Thursday, June 12, 2008

The only thing you can do is just the best you know how ...

I harbor a few resentments about my childhood.

Not about the material things. God knows, I had a fairly privileged life with opportunities that many people would kill for.

But I don't like the way I was parented. I don't like the way I am parented TO THIS VERY DAY.

Let us back up.

I was the quintessential "not-good-enough kid."

And yet I was the epitome of goody-two-shoes and nerdy bookworm.

A paradox? Only if you're not my parents. If I got an A-, why wasn't it an A? If I got an A, why wasn't it an A+? My achievements were awesome, in my opinion, but they never seemed to quite measure up to them.

And every time I disobeyed or did something they disapproved of, the consequence (among other things) was a lecture that dredged up a laundry list of every previous egregious act. I HATE that.

As an adult, I heard from other sources that my parents were ALWAYS bragging about me. But you couldn't prove it by what I heard at home.

Anyway, they operated as parents from a perspective of fear of disappointment and financial strings. As I grew into adulthood, everything was somehow tied to money. If I didn't toe the line, there were financial ramifications. If I strayed somehow, they would THREATEN to withhold dollars to keep in me in line. And at certain points in my life, the financial assistance was what kept me afloat. But the emotional strings attached ... oh my.

I'm not proud of this, I assure you, and I am trying not to sound like whiny brat here because, really, I wanted for nothing as a child -- except my parents' approval.

And yet ...

I did not go through my "rebellious" years until I was in my 20s and picked a mate who they disapproved of. I dug in my heels. Nasty words were spoken.

They were ultimately right, as I divorced him 14 years and three sons later. And they took me back into the fold.

Lather, rinse and repeat a couple years after that, when I again went admittedly wrong with my choices.

Five years and financial ruin proved them right once more. And again they took me back, though this time, I never have felt 100 percent about it -- and they don't miss many opportunities to remind me of my faults and transgressions.

They have told me point-blank that they believe me to be a lousy mother -- yes, I mean recently. They misinterpret my motives at every turn, assigning reasons to my actions that are nowhere near reality but fit a twisted view of the not-good-enough kid.

And yet, I really do know they love me. Otherwise, they would never have "taken me back" after the bad-marriage years when I was not always a nice daughter.

Today, I stand as the mother of grown and growing children.

Some of them are easy (sorta) and some, not so much.

And I take from my parents an important lesson.

When the Drama King spoke to me in a despicable manner 2 1/2 years ago and I threw him out of my house -- at 9 p.m. on Christmas night -- I burned with anger.




And as time passed, I forgave, eventually bringing my prodigal son back into the family.

As I had been taught.

Why do I bring this up today? Honestly, I don't know.

I do know that Father's Day is Sunday, and this will bring the requisite dinner with the parental units. And I will cringe and hope that cruel or uncomfortable words will not be sent my way this time.

But at the same time, I know from my many years of being a mom that most of the time, you're just winging it and doing the best you can.

So I remind myself that my own parents were -- and are -- doing the best they can.

I can wish they had known better, but I cannot expect any more from them than my children can expect from me.


Huckdoll said...

Wow...that was a loaded post and one which bits and pieces could have been written by me - about my mom, at least.

I don't really know what else to say. Even from your blog, I get the feeling that you're an amazing mother - one who I'd leave my own children with in a heartbeat. Even my own parents put down my mothering skills from time to time and it kills me, but I realize it's only because I'm a) doing it so differently and b) they love their grandchildren so much and want what's best.

I don't know, this was probably the most random comment you'll get on this post...sorry!

Crazed Mom said...

Oh Janet, HUGS! Our parents did not have the resources we do. My parents compared my older brother and I. We coped by being mediocre and never living up to our potentials. I know in my heart my mother did the best she could. She's been gone for 11 years and I miss her daily. We never viewed the world from the same POV but when she visited and my boys were 2.5 and 5 and she told me she could not believe how patient I was, I almost fainted. And it meant the world to me. She was impressed by MY parenting skills. She died at the age of 64 when we were really beginning to become friends. So many things I never got the chance to say. OK this wasn't supposed to be about me. Sorry.

