I’ve always been the type of person to take care of other people. I’m good at it.
Maybe part of it came from the mantras of selflessness driven into my Catholic school compatriots and me.
Maybe part of it came from my struggle for my parents’ approval and their continual denial of it.
Maybe part of it came from the innate sense that I didn’t deserve my relationships just because I was there; I needed to “earn them”, along with the love that came with them.
And maybe part of it is just me. Like I said – I’m good at it.
Whatever the reasons, or whatever the motivations, I always believed that you don’t “keep score” in relationships. You don’t give gifts with the idea that you will get one back. You don’t show love for the sake of having it returned. You don’t sacrifice in the hopes that the other person will do the same for you. You do those things because you choose to do them. It’s part of loving.
Makes sense, right?
Then along comes Stephen Covey and blows that shit right out of the water.
OK, well not completely. But the image of his bald head bending over a cartoon bucket marked “TNT”…never mind, sorry. ADHD moment.
Where was I?
Oh right. Stephen Covey.
Anyhow, Stephen Covey promotes the idea of an “emotional bank account” in which metaphorical deposits are made in the form of loving acts, and withdrawals are taken in the form of hurtful acts. So long as the account stays relatively positive, all is well. But when that account drops into the red, relationships suffer. People get hurt.
If the accounting errors are fixed, so to speak, the account can slide back into a positive place and life moves on. But if not, if the same miscalculations continue to occur, it can be time to close the account.
Close the account.
What an odd concept for me.
So how do I juxtapose the idea of altruism within a relationship with this bank account that can, and sometimes should, be closed permanently? Therein lies my problem.
I read these articles about leaving relationships through which “you get nothing beneficial from them” and I think, “But I thought I wasn’t supposed to look at what I’m getting out of this?” Love is a gift, freely given, without thought of return. Very true. But then that pesky bank account comes up with negative numbers again.
Lately, I’ve had some people in my life that just didn’t seem to be interested in being there. It took some heavy contemplation, and I’m still not sure of myself here, but I wound up walking away. Part of me thinks I should’ve gone searching for a reason. “Why? Was it something I did or said? Or do I not fit into your life anymore? But that smacked of disingenuous considerations when I realized that honestly? I just didn’t care. The dramatic exit really isn’t my style, so there was no grand announcement or heartfelt letters sent. Just a quiet nod, a bitten lip, and a slight shrug.
I’m still not 100% sure I made the right decision, but time will tell. I think though, in the end, I’ll be better off with my accounts in the black.
So it’s no secret that the Scientist and I have been in marriage counseling for a while. Well, a few whiles, maybe. We got really lucky – we clicked with her on the first shot. She manages to figure both of us out very quickly, and does not hesitate to call us out when necessary.
Last night was one of those nights.
I’m not saying she was wrong. No way I can actually claim that one and stay honest.
But holy hell. It really sucks when she’s right.
She told me that any time I do what she calls “self-care”, I fall back to a guilt-ridden place where I see myself as “selfish”. Self-care, as the Therapist explains is, is prioritizing one’s own needs, whether physical, emotional, or mental, in order to maintain health. These can be things like spending a rainy Saturday curled up in bed reading instead of cleaning out the linen closet, skipping a social event to go to bed early because of exhaustion, or spending an afternoon with your best friend, gorging on pizza and beer.
We went over some recent stuff that I’ve been pondering, and I explained how I was feeling selfish for things that I’d done. She listened thoughtfully, nodded sagely, and then slowly considered how she wanted to word her response.
“Yeeeah, no. I don’t agree with anything you’ve said about any of it.”
Wait, what? I was expecting validation here. I was expecting her to agree that my self-assessment was on target, and offer suggestions on how to fix things in my head.
Instead, she explained that I am being way too hard on myself, and that I need to recognize that self-care is vital to my existence. She said that, in this usage, being “selfish” has taken a really bad rap. It’s drilled into us that self-sacrifice is the only noble pursuit, and that prioritizing ourselves is a sign of being a bad person.
Now, this is not to say that the pejorative side of selfishness doesn’t exist. It absolutely does. When your actions hurt someone else with intent, it’s definite. When your needs trump someone else’s and they choose to take it personally, then a grey area can be found. The Ambassador, as an RA at his University, has taught us a lot about “impact versus intent”. And while the lessons that he’s passed on are well taken, they aren’t always applicable to real life. I think his inability to prioritize himself is at the heart of a lot of his own misery at times. But as I was just called out for the same, we’d have to first establish which one of us was the pot and which was the kettle.
