By Jenna Mink

She still fusses over my wardrobe choices. He still forbids me from driving in snowy, rainy or cloudy weather.But, as I speed toward the end of my college career, I realize that my relationship with my parents has hit its most mature peek; a peek it hasn’t seen since I wasfive years old.

Let me explain.

It was a time of finger paints, Teddy Ruxpin and Eureka’s Castle, yet it was a time when most of us appreciated our parents most. Think about it: we wouldn’t dream of going into a crowded place without clinging to one of our parents.

Mommy’s high heels and daddy’s tools ranked up there with gummy worms and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. And the end-of-school bell usually found us sprinting across the schoolyard to greet our parents.

Fast-forward to middle school.

Being seen in public (especially the shopping mall or the cinema) with our parents was an unforgivable sin in the book of pre-teen rebellion (ditch-your-parent tip number one: when forced to watch a flick with your parents, catch the early matinee on a Sunday; you’ll most likely avoid your pre-pubescent friends who are showering themselves with too much cologne). Any item of clothing-no matter how much it cost or where it came from-mom or dad chose was automatically condemned to the back of the closet and then Goodwill. And how many of us left behind our jackets or even our backpacks during the mad dash to escape Mom’s good-bye kiss in the school parking lot.

Actually, now that I think about it, escaping those good-bye kisses was much more difficult than dealing with zits, boys and missed episodes of Clueless and Dawson’s Creek.

Our relationship with our parents didn’t drastically change from middle school to high school. Yes, they were easier to avoid because we started stepping out of our parents’ shadow and going places by ourselves.

But we still pretended we didn’t know the man hollering in the stands during our basketball games, and we had no idea why that strange woman was loitering outside our dressing-room door, demanding to see if we needed to wear a strapless bra under our prom dress.

And our attitude toward our parents slowly began to shift.

Before they were just annoying nags who tagged along to every birthday party, shopping trip and ball game. Now, our parents just did not, and could not, exist in our world. They didn’t understand us.

We dated, ventured to parties and cruised the shopping mall parking lot (and when we were bored, we actually went into the shopping mall and-walked around). In the meantime, our parents demanded to know where we were going, whom we were going with and whether or not we had finished our homework before partaking in our teenage adventures. And then they threatened the survival of our social lives (not to mention our PlayStation lives) if we weren’t home by midnight. How dare they? The audacity!

But somehow, despite our parents’ best attempts at destroying our lives, we graduated high school. And, as we entered our first year of college, the relationship with our parents altered yet again.

Because we had officially squirmed from our parents’ grip (viva l’independencia), our parents were invading neither our privacy nor our social escapades, so we booted them from our top-enemies list.

In fact, at the ripe age of 18 or 19, we were too grown up to call our parents on a daily basis. We were too busy to travel home on most weekends (and when we did, it was to visit high school friends). And, when we were forced to spend the holidays with our family, we returned to campus with miserable tales: “My parents wouldn’t leave me alone the entire break; I just watched ‘Lifetime’ with my mom for a whole month; I’ve been eating Dad’s left-over chili for a week.”

We had outgrown our parents.

But, as we wandered through our college years, that relationship continued to change. Now, our bachelor’s degree is waiting for us at the end of a long road.

We are applying for jobs and internships that will take us even farther from our parents’ grasp. And yet our relationship with Mom and Dad has developed a different, but familiar quality: we appreciate our parents.

And we appreciate our parents because we are beginning to identify with them.

Yes, we are still very different from our parents. Over the years we have developed different ideas, and we will forever hide our booze when Mom visits and wear sleeved shirts around the family (Dad must never find out about that tattoo).

But, because our perspective has transformed, we see that our parents led lives that were, in some ways, verysimilar tothe lives that we will lead.

Many of us will travel down different roads than our parents but a part of us will always be snuggled between Mom and Dad because the monster is still under our bed.