My point is I am sure they think they are doing their best and cannot comprehend how certain comments make you feel. It's a generational thing and I blame dr. Spock as he was the ONLY children's guide. You are good enough. You are the best mother you can be. And I know that is great.

Take it with a grain of salt, deep breathing amd perhaps a glass of wine. You can let me know if I made any sense...

The Laundress said...

Oh woman, I'm sorry you had such shitty things happen to you.

But I know you have learned from them all...proof you are such a great mom today!!!!!

I know my daughter will question my parenting skills and decisions (as I do myself), but I do hope she knows I love her with every bit that I am...

I have no clue what I'm doing here. I'm sure your parents didn't either. Doesn't make up for how they parented, but love is always there.


Immoral Matriarch said...

I can relate, a bit. I also don't really know what to say, anything would seem contrite, but I think you're right on one point - you can only do the best you can as a parent. That's all anyone could expect from you.

Junebug said...

"I'm doing the best I can" is a line that I have used and thought many times. I've never been here before in many of the situations of parenthood and I try, yes, I put out effort to do it right. Only time will tell. I hope my children can remember that. I think they will. I hope your weekend visit goes well. My mother has always played the guilt game with me. She and my father divorced the year I got married. So visiting with him has always been difficult. He's gone now and I wish I had visited with him more and not let guilt keep me from it.

nikki said...

My dad and I are on half assed terms. My only hope is that I can look at how I was parented, take the (few) good and the bad, and learn how to parent Aaron better.

adalex72 said...

Your story sounds very similar to mine, I can relate to everything you say. My mother was always the one to 'take me back', but she has passed away now, and the rest of the family still hold resentment against me. I can only hope and pray that through my adversity I come through stronger.

HRH said...

If only we were all wise.

I like that Maya Angelou quote about doing better when you know better.

Cringeworthy dinner=Monday blog fodder.

LceeL said...

You know, they probably raised you in the same manner THEY were raised. It never ceases to amaze me - how much our parents influence what we do and become. Just know that you are a better person for what they put you through. A better Mom than you otherwise might have been.

Kaytabug said...

You are oh so right that we all are just doing the best we know how. How wonderful that you can look at the way you were parented as your parents just doing the best they knew... Damn you are so wise! To be able to look at it that way...I am in awe.

I think to some extent we parent the way we were parented until we find a better/different way to parent. Like Nikki said We try to take the good and filter out the bad. Every generation of parents tries to be better parents than the previous, lets hope that continues with our kids.

HUGS to you, I hope the dinner goes smoothly.

Janet said...

My goodness. It seems like they could take a look at your great kids and see that you're not a lousy mother. Or at least have the grace and be ADULT enough to not talk about it. My childhood was similar in that I was expected to get perfect grades etc., but I was never encouraged to follow my instincts or pursue the things that interested me. So I rebelled in my 20s as well. Fortunately, I did not marry any of the abusive losers (only because they didn't ask, not because I was smart about it), but the one I did ended up marrying was so subtly abusive I was the only one to notice, and when I divorced him, I was NOT welcomed back into the fold. Mom did, but my aunt and uncle STILL initiate contact with that man. My grandmother finally wised up to what he was doing (15 years later). On one hand they say, "We only want you to be happy." But they never finish the sentence: "As long as it's what we want you to do."
I just hope I don't do that with my kids.

Sarah said...

I was also the "not-good-enough" child. To this day my parents and my relationship is strained. We go through waves of good with altnernating parents, but it is very strained and I feel like I'm always under "the eye" while my perfect brother can do no wrong.

I hope you and I, and all not good enough kids are able to find peace with ourselves!!

Pamela Kramer said...