I tried to take The Therapist’s words to heart. It’s like I said before – she isn’t wrong. I tried to defend myself by reminding her how good I am at taking care of other people. She chuckled ruefully and rolled her eyes in agreement.
So now comes the hard part. I find myself knowing that I need to just recognize, accept, and most of all address my own needs. But it is incredibly difficult for me to discern when I’m exercising self-care and when I’m crossing the line. She gave me some good points on some specific instances I questioned, but it isn’t like I have her on speed dial.
I guess I’m back to flying blind, but trying to be more “selfish” with my own heart and my own head.
What confuses you in your own life about this process?
Privacy seems like such a weird concept these days. Teens howl that their parents need to respect their privacy, but then they’re sending nude photos around the Interwebz. Adults froth at the mouth at the idea that the government has been acquiring cell phone information including the phone numbers we call and text, but then spout off that being detained/searched by the police “should be no big deal if you have nothing to hide”. Parents post gross or embarrassing photos of their too-young-to-consent kids for the humor and shock value, never considering that those photos will still be there when the kid – and their obnoxious peers – are old enough to find them.
So what should be our expectations of privacy? In relationships, I’ve heard of couples who don’t bother to close the door in the bathroom. If that works for you, that’s great. For me? Um, no. Like any other parent, I’ve read the book “Everybody Poops”, and I’m also aware that it’s a natural function of the human body, and yet, I simply do not have the faintest desire to chat with the Scientist while he engages in that particular natural function. (And vice versa) I’ve also heard of couples who maintain separate bank accounts – to which the other spouse does not even have access. For me, that’s an unnecessary extreme, but again, whatever works.
I read the article first published by the Mirror about the woman who stumbled on the fact that her husband had installed Cerberus on her phone, and those of her three teenaged children. Now, Cerberus is marketed as this wonderful anti-theft app that can help track your phone if it’s stolen. What a great invention, right?
The issue is that the person who installs it can then read texts, listen to conversations, and see who the other person is with via the camera. That’s a whole ‘nother ball of wax.
Now, the woman in question apparently has no problem with her husband doing this. She claims that he did tell her he’d done it, but she must have “forgotten”. My question is, Why was she informed that it had been done instead of being consulted as an equal as to the necessity? And her kids – why were they not shown a modicum of respect by telling them as well?
There are so, so many great guys out there. But there are also some controlling jerks who simply run roughshod over their partner until she accepts it as normal. If this woman feels that being spied on is “normal”, what else does she consider normal? Her realization of the app being on her phone did not come from an emergency situation in which her life was in danger and her gallant knight came to her rescue thanks to the wonderful abilities of Cerberus. No. This man routinely goes in and reads her texts and listens in on her conversations. How is this normal?
Her reply to this is chilling, as it speaks to the insidious nature of the whole situation. “If you’ve got nothing to hide, there’s no big deal.” She has been stripped of her right to any privacy, and it’s been replaced by a victim-shaming mentality. Basically, if you want privacy on your phone for any reason, then you must be guilty of something. This attitude has nothing to do with her assertion of “transparency” in a relationship. There is a huge difference between not keeping dangerous secrets from your partner and never having a conversation with only one other person. What if your sister needed to confide in you that she was scared of the lump in her breast? What if your son wants to come out to his father but isn’t sure how yet? Hell, we won’t even go to the serious stuff. Surprise party? Christmas gifts? Secrets don’t always mean destructive.
It saddens me to think that the desire for privacy in any form has become a source of shame. It scares me to think that people play on that shame and guilt for their own sense of power. This is not just undermining her as a human being, but it is teaching her children that this behavior is acceptable. They learn that if their partner demands access to every single iota of their lives, they have no right or reason to refuse unless they are guilty of something. Is this truly the lesson we want to teach our kids?
I spent a long time apologizing for various things about me. On my best day, I was an inconvenience for my parents, so I learned how to stay out of the way and under the radar whenever I wanted to be there. My craving for solitude made this easier, as disappearing by myself into my room or the basement for hours was seen as a positive. Needing any sort of attention or assistance from my parents was not met well, so my self sufficiency was also quickly developed.
