined that you’d live off of playing music. Maybe as a hobby, yes, but nothing more. I always thought that was only for people who are very lucky and can afford it. I think you’re very lucky. And the music you play isn’t very commercial but I think the songs on your last album are beautiful. And it shows how much you’ve grown and how hard you have been working on it—you were so nervous and unbearable for a while that I was afraid to ask you about it.
Are you disappointed? Surprised?
Look, you keep asking me the same questions. I have to run, I have to take the cake to grandma’s and bring the dog over. Don’t forget that Sunday is Mother’s Day. We eat at half past two.
Andrada, 27, Romania
Andrada is getting a PHD in Visual Arts and works at an art gallery.
Andrada: When I was born, what did you think I’d grow up like?
Andrada’s mom: There’s a Romanian custom called “tăierea moțului”—which means cutting the baby’s hair for the first time. This happens when the baby turns one. The custom says that you present the baby with a tray with different objects on it, and the baby chooses three objects from the tray that will reveal what he or she will be doing in his or her life. I decided to follow this custom when you turned one. First you chose money, then a calculator, and, lastly, a pen. So I’ve always thought money, computers, and writing would play an important role in your career and in defining your personality.
Did you want me to do anything in particular?
I wanted you to become someone cultured—to read, learn, and pass what you’ve leaned on to others.
Does that mean you’re happy with what I’ve become?
I think that you are on a path that suits your ambitions, your personality, and your dreams. I’m happy with what you’ve achieved, but that’s less important. What really matters is that you are happy and satisfied with what you are doing and the person you are.
Micha, 31, Germany
Photo by Katja Bartolec
Micha is a managing partner with an IT and marketing startup, and a musician.
Micha: What were your hopes for my life and my career when I was little?
Micha’s mom: My first wish, like any mother’s, was that you’d have a healthy and happy life. I was not thinking about your professional future at the time. I think that may have started when you were about 12. I always knew music would be a part of you for the rest of your life. Of course I hoped you might be able to make a living with your music, but I also wanted you to have a backup plan. That’s why I was really happy you wanted to study sound engineering.
Have I ever disappointed you with my life choices?
Well, there have been times when I wasn’t exactly proud. When you started smoking pot at 15 or when I had to pick you up at the train station because you were blackout drunk, for example. But those were luckily just temporary lapses. You’ve never really disappointed me.
So no disappointment. Any other concerns?
When you lost your right arm and almost died in that accident, I thought I would die from worry. Of course I calmed down when it became clear that you’d make it but I was still horribly concerned about how you would cope with the fact that they couldn’t save your arm. Music and playing guitar were your life—you played every single day. One or two days after you woke up from your coma, you said to me: “Where’s the point in sitting in a corner and feeling sorry for myself?” Shortly after, when you were still in the hospital, you asked for your guitar and started playing again—with one hand. In that moment, I was so incredibly happy and so very proud of you.
Sonia, 25, Italy
Sonia studies Urban Planning and contributes to Noisey Italy.
Sonia: What were your expectations of me when I was a baby?
Sonia’s mom: Your father and I did our best to have you grow up as a strong, independent woman who’d get a good job. As for your love life—I didn’t think about it too much when you were a child. I just hoped you weren’t going to suffer, although on a rational level I knew that’s impossible. I hoped love wouldn’t traumatize you, anyway.
What did you think I would become, then?
I wanted you to study medicine—let’s say that was my dream for myself. I have to admit I did my best to make it happen, but it didn’t. Anyway, I’ve learned to appreciate different things. For example, bringing you up in Italy while we grew up in Peru made me discover so many new aspects about this country. Your father and I became parents, but we also found a new, strong tie to the country and culture we moved and lived in. We didn’t think it was possible to integrate fully, but now—thanks to you—we know it is.
Did you ever think the fact that I was born from immigrant parents would make growing up harder for me?
No, on the contrary—it strengthened your personality. Maybe you’ve felt a bit uneasy about it at times, but I think it gave you a more critical view on society and I’m happy with that. You’ve never used your background to justify any problem or fear, and I’ve never heard you complain about being discriminated against. I sincerely hope you’ve never been mistreated because your parents came from a different country.
Nils, 25, The Netherlands
Nils is a junior editor at VICE’s Netherlands office
Nils: When I was younger, what were your expectations for me as a grown-up?
Nils’ mom: You were always writing things as a kid and you learned to read and write at a very young age. So I guessed you were going to be a writer of some kind pretty early on. Just last week I found this story you wrote when you were about eight years old, and it was very well written.
Thanks! So you could say I lived up to your expectations?
Well, I did expect you to do a lot better in school. You did very well when you were younger, but your father and I were quite concerned about it when you were in secondary school and at university. I still think it’s a shame you never finished uni, but now that you work in an actual office I guess I can’t really complain.
You’re not disappointed in me?
As a mom you just hope your baby won’t end up in the gutter, hooked on alcohol and drugs. Well, at least you’re not in the gutter, are you? So that’s nice.
Alexandra, 27, Greece
Alexandra is trained as an actress but works in the private sector.
Alexandra: What did you want my life to be like, when I was a kid?
Alexandra’s mom: I wished that you’d be happy and achieve whatever you wanted to achieve.
Alexandra’s dad: I certainly wished better things for you than what your life is like now.
How do you feel about what I’ve accomplished so far?
Alexandra’s mom: I feel fine about it, because I see you’re happy with your life and your choices.
Alexandra’s dad: I’d say it’s okay—at best.
Are you disappointed with me or proud of me?
Alexandra’s mom: I’m proud of you but I’m also disappointed. I’m proud because everyone keeps telling me lovely things about you. But I’m disappointed because you wanted something different from life, but then your plans and your circumstances changed. I don’t agree with the choices you’re making now.
Alexandra’s dad: Somewhere in the middle. You have a good personality—I think if the conditions in this country were better, I could even be proud of you.
Pierre, 28, France
Pierre is customer advisor at a bank.
Pierre: What do you think of the person I am today?
Pierre’s mom: You’ve learnt to assert yourself in your life choices and in front of other people—at least it looks like you have. You look like you are in full bloom—in your work and in your personal life, and that’s what matters most to us.
When I was younger, did you ever picture me working at a bank?
Pierre’s dad: Well, to be honest, we always thought you would end up in some kind of artistic job. You were rather good at playing the drums and drawing. Boy, were we wrong.
Are you ever worried about my future?
Pierre’s mom: We often think that we really wouldn’t want to be in your shoes. Everything looks so complicated and unsure these days. When we were young, we just had to ask for a job to get an interview. Now it seems impossible.