I was a fairly rebellious child.
I won’t pretend that I was a total nightmare or that I was even truly “bad,” but I absolutely felt the need to be the opposite of the majority and to try different things—to be different.
And I’m positive that my parents hated the clothes that I wore in high school—to be fair, looking back, I do too. (I grew up during the “grunge” period.) Still, I have the good fortune of not regretting nearly all of my actions. Quite honestly, I don’t believe in regrets. A total waste of time.
Yet now I’m a parent—a parent to an already head-strong small lady.
I’m thankful, though. I think I would almost be horrified for her to be anything else—not because anything else would be horrifying, but because I’m still a dominant enough personality that I’m not sure how that dynamic would work.
And I’m completely positive that I’ve fucked up my daughter for life. More, I’m positive that you’ve fucked your kids up too. Why? Because kids can always blame their parents and people can always play the victim. But don’t worry, I’m not convinced that either of us have done our kids a genuine disservice.
That’s not to downplay true victims and that’s not to ignore or negate the reality that children grow up in terrifyingly unfair situations.
Still, there’s always an opportunity to grow past being your victim-cast role and there’s always something to learn from your parents’ mistakes.
Example: I write. A lot. An awful lot. My daughter hates it. I’ve learned, essentially, to force my husband to do something else with her while I go to my bedroom and write; my fortress of solitude.
Will my daughter hate, when she grows up, that her mother needs more alone time than the average bear and that her mumsy’s overly active brain is often busy making thoughts drip through her finger tips? Oh, I have no doubt.
I absolutely could name several other instances that happen on a semi-regular basis, indelibly proving to my daughter’s future friends and lovers how unfortunate her upbringing indeed was. On the one hand, I’m happy to provide her with such delectable fodder—because I hope, too, that she knows better. I hope she knows that I truly did my best.
I. Did. Not. Just. Say. That. (Yes. I. Did.)
Oh my God—I am my mother. (Thankfully, I adore my mother—love you!)
Anyways, the point is that you’re guaranteed to eff your kids up, no matter what.
For at least a short period of time and whether they verbalize it or not, they’ll hate the clothes you wear, they’ll doubt the religion you raised them with (or without) and they’ll think that you could have done any number of things better because you almost certainly could have—and do you really want it any other way?
It’s normal for children to doubt their parents—it teaches them to be adults; dog-earing learned inner knowledge that will maybe be used if they’re parents themselves one day too.
Even as an older child I knew to be more frightened for those other kids who still thought perfection of their parents. (Tick, tick, tick I thought in my mind—thinking of their internal ticking time bomb.) Because it’s bound to happen. Isn’t it? Thinking your parents are awful or ignorant, or worse? (C’mon…if only for a milisecond in junior high.)
And maybe they are—worse. And I’m sorry. Sincerely—I mean that from the bottom of my heart—I’m sorry. I won’t pretend to be writing an abused-child tale about overcoming horrible circumstances.
Yet I won’t pretend that what I wrote earlier—what my mom always said to me—isn’t true: that parents do try their best.
Often, it’s not good enough. Sometimes, it’s more than unacceptable. Still others, it’s purely demonic. Regardless, they did the best they could, even if it hurt you—even if it scarred you—and until you recognize this and move forward, you are giving your own power away.
So, yes, I expect my daughter to recognize that Mommy wrote an awful lot and that this occasionally made her mad. I expect her, also, to be upset at a number of other things that I likely did that both pissed her off or made her feel less than—and here’s another secret: the thought of hurting my child breaks my heart—it tears it in half—and the worst part is that I know it’s inevitable; that I can never be her “perfect” parent—but the other half of me knows that if I were really picture “perfect,” my daughter wouldn’t become who she will be. Is that an excuse? No, it’s not. I try my damnedest to make sure that I’m doing the best that I can.
There, I said it again—I’m doing my best.
Is my best good enough? No? Alrighty then. Is your best good enough? No? Okay. Well, I’ll let you in on another little secret: playing the victim is a choice.
You cannot choose who victimizes you—or who changes your life with their actions—but you can choose how the direction of your life is affected by them.
You can choose to never forget (which I recommend because my unfortunately good memory leaves me no other option anyway) and you can choose to be responsible for your own actions and your own life.
And, no, I may not be looking forward to hearing from my daughter some of the things that I remember saying to my own mother (sorry, Mom), but I think I would seriously be more disturbed if she never questioned me at all.
Because that’s part of growing up and figuring out what your beliefs are, and what you want for your future and for your own future family. In short, it’s a huge part of understanding who you are.
And maybe it’s just the rebellious kid who still lives inside of me talking—you know, the one who endlessly embarrassed my parents with thrift-store finds from their own youthful years—but I’m eternally grateful that I’m enough of an individual that I questioned how I was raised and searched for what other options existed.
I can only hope that I, too, am able to parent my daughter well enough that she grows up to be stronger than thinking she has to merely conform to the mold that I inadvertently placed her in. More than this, I hope she knows that she is different and special and, yeah, maybe even fucked up in some ways.
Do I wish I was a “perfect” parent? Of course. But I’m not. And we’re all fucked up, in our own ways. All of us. The real importance lies in if we decide to embrace who we are and our experiences that shaped us, whether by our own will or not.
And bad situations don’t necessarily create bad people (or good ones for that matter), but resilient people are absolutely born from living through—and past—hardship.
“You don’t develop courage by being happy in your relationships everyday. You develop it by surviving difficult times and challenging adversity.”
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Ed: Bryonie Wise