By the time I was in middle school, I could cook a basic meal, do laundry, iron my clothes, and do basic housework and gardening. I took pride in this, as my independence was something I valued. My friends and I were together most of the time, but spending some time solo was never seen as a big deal.
As I hit high school, though, things definitely changed. Conflicts at home grew exponentially. Being “popular” was something I didn’t particularly seek, but knew I’d never achieve anyhow. My mother had set stupid rules into place guaranteed to make me “weird” such as forbidding me to wear jeans to a public high school. My parents got some perverse joy out of power and control simply for the fact that they could. They got off on it, which just drove me further into my appreciation for solitude. It kept me away from them.
One thing I heard from people over the years was that I was always willing to listen and be there for people, but I didn’t confide in anyone. My enigmatic behavior wasn’t intentional; I simply didn’t have the desire to open myself up for other people to observe and then to judge.
That said, I was still set in the apologies for so many things.
“I’m sorry I needed some time alone and didn’t go to the movies with you.”
“I’m sorry I can’t go to the party; I can’t be out past curfew.”
“I’m sorry I don’t share my problems.”
“I’m sorry I spaced on helping you with your term paper.”
“I’m sorry I can’t dance with you because of my knee.”
This continued throughout adulthood until several years ago. It wasn’t necessarily a light switch moment; there was no parting of the clouds met with an angelic chorus. It was more of a sunrise. Darkness met with an ever increasing light that made me realize that there will always be people who do not accept or approve of me. At one time, that idea would’ve filled me with shame and regret, and a desire to “fix it”. No more.
There are very few people who truly understand me; other than the Scientist and the Kellions, I can count the number on one hand. In a conversation with the Scientist the other day, the example we discussed was the word “stubborn”. People who get me don’t use that word with me, and they know why. It doesn’t need to be explained; it’s kinda like those jokes that lose their humor if they have to be explained. Same goes. If you don’t “get it”, you aren’t going to. Just one of those things. It isn’t any kind of big deal, though. I don’t get angry if people call me stubborn. I just nod and smile, ignore the invective, and move on. But at one point, I would’ve felt the need to explain, to mitigate, to appease. Now, not so much.
At this point in my life, I’m finally content in who I am.
I am a person who has AD/HD and struggles with it on a regular basis.
I am a person who craves solitude, and for whom not getting it can be disastrous.
I am a person who cannot handle the “joined at the hip” type of relationship. I am forever grateful that my kids weren’t clingy; they are very close to me, but there’s a difference. And hell, I can’t lie. If the Scientist had been that type, those kids would not exist.
I am a person who will work as hard as I can for my job, and who also works just as hard on my creative projects. But like most people, I prefer my creative pursuits.
I am a person who values her own independence more than a lot of other things, and who has no intentions of ever relinquishing it.
Not even a little bit.
And you shouldn’t be either. What do you apologize for that you should embrace instead?
Recently, while perusing the vastness of wisdom found on the Interwebz, I was stunned to discover that my kids should probably all be dead by now. This news shocked me, as I had just been congratulating myself on the fact that they all reached adulthood (mostly) unscathed. How sad to see my self-congratulatory ovations deflated like a mylar balloon in January!
Now, I realize that as a parent whose kids were born in the Dark Ages (early 1990’s), we’d barely seen these new-fangled gidgety-bops like car seats that faced backwards (how am I supposed to shove the spit-cleaned paci back in their mouth if I can’t see them?) and baby slings (how do they not fall out?). But despite our distinct disadvantage when it came to technology and education, we seemed to think we had it together.
I was never one of those panic-stricken first time parents. My sister once remarked on the fact that her college friend, who also had her first baby within a few weeks of my having the Professor, tweaked out over every gurgle and spit, whereas I was very laid back. And I was. From the first time I saw the Professor, I told her that, ok fine, I had no clue what the hell I was doing, but neither did she. So if she didn’t give me shit about it, I would extend the same courtesy to her. It seemed to work out most of the time.
And sterilizing pacifiers, bottles, and the like? Uh, no. At home, stuff was washed with hot, soapy water, rinsed, and called good. However, if we were out somewhere and the paci hit the floor? I’d pick it up, wipe it off, stick it in my mouth, and give it back. Mom spit cleans everything, doesn’t it? Sure it does.
However, as time went by, I had no idea the magnitude of the damage we were inflicting on those poor kids: myself, the Scientist, and every other clueless person navigating our way through the quagmire of Parenting Without a License.
