Mentally Parental

I don’t often write about another large part of my journey, that of being a parent. But the topic is pleading with me so fine, here I go.

Our kids are the first in the family to be born close enough to each other that they suffer and love being playmate siblings. My husband’s sister was seven years younger and I was an only child. My Dad was ten years older than his sisters, my in-laws had large gaps or like me, were the solitary kid. Only my Mum had a brother with whom she was close but that was mostly a fear bonding created by what I can only assume was a violent household.

We have one of each:  A boy and a girl and I love them both with my whole heart and more. As Big Nut Brown Hare says, “…to the moon and back.”

Our daughter is a physical, emotional and spiritual manifestation of all that my husband and I could ever have wanted in ourselves. She has a strong sense of who she is and what she can do. What she cannot do, she will try and try to achieve until she gets it. She is focused, self-assured and confident.

Our son is the opposite; he has a low self-esteem, is reluctant to try or do most anything new, physically or mentally. And when he is made to, it’s the end of the world. He gives up easily, has admitted that he doesn’t believe in himself (but I’m not sure he really understands what that means.) Last night, after a particularly trying day, he wrote a note and stuck it to his bedroom door:

“There is room for 1 person in this room because no-one loves Sean”

The thing is, he is so loved. And I see what he doesn’t: creativity, a quick mind, a visual learner. He is capable of so much more than he realizes and we flounder to help him understand. I am pretty good at motivating myself and seeing the benefit of affirmations, quotes and the like; they nudge the soul to realize its potential. But when I’m with my son and I’m attempting a heart-to-heart, all those wonderful phrases disappear. It’s baffling. He’s uncomfortable with praise and lord knows, we are not the kind of parents to go overboard with it. We give praise where it is due, and guidance as best we can.

Our son is the culmination of the parts of my husband and I that, when we look back on our lives, we feel we could have changed. We were both drifters, with undefined goals, but unlike our son, the springboards that we jumped from into our own futures were not so well-cared for. We see that in our histories, we have hindsight, and like so many other parents now and before, we have a mental chime that reminds us not to be like our mothers and fathers. We seek to show more affection, feel more connected, give the kids more avenues to choose from. Provide them a stable, nurturing foundation with which to carry solidly down the road.

So whaddya do when you have one of each? One who you know is aware of the others’ ease of accomplishing, of figuring out, of taking on a challenge and getting it right? How do you raise him up without having him step on a pedestal, content with that much? Fearing going any higher because to do so could mean failure? Do you conceal your frustration, temper your anger, speak sweetly? Or do you let it fly after you’ve encouraged, cajoled and invited, then moved onto ultimatums, delivering news of consequences should the responsibility not be carried out? Do you expose the honesty when you’ve hit that wall? And for what cause, for what benefit? Shouting and yelling serves only to confuse and reflect your anger back to you, but when all else has failed, it becomes the last raw option.

Certainly we don’t give up. We continue the back and forth, push and pull, throw in the towel, pick up the gauntlet that is parenting. Keep on loving and keep on showing love. Carry on guiding, making them do the things they don’t want to because in the end, it’s more than we had. Like the familial chain it is, it will go on and on.

There. God, this has been a long drawn-out affair which proves to me that being a parent is the hardest job; it’s a lifetime commitment with deep emotional roots. The manual is blank and confusing with every page, and you can’t skip ahead. You can flick backwards but the things you applied a few chapters ago may not work in the present.

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Daily Prompt: The Road Less Traveled

Daily Prompt: The Road Less Traveled

Pinpoint a moment in your past where you had to make a big decision. Write about that other alternate life that could have unfolded.

If I had not decided then and with full certainty that I would return to America, I would have continued to struggle in all areas of my life.  It was August 1998 and I was in a state of spiraling decline.  Debt collectors were calling, relationships were plenty and short-lived and my job was hanging by a thread (not through any fault of my own; it was a company-wide threat).  Too many times, I was brought to my knees on the living room floor, sobbing; wracked with fear, shame, sorrow, loneliness and confusion at the age of twenty-eight, feeling as though I had no-one to turn to.

If I had not changed my life path so radically, I would have been forced to search for another job in another office with another keyboard to tap at.  No doubt I would have stepped into another ill-advised romance with some man onto whom I thought I could pin my hopes and dreams.  My pay would have been far less than my previous job and so I would have had to foreclose on my lovely new flat and move to a bedsit.  My car was old and I would not have been able to afford to get it fixed (it needed a lot of work) nor would I have had the money to buy a new used one.  But, public transport in England is highly populated so taking buses would not have been a problem.  I had a lot of credit card debt so bankruptcy might have still been a viable option unless I could have found a way to pay them off gradually.  However I lacked discipline and clarity and would have taken the easy route without learning any sort of lesson at all.

I do not think I would have been content.  And likely would not have quit smoking even though I certainly couldn’t afford it.  I might’ve splurged with the occasional batch of weed or if it wasn’t available, I would have pushed all of my problems to a remote corner of the mind with alcohol.  Would I have married and had other children?  That’s a tough one to envision.  I don’t believe I would’ve met anyone that shared a mutual level of sustained attraction.  However if I did, it wouldn’t have lasted and it’s likely that I’d have one child and become a single parent.

It would have been a tough life.

Fifteen years later I see through wiser eyes that I did have friends that would have supported me but I was very much withdrawn and in such a dark place that being alone and desperate felt like home.  And no matter if they did help in one way or another, it was destined that I sink down as far as possible in order to gasp up through the surface with a life-changing decision.  And it was the best one I have ever made.

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