Oh Issues! Oh Guilt! Where to start?! What to reveal? There is a part of me that feels that to write honestly on this prompt is a sort of betrayal; treachery to my family and the unspoken rule regarding Our Business. My parents are not bad people. An odd couple, for sure, and co-dependent in equal measure, each doing his/her part to allow the other indulgence in his/her respective vices, but not bad…certainly not vindictive or morally corrupt. They’re just flawed human beings and as such, I have no shortage of things that I would approach differently.
You should know, Dear Reader (and many of you already do) that I am no fan of loin fruit. My distaste gently mellows with age, and I’m certainly not as opposed to shooting a warm bag of Jell-O out of my vagina as I once was, but there’s a certain amount of commitment involved in child-rearing that I’m loathe to take on, especially considering the No Returns policy and the teenage years. I used to like to say that kids annoyed me and that they were all snotty, bacteria-breeding parasites. It was kind of my thing. But as years wear on and I find myself smack in the middle of a demographic defined by Baby Fervor, I realize that I’m not so much a critic of the babes themselves as I am of BAD PARENTS. I tell you that not to judge PARENTS (which I do freely and without apology, by the way) but to tell you THIS:
I’m scared that I would be a Bad Parent: That I don’t have what it takes to change in myself the one and most important thing I would have my Hypothetical Children (a boy and a girl, close in age, perhaps twins) experience differently than me.
That they get to BE children. That I, their mother, am certainly, and firmly, able and equipped to do the job, and that nothing (NOTHING) has anything close to that capacity to stand in the way. That my loves, my distractions, my jobs, my ISSUES are all a distant second to doing everything necessary to assure them to THEIR MARROW that they are CARED for.
I always had what I needed as a kid. I wasn’t neglected or starved, but I did grow up identifying and knowingly compensating for each of my parents’ emotional inabilities. My father, a kind, patient and supremely masochistic man met and fell in love with my beautiful, whip-smart and scathingly scarred mother almost 40 years ago. His driving need to be loved and not abandoned gelled well with her need to feel superior and they forged a marriage on an unspoken agreement that he would love her and hold her above all else as long as she would never leave, and she would never leave as long as he was willing to remain suppliant to her every harangue.
I was raised, you see, feeling bad for the way my mother treated my father, and so, grinning and bearing her treatment of me and excusing his refusal to disallow her abuse. From a very young age, my father was not my father, you see, but a peer, a partner in misery. We worked together to maintain the delicate balance of my mother’s mercurial moods, and for him, I forgave her sins, knowingly only that some days, he had it worse.
Those relationships evolved as such things are wont to, and I became more and more a caretaker, praying for soft seas and only silently steaming against a woman who couldn’t seem to keep her hands off a vodka bottle or little pink pills or me. For years, it was he and I against her, and only recently have I realized that it was never really my side he was on, but hers. That each time he apologized for her or made an excuse or asked me to tough it out, he left a scar the same size of the ones she left with her words or metal spoons.
Their feelings and hurts and relationship were always more important than my emotional, and oftentimes physical, well-being.
And so my railing against screaming babies and outspoken toddlers has much less to do with annoyance. That’s just the blanket I cover everything in. Underneath it, I turn on my flashlight, and survey the scars dealt me by each parent. I’m painfully doubtful of my own abilities to overcome them, that my children, those dark-eyed twins, never have to run barefoot over them on tip-toe, careful of an unseen and treacherous balance.