When the Professor was born, we were told unequivocally that we were to put her to sleep on her stomach. This worked well, as even the act of lying her flat on your lap to zip a jacket would result in ear splitting howls. Upright or face down, thank you very much. We did not co-sleep because we owned a waterbed at the time, but she had a cradle next to our bed for ease of nursing. But the cradle, being handmade by my father, was solid wood panels at the ends, and solid wood spindles on the sides. So what did we have? Yup. Arrest us now. Bumper pads. We won’t even get into the fact that, as she got a little older, she would not sleep at all unless her head was butted up against the crotch of her stuffed bunny, with the matching blanket tucked all around her. As each kid transitioned from that cradle to their crib, guess what was also found there? Yeeeeeah. More crib bumpers. The abuse truly was long term.
And while we’re on the subject of sleep? Can we also mention the fact that when the Artist was born, we were informed that it was simply by the grace of a deity that the Professor hadn’t suffocated? And that we absolutely, positively must put the Artist to sleep on her back? Heh. Right. So, here’s the thing. The Artist had a few little quirks in her body when she was born, and one of them was reflux. Any time, and I mean any time she was placed on her back, she yarfed. Even a simple diaper change meant a full clean up from the yarf. For the first 4 months of her life, the Artist, with her pediatrician’s full approval, slept either in her swing or her car seat. When the Ambassador showed up, the Somnolent Powers That Be were aghast that we had two daughters who survived infancy, because the only acceptable sleeping position for an infant was on their side. How could we have been such horrible parents? So we did the rolled blankets, propped him up, and he’d fuss an wriggle until he was face down. We’d sigh, and dutifully shift him back onto his side, and pat each other on the back for being such Good Parents. And then the little bugger would fuss and wriggle and get himself face down again. We didn’t know what else to do, short of becoming Joan Crawford in Mommy Dearest, so we shrugged and left him alone.
Food was another realm into which we ventured, unknowing, paving our own express road to hell with the best of intentions.
White bread isn’t good for you – everyone knows this. Whole wheat is so much healthier! So my kids’ first experience with toast was always with whole wheat bread. Peanut butter was an excellent source of protein, and since our personal favorite jam was strawberry, and it had less sugar than grape, that’s what we used to make their PB&Js. All before age 2. Oops.
We weren’t completely technologically deficient, though. We had a baby monitor. Of course, it only had one “channel” to it. And there was no video feed. And it couldn’t be hooked up to the Internet. And we couldn’t talk back to them through it. OK, shut up. We still had one, and it was cool! Want to know how cool it was? When the kids were old enough that we didn’t need it, but too young to be left alone for an evening, we would put them to bed, wait til all 3 were asleep, and then set the monitor in the hallway on the floor. We gated the stairs so they all had access to the bathoom, but only upstairs. Then we took the other part of the monitor, went next door, and played cards with our friends for a few hours. We never heard a peep – the kids were great sleepers. But I’m quite sure that little snippet of ingenuity would get us arrested today.
Each of the kids got a Tonka dump truck for their first birthday. Not the modern, cheap, crappy plastic things. The real ones. The metal ones that could crash into another truck and still keep going, could haul rocks and dirt, and reflect every “Vrrrooooooommm” back with its sturdy rumble. Know what else they could haul? Kids kneeling in the truck bed, rolling down the just-inclined-enough driveway. Don’t raise your eyebrows at me – of course I told them not to do it. I took the physics lesson and brought it to the level of the 5 year old, and explained why it was going to hurt like hell if their weight shifted even a little over the back of that rear axle. They listened, dutifully nodded, and went out to play. The Artist still wears the scars on her toes from scraping across the pavement after falling out the back of that damn Tonka truck. And hell yes, I said it. “I told you so.”
All of my kids have scars, though. Another that comes to mind in my Memoirs of Child Abuse is on the Ambassador. Across from our house was a construction site for a neighbor’s house. The crew dug a pit, ringed it with huge bounders and concrete blocks, and left it there. They might just as well have set up neon-lit arrows pointing to it, and billboards saying, “Come play here!” Seriously. Again with the cautionary lecture about falling, hitting the rocks, getting hurt. This one also came with a bonus admonishment. “I don’t want to hear it if you go over there anyhow and get hurt. Don’t whine to me about it.” As expected one afternoon, I hear the front door shut, and scuffling up the stairs.
