Parents! If you’re lucky enough to still have them around, excellent! If they can on occasion be challenging, that’s not uncommon; look who’s talking. If you think they did a less than perfect job of playing god to you and your siblings if you have the pleasure of sisters or brothers, you’re possibly right…they’re only human for fuck’s sake.
For the longest time, I held my parents responsible for crimes against humanity. Humanity, consisting primarily of me. Not everyone is so fortunate to experience the “victim/narcissist” posture that I somehow adopted at an early age, but some of you may be able to identify what I’m talking about. Ugh, so embarrassing! Anyway, my folks were young when they got into the kid-having business, and they set out to do their best, whatever that means.
We all do our best right? No, we don’t all do our best, a topic for another time. However, if we do our best, well done us! That, in my opinion, is how we give ourselves the best odds at getting through this monkey parade in one piece. To my youthful affronted mind though “my parents best” was less than acceptable. Precious snowflake boy? Or perhaps, ungrateful asshole? You decide.
These days I am a parent. Actually, I’m on the downhill side of the child-rearing experience with two healthy, happy-ish teenage sons. I love my role and have learned a great deal about what my parents must have faced during their “adventure in child rearing.” Unfortunately, like my parents, I found that my wedding vows could not withstand the weight of the union itself. Thus, I’m deunionised, or as we say in the vernacular “divorced.” I’m a single parent 182.5 days a year; the best 182.5 days of any given year I might add. Raising kids is like most experiences I’ve encountered. Attitude is everything!
Being married is work, work that unfortunately does not always bring to bear the fruit of one’s labor. Circumstances as they turned out to be I’ve come to realize that I have not always been the best reader of the more subtle aspects of certain human personalities. I do believe that I hear and see people clearly when ‘they speak their truth’ and glean the essence of who they are, perhaps more so than they themselves at times. Ego talk? Probably. Though if my relationships with my sons, friends, colleagues, etc. are any indication, and if I’m not wholly deluding myself, it’s possibly true. Still, I have a lot to learn yet about how to be my best. As for my misread on the choice of life partners? Romance seems to be my kryptonite, also a topic for another post.
I bring up marriage only because the majority of parenting is done, or at least initially undertaken in that construct. All of the great, and not so great parts of a marriage inform the parenting of the children in a family. What relational skills do we unwittingly gift our progeny as they bear witness to our matrimonial dance? Could we have done better? Certainly. The adage about living in a glass house while hoisting stones comes to mind again and again. No blaming or finger pointing here.
Back to my parents. They worked hard, or at least my pops did. On top of that burden, they had to figure out how to raise kids; manual not included. Dad provided us (sisters not pictured above because they were still a twinkle in the old man’s eye when the shutter snapped) with way more than anyone had a right to expect. To put it mildly, we never wanted for the basics. Dad delivered grand family vacations, money for college, and bailed us out when our youthful dances included gross missteps. My father was extremely driven and excelled in a high-stress profession his entire life. The intensity must have been nearly unbearable. Reflecting on his situation as an adult, I can’t imagine how he handled the pressure. No wonder things weren’t always Lavender bouquets and yoga mats around the house.
My father and I are different people, to put it mildly, with decidedly different relational needs. We didn’t see eye to eye on much during my childhood. It’s no one’s fault, just how that particular cookie crumbled. In school, work or social life situations, one can choose to step away from relationships of that nature, but in the confines of the family structure, we just have to make the best of the hand as it is dealt. We didn’t get to choose each other or browse the “Family Relationship” version of Match.com before we committed to a life together. So it goes.
In my twenties, I moved away from my hometown. I left with the hope of escaping my stuckness, neighborhoods with six homes to an acre, traffic, and my roadblocked relationship with my family. With all my possessions in a subcompact car, I journeyed across the country in search of the life I’d always felt I was meant to live. “Wherever you go, there you are” notwithstanding it ultimately worked. My life and my sons’ lives are good, whole, full of love, mutual respect, and acceptance. Phew!
By moving away, and thereby breaking the cycle, I was able to discover that a new relationship with myself and my parents was attainable through the grace afforded by distance. Distance allows perspective. Perspective provides the chance for healing. Healing allows courage to blossom. Courage creates the possibility of change. Change creates the opportunity for forgiveness. Forgiveness is a universal gift.
Becoming a parent affords one an opportunity to experience the disruptive effect of ripples on the pond into which the Narcissus in all of us gaze. It offers a moment for those of us who have not yet discovered selflessness to awaken, and so be humbled. Parenthood provides the chance to accept, atone, forgive, and appreciate those whom we may formerly have held in some form of blame.
I love you, mom and dad! I now see clearly that you did the very best you could. Your hearts, not mine were in the right place, and for that, I am eternally grateful.