Ahhhhh it's like you wrote this post for me! I've got mega drama with my daughter. I fall into some of those patterns you mentioned. I think my issue is that I feel that I have done better than my own mother and therefore expect different results. I think I'm having a hard time wrapping my brain around letting go of these great expectations that I had for her. I'm all about making mistakes and learning from them. She just keeps making the same ones over and over and over. She too has the boyfriend we don't like. She's digging in her heels. I feel like I must of been a really horrible daughter because Karma is working a number on me. I'm glad you wrote this post and I hope more parents read it. Sometimes we just lose site of what we are doing even when we have the best intentions. We are in the avoid each other stage and it's really unpleasant but necessary right now. said...

This is so like my hubby's parents. I'm sorry dear. You know I heart you. And, anyone who has the fortitude to remove her kids from not nice dad (#2), can forgive all transgressions, and is still able to laugh with her children is a DAMN fine mother. If you parents think your parenting is bad, I might take that as a compliment?

Bren said...

Big hugs to you, Janet! Hope the weekend goes well for you. Keep in mind that you ARE a good mother regardless of what they think.

Formerly Fun said...

Reminds me of one of my all time favorite quotes:

"you do what you know and when you know better you do better"

And yet sometimes I get frustrated about my own upbringing for two big reasons. One, now that I have kids, I can't believe some of the choices my parents made.

Granted they were really young but they did things that I wouldn't even think about with my kids.

Two, I have worked really hard to rise above my past and not carry the same hangups, insecurites and unhealthy behavior into the way I raise my kids and yet, every now and then stuff comes up and I feel like I am a product of those parents no matter how much I intellectualize things now, I'm still like them in someways I wish I wasn't.

It's hard, there's nothing like children to shine a light on the things you need to work on right? But your right, even though I shake my head sometimes with regard to my own parents, I have a greater empathy for them now that I have my own kids.

That Chick Over There said...

I could written parts of this myself.


Molly said...

Even though things were not and maybe are not rosy, your post sounds like you have some to grips with the reality of who your parents are. Additionally and more impotantly, you have come to to realization of who you are at an earlier age than your parents. We are all doing the best that we can for a prticular time and space. With all of this in mind, I hope the best for you and your family on this holiday.

Robinella said...

"So I remind myself that my own parents were -- and are -- doing the best they can."

Such an important point and one I try to remind myself about everyday - pertaining to MY parenting.

Great post to think about.

Janet said...

Great post.

I particularly liked this reminder:

"'re just winging it and doing the best you can."

It smacks of forgiveness and grace.

Laurie of the Seven Stories said...

Janet- can relate. Same type of upbringing- know all about financial stings,and also about the endearing love of sometimes misguided parents.
Am also a mom of five, and have seen, firsthand, too how easy it is to make mistakes.
Have you ever read the book, You can heal your life? If not, you should.It's great and talks about all of this.

Beckie said...

This post certainly gave me some things to think about my own parenting style.

I'm always so busy whining on Mother's/Father's Day because mine are both gone - I need to remember it wasn't all perfect when they were here.

Good Post - thanks for sharing.

karisma said...

Hugs my dear! You are a gorgeous human being! Just say Happy Fathers day and if they are mean to you walk away! You have to feel sorry for people like that! I think some people are just not in touch with their feelings, they simply don't know how to feel at all. Whats amazing is that you have the sense to see it for what it is! They are doing the best that they know how to do! And you are a true Sweetheart! A definite A+ to me!


Marmarbug said...

I am so sorry that you had to go through that. My brother dealt with that a lot growing up. I experience it more now as a n adult. I can never "do enough". And i seem to be the only child that is not asking for money help and am TOTALLY on my own.
Sucks big balls.
I am going to try so hard to never let it affect Bean.
Your a great person. We all make mistakes in life but it seems to me that you did make several goo things in life, such as those kids.
Remember you are a great person!

Jenny, the Bloggess said...

If I were there right now I would give you such a hug.

PS. Featured on Good Mom/Bad Mom on the Houston Chronicle.

Janet said...

"So I remind myself that my own parents were -- and are -- doing the best they can."

That's the best we can do, really.

Pamela said...

If you knew how often I wish I could have a second chance-- a do over!

And I always think about the things left unsaid between me and my mom. I know she made mistakes -- I have forgiven her.

I hope my kids eventually forgive me mine.

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