“SHHHH! Shut up, don’t let Mom hear!”
“Ohmygosh don’t get blood on the carpet. Mom will tweak.”
I went to investigate, and found the bathroom door shut and locked. Nice touch, guys.
They finally admitted me to the bathroom clinic where I found the Ambassador with a gash on his leg. I growled and muttered and tossed in a few mild expletives, but as any parent does, I also painstakingly cleaned every speck of schmutz out of his leg before cleaning and bandaging it. And then I popped a few ibuprofen when I glanced out the window an hour later and saw all of them back on the “mountain climb”.
My kids truly were raised in a different time. I proudly was (am?), as my inlaws sniped, a “car seat nazi”, demanding that they be buckled any time they were in a vehicle. But kids were in rear facing ones until their legs got cramped; then they swapped. The best convertible one at that point? Had the bar that swung over their head, down in front of them. They were in that until they were 3; then it was a booster seat until they were 4, and then a seat belt with a height adapter. Nowadays, I know parents who had to have car seats for their 7 and 8 year old kids. Let’s be clear – I am all about safety, and if that’s the way it should be, then that’s great. But man, they’re really making us old fogeys look bad, here!
We started leaving them alone in the house for short periods (30-45 min) around age 8. We could go for an Adults Only walk around the neighborhood and converse with our friends. They knew where we were, and could easily find us if needed. Say, if the Professor had stapled her thumb and was too scared to pull it out. Yup. By 10, it was 60-90 minutes, and by 12, the Scientist and I could go get a bite to eat without freaking out. They had my pager number (ha! A pager! Yes, I had a pager because I was a doula) and they could always call it if needed. The first time we left them overnight, I think they were 14, 16, and 17. We provided food, strict instructions to clean the kitchen, and off we went. They didn’t clean the kitchen, and they had a miserable subsequent few days because of that choice, but they were in fact, still breathing.
Injuries during childhood are going to happen. But it seems like parents these days are really trying to bubble wrap their kids like they somehow shouldn’t. My kids played sports, and played outside, and they got hurt. We saw concussions, the occasional broken bone, cuts, bruises, scrapes, and a couple of shiners.
But as I read parenting blogs and see the products available and popular for parents, it makes me realize that I owe my kids a huge apology. Sorry I almost killed you all those times, guys. Hope you can forgive me…and maybe even let me hold a grandchild if one appears?
“So let us not talk falsely now, the hour is getting late.”
The Professor got that job. We moved her up to the Great White North over the course of one very, very long weekend. She’s getting settled into her new life, her new apartment, her new climate. She’s having fun, but it’s hard of course, not knowing anyone in her new town. She misses our cat, and can’t wait to get her own. However, our Professor’s coming home for Thanksgiving and Christmas (Yay!), so it makes a lot more sense for her to wait til she gets back. We’re excited for her, though, and we can’t wait to see how far she goes in her path.
The Artist is rocking and rolling on the coast. She’s taking her time, enjoying the ride, and finding her own way. We love seeing her creativity blossom; her innate talent is amazing to see. The Artist has been dating a Marine and recently attended the Birthday Ball for the Corps. It was stunning to see our Artist in a formal gown and heels; her beauty made both of us have to catch their breath!
The Ambassador has had a pretty intense few months as well. His senior year is pretty strenuous, especially with his RA duties. He actually saved a girl’s life on Halloween night after she passed out from too much alcohol. Our pride for our Ambassador is unwavering, but his steady calm allowed him to overcome his own fear and act quickly. He is dating a really sweet girl who brings out some really good things in him.
So what does this mean for the Scientist and me? Well, the house seems huge now, where it certainly never did before. I’m looking forward to having it overrun when the holidays hit. As much as I need my solitude, I do love having people around for holidays.
Our new kitten (age 7.5mo) is adorable and fun. Even the Scientist, who really don’t like cats in general, has fallen for her. She is incredibly affectionate and sweet, and hilariously crazy. Her favorite toy in the world is a drinking straw. Odd, but true. She also loves twist ties, bottle caps, and milk jug rings. Weird cat. While we can never know for sure, we’re pretty sure we’ve figured out her “ethnic” origin, too. Her little mate is a tuxedo, and she does have little spits of white in a few places. Her other half, we’re convinced, is Tortoise-shell Ragdoll. She is clearly a torti girl in color; no doubt there. But her extra long, super fluffy tail is pretty telling. She has the coat, the personality/behaviors, and everything I’ve read seems to point to it. We just call her Princess Floofytail when she wanders along with that tail waving behind her.
