Monday, October 11, 2010
Parenting: Sometimes I'm Just No Good At This
"You know what Hannah said? She said that she just uses a meat grinder to process her zucchini and then she freezes it like that."
"She's my friend on the internet."
"Does she know who you are?"
What I have found in the internet is a community of women who are very similar to me. They homeschool, garden, can, craft, take pictures, and want to do their best at loving their kids. They just seem a lot better at that last part than I am. Admittedly just about all of these mothers have stated somewhere on their blog that they are intentionally leaving out aspects of their lives that they don't want to focus on. There are raised voices, tears and impatient moments, but these are not the moments to be reveled in and are left by the wayside.
I have a hard time with parenting (what seems like to me) most of the time. I have not-so-proud-moments more frequently than I would like to admit. I worry a fair amount about messing the kids up or missing my chance to give them the mother I thought I would be giving them.
You see, I've thought about "Jannelle the Mother" for a long time. Way before I was ever in a position to have kids I imagined the little dears, but more than them I imagined me. I imagined the things I would do with them, the way I would listen to them, the patience I would have, the hugs I would offer, the appreciation and interest I would take in them.
I fixated on this future dream mostly to heal the part of me that didn't get the things I felt I needed in my own relationship with my mom. We had a rough time when I was younger. We didn't talk for a long time after I left home. In the end, things were so bad that I had forgotten a lot of the good things, pushed them out of my mind like they were the painful memories. The good times were so jarring and incongruous that I couldn't have them co-exist with the hurtful memories of my childhood. I needed a clear definition--either it was good, or it was bad. It couldn't be both. So I chose all bad. I got angry, I got sad, I got older, and then I got pregnant. When I was pregnant the tiny, careful relationship that had been forming with my mom sort of exploded. She seriously called me almost every day. All of a sudden she was so there, and I found myself withdrawing. It was freaking me out! So with long letters, some miss-communication and a few phone calls, I explained that I was still carrying around some hurts and that it would take me some time to warm to this new way. All of this resulted in me remembering that it wasn't all bad, that my young mother absolutely did the best that she knew how. It left me with a new choice. And I chose the future instead of the past. She is a great grandmother and our sometimes cautious relationship becomes less so with every passing visit and conversation.
"I WANT TO KNOCK IT DOWN!!"
"no. No. NO! I'm not done yet. stop. STOP!!"
"But it's taking so looong..."
"AAAAAYYYYYYYYYYIIIIIIEEEEEEEEE!!! DON'T! GET AWAY! SIT DOWN!"
(scuffling, blocks begin thrown, the "FWUMP" of someone hitting the bed)
"High pitched screaming" (I'm not sure how to spell it)
"DON'T. KNOCK. IT. DOWN. YET!!!"
At this point I have a slight nervous twitch forming in my right eye and my upper bicep has gone spastic. I'm gritting my teeth and telling myself things like, "If I hear that scream one more time I'm going to go completely insane and have to be institutionalized."
And now I'm charging into their room, heading straight toward the tower-in-process. My mind has somehow laid the blame of this argument on the fact that this tower exists. Without thinking clearly (obviously) in any way at all I pull my leg back and land a kick right into the middle of the thing.
Before my foot makes contact, I know I am wrong, and can't stop myself.
Before you use your energy to judge me, know that I probably have it covered for both of us. Just take this time to feel good about how you handled this.
On days like this I have to console myself by pointing out that no one was physically hurt. Which wasn't always the case in my childhood or the childhoods of my parents. I have to make pleading prayers that sound something like, "Please make them able to see my effort."
Because, really, my effort is so tremendous. I am trying my very hardest to do something that I don't know how to do. I'm trying to be a parent that I didn't see in action. I am attempting to have a family that I have no model for. And when I'm pushed to the edge of my person by repeated accidental kicks to the stomach, relentless bickering and screeching, or nagging, or whining, or pinching, I snap out of the carefully crafted person I have created and into the well-defined grooves of my core patterns.
I knew I would learn from the mistakes of my childhood and that I would find new and exciting mistakes to make. (I am very creative, you know). But I didn't realize I would unwittingly take up some of the same patterns of my childhood, however faded they may be at this point. And they are faded. They were already beginning to fade when my mother took them up in her parenting with me. If any one out there is a child in a long line of what is now called child abuse, but used to just be discipline, maybe you have seen these tendencies lessen and fade over the generations. Maybe you have been lucky enough to see the Herculean effort in your mother not to make the mistakes of her mother. Maybe you've even heard her tell stories of how her mother attempted not to make the mistakes of what would have been your great-grandmother. If you haven't been one in this line, let me just tell you, it's harder than you think not to repeat these mistakes.