Wednesday, January 14, 2009


I just finished reading a book about parenting. If I didn't think I could write a decent one, albeit a far funnier one, I would stop reading parenting books. This particular book has made me feel inadequate on so many levels I may have to go into therapy. Parenting isn't easy. It isn't fun or funny. I'm not naturally good at parenting. I need lots of books. The problem is, every time I read one, I realize just how bad I am and that there is no turning back. The deed is done. For better or worse my children are here and it's going to be my fault when they turn out to be axe murderers.

These feelings of inadequacy have made me pause and reflect alot on my own parents and the parents of my contemporaries as well as my friends who are in this parenting gig with me. Perhaps it is a sign of maturity, but I'm starting to feel sorry for my parents. Or maybe, instead of sympathy, I've finally learned the lesson of good old fashioned empathy? Maybe both? Believe me, I have done and still do on occasion plenty of trash talking about my parents. That's what 30 something parents of kids under 10 do right? We sit around and try to one up each other on the "well my childhood SUCKED and let me tell you why" scale. In the end analysis however, my parents were and are still good people. However misguided I think they are from time to time, I accept that I can neither change them, will them to change, or otherwise talk to them about why I think they are so crazy. My parents were generally true to their generation and that generation's problems. Life threw us, as a family, some curve balls that we took right in the kisser instead of hitting pop flyers into right field or letting them go right on by.

I have learned alot about my parents and I realize that they are fairly comfortable with the way I turned out--much more so than I am. It's not that I blame my shortcomings on them--well not many of them. I don't. After all, isn't the whole point of being a grown up taking ownership of your faults? It's just that I don't think my parents are very grown up. I often find them to be exasperating, overgrown children--both of them. Finding out how fallible your parents are is like finding out Santa, the Easter Bunny, and the Tooth Fairy aren't real all in the same moment. I don't know where I'm going with this analysis except to say, the "my job is done here" attitude coupled with "I don't have to explain myself to you"attitude coupled with the rest of the typical parent-grown child cliches wears thinner and thinner. Longevity is in my DNA on both sides of the family, so we're in for another 40 years of this stuff at least.

So I am both frustrated with my own fallicy and theirs at the same time, because deep down, way down somewhere I keep waiting for them to get better and by extension make me better. Newsflash, this is the best it's ever gonna get. I suppose they had that flash about me at some point. I have no doubt of their love for me. I've never ever doubted it for one milisecond. Discovering that the way I feel about my boys is the way they feel about me, is WIERD. WIERD. It's not that I can do no wrong--I've done and continue to do plenty. The thing is I can't reverse the feeling. I suppose that's because I'm not their parent, they are mine? I didn't choose to bring them into existence and to continue in that same vein, they aren't my creation. (Technically we're all God's creation, but He tends to give liberal license on earth.) That's perhaps an avenue to explore on another day with another therapist.

I guess I'm hoping that being a parent will make me a better daughter. I am hoping that at some point I become okay with who I am so that I become okay giving them orders about how and when and why to relate to my own children in particular ways. As one who rarely bucks trends or authority, laying down the law isn't particularly easy for me. Setting healthy boundaries with your parents is like getting a root canal. In fact, I find that I prefer to live in the pain of limbo and the unsaid rather than straight talk it. WHY is that? How will I ever set the right example for my sons if I can't even tell my parents--who love me unconditionally and for as long as I take a breath on this earth--what they need to hear most? What does this say about my parenting skills? Sheesh, I don't know.

Luckily for me, I am blessed with any number of friends who have these same thoughts. I can't tell you how often we all kick these questions around over drinks or dinner or long car rides. Maybe I should start collecting data. Maybe these are eternal questions that aren't meant to be answered only survived? If that were the case then parenthood would be something to be survived instead of lived. While I certainly have days where I'm hanging on instead of hanging in, I prefer to live my parenting instead of survive it. So I guess I keep reading those parenting books that give me advice on how to talk to my kids and form lasting relationships and create stable self-sufficient human beings and all. Maybe I'll write one of my own: "How to cope with your parents once you're grown" instead of "How to cope as a parent until they're grown."

Keep checking back. I'll let you know when I've figured it all out.

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