Thus far, we seem to be handling this new phase pretty decently. Granted, it’s not even been a month, but we haven’t killed each other yet. I know other things will crop up along the way, and I know we’re going to trip over each other pretty hard on occasion. But so far, we’re doing ok.
One day at a time, I guess.
So things are changing a bit around here. Not in any sort of bad way – on the contrary. But change is always a bit odd until you grow accustomed to the idea.
I read through other Mommy Blogs and see all of the accomplishments of their kids. “She learned to walk!” (Better break out your own cross trainers!) “He spoke his first word!” (Watch your language. You don’t want his second word to be “F***!”) “She made the soccer team!” (Ah, travel teams…all the money, time, and you still get to sit out in the rain and snow!) “He made the Honor Roll!” (Awesome! Get your checkbook out for Harvard!) I’m really not trying to diminish their happiness in any way; just offering a humorous coin flip to the cheerleading, which I myself have done as well.
My Artist lives about 3 hours away from us right now, but she hasn’t quite “landed” yet. She works hard, she pays her bills, she enjoys her life, but her current location will most likely not be a long term placement. Her friends will not remain there after they too, graduate, and the siren song of her artistic talent simply doesn’t seem to originate there. She’ll need to find its source and follow it. When she does, we’ll be able to help her move her bed, desk, dresser, etc, out of her bedroom and into her semi-permanent space. The furniture belongs to her, so it will go with her when she finds an apartment/house/condo/treehouse of her own. For now, we’re happy to store it for her, and its there when she comes home for my custodial visits with my grand cat, Jax.
My Ambassador is still in college. He’s got a little while left before he lands somewhere, but like his sisters, he’ll take his stuff when he moves out for good.
Well, ladies and gents, my Professor just landed. She was headhunted for a job she really, really wanted, and beat everyone else out for it. We do not have details yet, but her move to Connecticut is relatively imminent, and her “stuff” with travel with her. I took a bit of my vacation money for this weekend and had way too much fun in the kitchen section of Target and Amazon. Her OCD kicked into overdrive in approximately .097 nanoseconds, and the Excel spreadsheets abound with apartment details, bus routes, placements of parks, gyms, and the ever important book stores.
Our excitement, of course, cannot rival hers, but we are proud of her accomplishments and hell, it makes us look good that we are 2 for 2 so far when it comes to “raising productive, responsible members of society”. But it will be very weird for us to have one of our kids actually living 9.5 hours away from us. This move will be so good for her; please do not by any means think that I’m one of those people who sobs at the idea of her baby leaving the nest or whatever that bullshit is. Dog no. I’m glad that my desire to instill a sense of adventure and exploration and independence in my kids has flourished. In all of her job applications, not a single one was in our home state. She wanted to go see “somewhere else”, and see it she will.
It’ll be a beautiful area for us to visit, as we’ve never been there. She will have easy access to big cities and the beach. If anything does go Seriously Wrong, the Trainer can be there very quickly until I can get there. Her winter will be a whole new ballgame for her, as she’s used to much more mild temperatures. And hooo doggies, she can have that crap. But it will make her happy, which is always our goal.
It’s quarter to five. And now, I’m one step closer to that “empty nest” people keep talking about. I’m one step closer to being alone with the Scientist in our life – something that not only hasn’t occurred in 22.5 years, but only occurred for the first 10 months that we lived together. I’m not entirely convinced we can make that work, but it will be an interesting adventure to try.
As for the Kellions? They are one step closer to their Next Step. And I can’t wait to watch it happen.
As the clock ticks along through the childhood years, most parents invariably find themselves with some semblance of trepidation (or horror) at the thought of their child dating. Worst yet, the realization that your sweet, angelic little snookems is going to become a sexual adult is going to smack you clean upside the head. Oof. That’s tough even to type. Of course, the instinct to protect our kids flares, along with the innate desire to at least try to shield them from becoming the emotional train wrecks that we all were as teenagers. (Don’t raise your eyebrows at me; you absolutely were.)
So I figured, well, it’s quarter to five, and that means that my kids are smack in the middle of their own dating minefields. I guess it’s time, as The Mom, to do Something About It.
