Sunday, April 30, 2017


A big crappy chunk of parenting is not not being yourself but accessing another version of yourself, a hard-ass management version. Inevitably, it's necessary. Because raising adults (as opposed to raising children) is sometimes grueling yet critical both for personal well-being and society. Raising adults is super annoying too. And frustrating. Inevitably, there will be hard conversations. There will be lines drawn in the sand. And crossed. And crossed again.

Yet there is also compromise and negotiation and forgiveness too, all of which may feel painful for everyone involved. And of course it's sunnier too: there are birthday parties and vacations and board-game arguments to laugh about (eventually) and a million other funny-tender-soft moments knitted into a fabric more valuable than its design.

But sometimes it was so hard.

Sometimes I would step out of myself and watch us all dysfunction. We were trying to say hear me and listen to me. So were they. And I knew it wasn't working for any of us. Sometimes because what they said or did was so shockingly stupid. And sometimes because we were so confused about what to do. I would hear myself lecturing my teens and bubbling just underneath my frustration was
  1. my irrational fears.
  2. a startling cynicism.
  3. that muffled nonsense Charlie Brown adult noise.
But let's be honest. My main point was this: I love you. I love you enough and you are important enough that I won't give up and I won't give in even though I soooooooooo want to. Truth: I did give up a few times; no parent gets through this parenting gig without regrets. If only the big picture, the long term perspective, were available when you need a lifeline.

Back then I wondered sometimes if my teens would ever really know me as anything but the asshole who napalmed their hastily defined fun. Would they ever realize I didn't enjoy tearing down that rickety scaffolding they called teenaged life goals? Would they ever be able to acknowledge that my heart was in the right place? Damaged but still beating, not so defiant anymore.

And then it's YEARS later and I forgot many of these events and yet something still lingered for a long time, sort of a melancholy, an ache. I did not dwell on it because I know that shame kills, both the giver and the receiver. And then one morning, my daughter (who lived in a University dorm 48 hours away at the time) texted me because she heard bagpipes, and thought of me.

What?! Me? She remembered I love bagpipes? I don't know how to tell you what that felt like.

Several years later now, our family functions again. There's more to learn, but the past is the past. My children made me a better man. I learned my lessons, so did they. Once again, we connect, we celebrate, we endeavor to become who we dream to be. It's a privilege many don't have. I'm not so naive anymore: I know there will be hard times again. Yet a tender core survived. I don't know where I read it: "thick skin like a rhinoceros, tender heart like a lamb."


Mel said...

This is so on point. I could write a blog post in response to this blog post but I will leave it at total agreement and looking forward to when my adult child recalls something about me, the human behind the mother.

Debra She Who Seeks said...

I'm not a parent so I have no personal experience from that point of view. But I am a daughter so I remember how it feels to realize that parents are humans too, just like us, with their own likes, dislikes, fears, hopes and dreams. It's a momentous epiphany.

Molly said...

Ooooo yes, lovely words - all true.
'a fabric more valuable than its design' - beautiful.
I also like Debra's comment - a momentous epiphany' - I've had that about my parents, looking forward to the girls having it about me!

jenny_o said...

It may be that there will NOT be hard times again. Once kids grow up, if things become peaceful I believe they are likely to remain peaceful. After kids realize their parents are people, they don't just forget that. And, yes, we all have parenting regrets. But so will our kids, if they have children!

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