I'm not proud of some of my parenting. I can be lazy; I'm not a tiger mother who pushes the children to excel (Iris would have a lot more awards and honors to put on her high school applications if I'd tiger mothered her. "I am my own tiger mother," she remarked primly last year). The worst part of being my child is that I struggle with depression, and I know there is a toll this takes on Iris and Lolz. There's also the embarrassment (poor Lolz had to cringe when I picked her up at school this month sporting crazy-beautiful green and blue extensions and braids I'd acquired for Burning Man).
The Sober Husband and I often remark upon things which happen in our home which could make good discussion topics for future therapy. But while I am far from perfect and am creating plenty of Therapy Topics, I am also amaze me no end, given my new insights as a parent myself, at how so many of my own Therapy Topics come from my parents attacking me for things a normal parent would have been proud of:
Having a gym membership and working out: my parents thought that was the stupidest idea possible and harangued me endlessly about it. Evidently I should have just found chores to do around the house for exercise; anything else was immoral. My sister kept saying that she and my mother knew the only reason I did it was to try to pick up guys. Even though I said, "If that was the case, I'd have quit a long time ago. I haven't had a single date from it", I had to keep hearing that.
Having a reasonable number of sequential relationships in college: my parents were high school sweethearts and married young. Evidently doing anything else means you're a damned skank. "You're like a butterfly! You need to stop it. You're going to get AIDS."
Being proud of having won a National Merit Scholarship: my father said, "You think you're so special. Well, there's someone like this in every town. You'll find out when you go to college that you are just ordinary."
Settling down with a special boyfriend (my first husband): my father told me, "He's too tall." (He was 6'4"). My father told my ex, "You know, you can do better than her."
Going to a movie with a friend: "You left your sister at home all alone! You should be ashamed! Your poor sister!" My sister was older than me, a 20 year-old college student.
My sister got into a traffic accident: "It was all your fault. I hope you learned that the passenger has a responsibility to the driver." This is worse because I'd gotten out of the hospital the day before with meningitis, was still in a lot of pain and on heavy narcotics.
That leads nicely to ...
being so sick with meningitis that I needed to go to a hospital. "Obviously you have no faith, or you'd be healed by now."
My mother had a weird way of running me down to other people and being proud of it. I worked at a jewelry store as a teen, and she ostentatiously thanked my boss in front of me for helping me pick up accessories to wear to my graduation from high school: "Thanks for finding her what to get. You know she would have gotten something awful on her own (theatrical shudder). You know her taste."
My first fiance told me once he said to her, "Wow, she made me the most amazing lasagna last night," and he was freaked out when she laughed mockingly and said, "You're going to get sick of that. It's the only thing she knows how to cook."
As a parent myself, I can't understand this at all. Most parents like it if their child excels at something and want their child to be fabulous. Mine seemed hell-bent on proving that I was inferior and squashing whatever confidence I'd managed to cobble together. Is it a wonder as an adult I finally limped into therapy?
I try to keep the view that people can only tell you about themselves. I'd love to know how they became that way (nature vs nuture etc). To me they sound threatened by you somehow. Imagine what it must be like to live in their skin. Imagine that maybe the way you were raised gave texture and depth to the person you were going to be anyway.
Or I could just be full of shit...
The real wonder is that as an adult you were even able to stand upright, let alone stumble, under the weight of all that crap! Inconceivable how parents could do that to a child. Without a doubt in the world, you have surpassed your own parenting, Carole. Your kids will eventually understand and appreciate the monumental effort it has taken you to function so effectively in your current role. Well done, you!
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