Well let’s turn to the ever wise, all-knowing Interwebz. After all, where else can we find the answers to everything but there?
This works, right? I should simply be able to print these out and hand them to whichever child’s potential boyfriend or girlfriend is in question. Hmm. OK, wait. Maybe I need to rethink a couple of these.
Because, well, in the first list…2-5 imply that my son is too immature or incompetent to make his own choices as to whom he allows in his life. (And #3 would mean that I’d have to read his text messages – something I haven’t done since he was 15.)
Maybe this will get better. Let’s keep going.
#6. Uh, no. The Ambassador and I are close, but he is by no means a “Mama’s Boy”. He can function quite well without his “Mama” selecting his wardrobe options or his dates.
#8. I did raise my son to be a gentleman. Very true. He shows respect to all people unless they prove themselves unworthy of it, and even then, he can remain civil. But this undefined “act like a lady”. What the hell does that even mean?
I’m not going to dignify #9. It implies that I am either violent or prone to committing illegal acts; both of which are beneath me.
#10. This one bothers me perhaps most of all. If my son chooses to marry, I will welcome her into the family as one of our own. I would trust that he will choose someone who complements his personality, and has similar ideals. Why would I want to wish a lifetime of loneliness on my son by promising that I will act like an unholy bitch to his partner?
Let’s try the other list. Maybe we’ll have better luck there.
Or maybe not.
#1. My daughters cry. As does my son. And my spouse. And myself. People cry when they’re hurt or angry, when they’re sad, but also when they’re joyful. Every relationship has strife, and every relationship has anger and hurt feelings on occasion. They’re part of growth, and part of learning how to function as part of that entity. Demanding that a person never make your daughter cry is absurd and unrealistic.
#2. I do love my daughters; with all my heart. How exactly does this equate to hating their potential partner, exactly?
#3 / #6. Yeeeah. Because, even if I did own a gun, communicating a threat (a felony in most states) is definitely not the way to establish myself as a human being.
#5. My daughters are not “princesses”. They should not be treated as such, either. They should be treated as the strong, independent, intelligent women they are. But if their potential partner doesn’t do this? My hope is that my daughter will see it and end it. Like my son, both my daughters are quite capable of choosing partners.
#7. Right. Because what if my daughter had a SEXUAL thought? *GASP* That might make her…human!
#8 / #9. I can’t quite tell if this is meant to be serious or a joke. My daughters are human. They, and their prospective partners, are neither angelic nor devilish. They are beautiful, creative, humorous, intelligent, and also have faults that will piss off those people in their lives. Get used to it.
#10. See #9 in the previous list.
So yeah. Wow. I’m stunned beyond words, but somehow, the Interwebz has let me down. It’s given me a list that paints me as a controlling, violent, hateful bitch instead of the intelligent, nurturing, supportive parent that I’ve always sought to be. What the hell?
Maybe I should create my own list. Here goes.
1. Respect yourself and my child. My child, in turn, will always respect you as well.
2. Respect your body. Be safe with it. Own your choices and the consequences that come with them. This has been drilled into my children as well.
3. Communicate your needs and desires clearly. Mind games only serve to undermine trust and commitment. Don’t play them. My children wouldn’t know how to anyways, as we don’t model that.
4. Your body, your choice. His / her body, his / her choice. No exceptions. And “no” always supersedes “yes” when it comes to sexual decisions.
5. Strive to become comfortable in your own skin. If you don’t believe in yourself, why should anyone else?
6. Understand that we are a really tight family. We’re happy to envelope you, but just know that we’re goofy, crazy, loud, occasionally inappropriate, and fun. We return any love you’d like to share with us.
7. At the end of the day, these rules don’t mean shit. Because at the end of the day, the choice will always lie with my child. I may not always agree with it, but I will always support it.
If my son or daughter chooses you as a partner, welcome to the family. If not, your loss. (Shut up, I had to.)
There is absolutely no doubt that our past affects us, changes us, shapes the way we respond to situations, and can even permanently alter perspectives as well. We become who we are based on our experiences.
I am the person I am today both because of and in spite of my childhood. I refuse to blame my flaws on my parents, my brother, or anything else. I am my own person, and I must accept responsibility for my choices and my actions. But I do understand that there are aspects of me that are the way they are due to the life I lived in that time. And this leads me to my latest mental meandering.
