Monday, February 4, 2019

I cannot seem to stop being a mom more than anything else

Every day and every evening I tell myself "I have to write".  And then I don't.  I watch TV.  Play Facebook.   Read the paper or whatever is lying around.  I almost treat my blog as if it's homework!

Of course I am also often reflecting on life.  Mainly on parenting.

I know that it is hard becoming a practicing adult.  I am still trying to figure it out myself.    I know that Nick and I have tried as hard as we can to be "good" parents, and I know that we are.  What I have not really thought about is this; what is it like to have us as parents.

Many years ago I went to visit my dad and step mom in Arizona. My sister traveled with me and my five kids.   The kids ranged from a toddler to a 14 year old.   My father said he would take care of us.  I asked him to be specific, like, was he offering to pay for us to stay in a hotel.  He said yes, he was.

My sister stayed with in my dad's house and the kids and I stayed in a hotel.  My sister and I had hoped that we would be staying together, but that wasn't what happened.

It was a rough trip.   My kids were being "normal' stubborn kids. They argued with each other.  They refused to do some of the chores I asked them to help with.  They played with my step mother's stuffed Disney character toys which made her blow up demanding to know why they couldn't leave her things alone and play with their own toys. 

At one point my dad took me aside and said that I needed to learn to make the kids afraid of me so that they would obey.  Right- because that's what works?

The killer though was, when checking out of the hotel, there were a few long distance phone calls on the hotel bill.  I had called home a few times to let Nick know what we were up to.     When my dad got the receipt for the hotel, he told me that I owed him for the phone calls.  I thought he was kidding, but he was not.  So I paid him.  It was probably under twenty dollars.  But that's not the point.  I just felt somehow cheated and betrayed.

After getting home I wrote my father a long letter about the times he had let me down- like not paying my college tuition and  I am sure a load of other garbage that I had been carrying around.

The next time I saw my father and step mother was when they were visiting in Virginia.  My father referred to what he called "the revenge letter".  He asked "isn't there a point at which you stop blaming your parents?".  My stepmother piped up and said "no, never".

I did have a lot of pain and hurt that I carried over from my childhood.  I am sure I still do.   And, in writing that, I was expressing myself as a hurt child.    I don't think I realized that I could have hurt my father while doing it.

Fast forward to now.  As a mother I have always questioned myself and doubted myself a lot. I know that I was really good in many ways.  But I also know that I had and have many human failings.

And so now I am on the receiving end of the complaints about how I didn't do this or that.  I "should have" made this one work harder and that one didn't think that there would be any student debt.   And they blame me (and Nick).  It hurts.  But, even though all of my children are adults now, they are still my "children" and I think that the feelings an adult "child" has toward a parent can be confusing and confounding.

It is hard, when you can see, as an adult, the things that your parents did wrong.  And it is easy and convenient to lay blame.  I know.  I have done enough of it myself.

But, I found myself doing something I never thought I would do.  Instead of acknowledging the hurt and confusion I came back with "oh yeah, let me tell you how hard my life was".   Not helpful.  no way to grow in a relationship with youngish adults who still need you to hold the back of the bike sometimes so they don't fall off.

I want to be strong and reasonable and supportive.  I want to treat my children like the adults they are.   Instead I did my own version of "well, I had to walk 10 miles in the snow to and from school".  That's exactly what I did.

There are so many books and so much advice on how to give birth.  How to parent.  How to discipline (though I disagree with most of them).

But how to parent your adult offspring?   Not sure.  If there are books, I probably wouldn't agree with much of what they say anyway.

We have always tried to be attachment parents when the kids were babies and kids at home.  We often did not do what other people thought we should do.  I tried to be the :"tough love" parents a few times and it always backfired and ended up with too much confusion and hurt feelings on all sides.

I miss my kids.  I love them so much.  But I am fine with the empty nest too.  Nick and I are happy to be able to sit and watch TV or waste time however we want.  But, we are still fallible, sometimes just plain dumb, people.

Yes, we are.  I am.

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