I know this is a natural process, designed by Hashem in his infinite wisdom… but I am having a really hard time reconciling myself with the processes that, in fourteen or fifteen VERY short years, take you from never wanting to be apart from your precious pudgy angel to having a hard time being in the same room together.
Part of it is having little kids and big kids at the same time. Sometimes, there is SO much rivalry between them, like Elisheva will tell me I am doing everything with the littles. Sure, I will spend an occasional afternoon running with her to buy boots or school supplies, but YES, the littles are very labour-intensive.
She’d go NUTS if I spent as much time with her as I do with them; I have to supervise every single thing they do so they don’t swallow bathroom cleanser or colour the walls with nail polish.
But she knows that’s one of my BIG RED buttons, so she keeps on pushing it. Maybe she sees me flinch when she says it. The really effective mamas never flinch; they just suck it up.
Actually, I did tell her once, when I thought I could get away with it, “you know, that’s a really manipulative thing to say.” The first time I said it, she literally stopped, kind of smiled, and walked away. Totally defused. She knew it; I knew it.
It’s a shame you can’t use a good line like that more than once (sadly, I’ve tried, so I know).
What keeps me going through all of this is having seen, with friends who have been here and done this, that they come back… you may not exactly get your pudgy angel back, but you get something else – something far more valuable, at the end of this cruel and merciless process: you get a healthy, grown-up, parent-child relationship.
Assuming you don’t mess it up completely along the way, that is.
Or maybe even if you do. I always assumed my own parents had messed it up completely, that we would never have anything resembling a healthy relationship. Because it was SO awful for SO many years. I was sure we would never find a way to put the pieces back together and have a kinda-normal family.
And it’s true. Nobody ever even attempted to put the pieces back together. Nobody apologized for the stuff they did wrong, the stuff that was totally CRAZY, the stuff no children should have to live through.
My mother once mocked one of my attempts to speak about the past and said, “if you’re an adult and you’re still blaming your parents, there’s something wrong with you.” Or something like that. That’s always been her line.
But when she was sad or mad or angry, she always blamed her parents. One time, she was sobbing, crying, saying nothing she did was ever good enough for us. It was just me and my little brother there at the time, but I knew she was shouting it for all the times her parents belittled her because she was the useless little sister to her three giant, skilled and accomplished big brothers.
She played the piano, she raised a family… they went to law school; well, most of them did. Okay, two. I would hate to have been the son who didn’t live up to their expectations. As for her, they had no expectations. Oh, beyond “girls from a family like ours don’t go into nursing.”
So she screamed at us, and my father hid or appeased her or blamed us… and who wouldn’t? She was probably a perfectly normal, nice person before she had kids. And now: perfectly normal, nice person. I totally mean that, with all my heart: my mother is one of the nicest people I know, and not only that, she is very skilful at being nice.
Me, I’m a klutz; my good intentions fall apart all the time. My mother sees things through. And she is nice to me, to us, in ways I am too indebted to even mention here.
Jeremy was surprised when he first met my parents. He pulled me aside and said, “I’m surprised your mother looks like a normal person.” He’d been expecting a monster, of course, and she isn’t a monster. But when you’re little and someone is big and unpredictable, they’re a monster.
Do my kids see a monster when they look into my eyes?
Do my big kids think I hate them? I want them to see love, I hope they can see love; not just that I’m trying to love them, which is how it feels most days. Who wants to feel like it’s a huge effort to muster even a little LOVE in their direction?
Anyway, in an effort to force the sentiment a little, even though the sentiment really is there, or perhaps in an effort to SHOW the sentiment a little more, I have resolved to help YM feel happier and more loved. This is NOT an easy task, by any means.
The three things I have thought of so far are:
1) Talk to him and make sure he has things to look forward to every day. Since the only thing he truly loves is computer time, that means me giving up this chair between 4:30 and 5:00 every day if he comes home on time for school.
2) Driving him to school even if it’s brutally early (he has to be there at 7:30). I mean, sure it’s brutally early for US, but doesn’t that mean it’s brutally early for him, too? And he’s just a kid. I have been driving Elisheva about once a week, on Ted’s late day or day off, so I figure he should get rides too. That said, last night was so late I absolutely could NOT do it this morning. Luckily, Ted’s a better parent than I am (I have known that all along), so he got up and hauled YM to school in the freezing dark morning.
3) Touching. I think I’ve blogged about this before, but 4:30 is approaching, so I don’t want to waste time looking it up. I want to be the kind of person who is comfortable touching hugging kissing her kids – their whole lives, not just when they are babies. It is easy to find every inch of a baby’s body completely adorable and loveable. A teenager? Not so much. They are bony and bumpy and usually bristly and running away from your feeble attempts at touchy-feely stuff.
So I think I’ll just grab on and hold on for all it’s worth until they’re big and I’m old and we will all be friends together.
Somehow, with my mother, with my parents, we got from angry and hate and pokey and running away to happy love proud hugs kisses… and I cannot for the life of me remember what came in between. No negotiations; no reconciliation or handshake or epiphanic moment when we came together and said, “let’s just bury this old thing.”
I guess it buried itself.
Sometimes, I think all of it never happened, but it did. And I am SO grateful, because I know and I have seen often now that there are parents – why does it seem like especially the Jewish ones? – who can never let it go, never let stuff bury itself so they can just get ON with living together.
My parents were not monsters, but they were not good and kind and gentle with us, the way I think parents should be. I guess it’s just up to me, to be that kind of parent.
But if my parents – good people, both – couldn’t do it, how the heck am I (a well-intentioned near-total screwup) supposed to? Sigh.
I’ll just grab on; that’s all. Unless what I’m supposed to be doing is letting go. Maybe that’s the good-parent thing to do.
I’ll just keep asking Hashem… and hopefully we’ll all get through it okay.