Lately, I have spent quite a bit of time processing the minutiae of my early years, analyzing their effects, and seething over what I am realizing. I’ve used the term “broken” for years to describe those things about me that I know are not healthy or productive, or even that scary term…normal. While I do not want to use my past as any sort of excuse for behavior, I feel that recognition of those intricate layers of groundwork might help me to eventually find a work-around, even if no solution exists.
There are people in my life who object to my use of the word “broken” to describe myself. They see it as pejorative and final, and in some ways, they’re semantically correct in their assertions. But for me, I see it slightly differently. While there is absolutely a negative connotation to the word, and an implication of finality, there is also truth, and it’s there that we find honesty.
These things inside of me that I cannot fix are, indeed, broken. They hinder my ability to ever have a fully bonded, intimate relationship. There is a level of guardedness to which I will cling to my last breath; a metaphorical boundary behind which literally no one in my life has ever traversed, and never will. I simply don’t have the capability to allow it, and if I were to speak truthfully, wouldn’t try. (Which in itself adds another layer to the “broken”; I know. )
So in this irreparable destruction, this “brokenness”, how do I find peace and acceptance?
As broken as I may be, there is a beauty that is found there. Consider mosaics: some of the most amazing artistic pieces would never have been created without the shards of a once-whole object. What some throw away as worthless trash, someone else saw as potential. The shards will never again hold water, shelter the life of a plant, or serve food to family. But they can be repurposed into art that can do all of those things.
I will never be anything other than broken in a lot of ways. But it does not make me worthless, and that’s why I don’t have a problem with saying that particular truth.
It’s Quarter to Five, and this broken woman is emerging as a mosaic.
There were some amazing highs, such as the Professor and the Artist both receiving their Masters degrees, and the Ambassador landing an RA position for his senior year. I also did a little solo traveling; first to visit the Trainer for the Sakura Matsuri at the Brooklyn Botanic Gardens, and second to visit the Quilter and the Eagles Fan for the Stockley Gardens Art Festival and a local Greek Festival, along with Florentjin Hofman’s famous duck. Both trips did me a world of good, albeit in different ways. With the Trainer, I got to immerse myself in photography, along with playing with my blond bombshell puppies, and spend time with someone who means the world to me. With the Quilter and the Eagles Fan, the time was all about kicking back, laughing ourselves silly, drinking, playing games, and smooching a fuzzy headed cat.
There were also lows that knocked the wind out of me, such as the first anniversary of the Moore, OK tornado and having some really damaging information imparted to me (followed by confirmation from an outside source). I’m still dealing with the aftermath of that one, and working to separate myself from the situation. The effect on me was a little more than I expected, though, and I find myself spending more and more time in my head. It hasn’t been a great place to be, but maybe it’ll help me get where I need to go.
One thing I’m learning is that at this point in my life, there are always people who are going to hate me for one thing or another. Whether it’s my parenting methods, my open marriage, my sexuality, my disability, my sports team loyalties, my affinity for profanity, my warped sense of humor, or any of the myriad of things about me. I guess there just comes a time in which I no longer give a rat’s ass. I have given up stressing over being what each individual person I encounter needs me to be.
Now that it’s quarter to five, I am learning to appreciate myself for the person I am. I’m smart, bitchy, funny, creative, irreverent, devoted, snarky, protective, and above all, loyal. I am rewriting my shattered past into a new future; one in which my family is comprised of the people I choose and who choose me, and not by genealogical blood lines.
Part of that family is a small cadre of guys who are best friends with my Ambassador. He calls them “the Bros”. And every summer, our house becomes the Brotel, as I never know when I wake up how many of them will be passed out in various beds and couches around the house. I love them all, though, so I have no problem with this. They’re all sweet, polite boys, at least to me, which shows their intelligence! One of the Bros has been the Ambassador’s best friend since 7th grade. The Industrialist is one of the nicest young men I’ve met, and he has worked so hard to get where he wants to go. Having moved back to NC after being gone for 6 years, he’s going to live with us for the summer, and then move in with one of the other Bros to find a full time job. I’m glad to have him back, and really, what’s one more Boy living here?
I still need to get the rest of the way out of my head. It’s going to take some more time, but hopefully having the kids around will help. The Artist will be here for the better part of June, and the Professor is here until she finds a full time job as well. I love having them all here!
It’s summer, it’s sunny, and it’s Quarter to Five.