Sunday, July 6, 2014

on parenting. on parents.

parenting is arguably the most difficult journey I have ever embarked on.

the most rewarding, by far without a doubt. but, the most difficult, emotionally charged, with twists and challenges and obstacles that were not only unforeseen but also unimaginable.

i never imagined coming up against such resistance with my parents - with my mother. i knew we would have different parenting styles, as we also have different realities in which we happen to be parenting. however, i somehow imagined her to be more understanding, more respectful, more loving. and not that she isn't the most loving person to her grandchild, but she is also the person who is antithetical to everything i am trying to instill.

i get it. los padres crian, los abuelos malcrian. "parents raise, grandparents spoil." it is a well-known spanish saying that grandparents look forward to long before the moment when they know if their child even wants to have children. it is that guilt you will have to deal with for the rest of your life if you choose to not to have children. the passive-aggressive, not-so-subtle ribbing about not providing them with their entitlement to spoil - by virtue of having had a child of their own.

i know, i know. most parents do it, you say. parents have hang-ups about a lot of things, and they are not specific to the cuban/hispanic culture, so quit complaining and just ignore it. let it roll off your back. problem is, i am a good child. i grew up the star child. i not only did not misbehave for the most part, but also went to great lengths to cover up any misbehavin' that was happening in order to not disappoint. the image. it's all about the image, right?

ha. that image, and keeping it up, is what has gotten me into a lot of things in life. good, bad, ugly...and you know what? for better or worse, all of those things make me who i am: well-rounded, empathetic, caring, honest, funny, sarcastic, and fully aware of a lot of things that i am fairly adept at feigning ignorance for. i live life less fully than i would like, and it is due to that keeping up appearances.

wait. that is not entirely true. i DO live life fully, for the most part, but i am getting better at that and have worked on it for the last decade. that is the crux of the issue. when i began exerting my independence, when i began separating from the parental nest that had so lovingly raised and dedicated its life to me, i began experiencing some backlash. undeserved backlash. yes, some of it was parenting, and necessary parenting, but so much of it is disagreement with how i choose to live my life. so much of it is blatant expression of that fact that the choices i make are not unique to me - my own choices - but just. plain. WRONG. by virtue of the fact that they are not the same choices that my parents would have made.

i understand not everyone chooses this path. this is the road less traveled. it is not only much easier, but a smoother ride, to simply sit back and do things as they have always been done, just because. to let my parents give my daughter everything she wants, to let her be spoiled completely by them, to - in turn - take the easy route and give in to her whims at every tear that may fall. then, lo and behold, i have raised an entitled child. one that believes life is to be handed to her, one that knows nothing of the value of hard work, is unaware that her choices often come with consequences, however unintended. a child that thinks life is easy, and doesn't have skills to cope when it isn't.

i could argue that i would raise another me, since that is who my parents raised, right? except i wouldn't. they were a family, a nuclear - albeit different since i was adopted - and tight-knit family that did not come without a downside, either. that is another story for another day. but my situation, one in which i have, and probably will never have, no clue about what is happening at her father's house. one in which i fully know she will be spoiled and coddled by her paternal grandparents to the point of it being unhealthy. one in which they are parenting alone, when they are parenting. a life where there are moments, days, weeks, where i will not see my child, hug her, smell her, hold her hand. parents wished for me. they never did anything if i could not come, if i was not included. no date nights, vacations, etc. they openly admit this. it was a wonderful message of belonging, of inclusion, except that it probably contributed to some unhealthy codependence issues. time alone, time apart, time to is all a healthy part of growing, nurturing yourself, and developing what will eventually be your own perspective, your own opinions, your individual person. and it wasn't that i wasn't allowed to do that, there were just really specific parameters and messages sent that - although done with the best intentions - i am consciously trying to avoid. and i have a right to do so. i have a right to raise my child in the best way that i see fit, obviously while still respecting her and guiding her and loving her and protecting her.

and this is where we inherently differ. this consistent clashing of heads, where i cannot physically express a boundary for my child without it being challenged, called wrong, pushed so that i eventually give in. or yell i yell a LOT. it is frustrating, it is maddening, and it is exhausting.

i love my parents. i love my mother. but i don't love the guilt, the outright nastiness at times, and the condescension. and what scares me the most is that it has only exacerbated as she gets older. she was never this bad before. she was never outright nasty, name calling, cussing. and the underlying issue is not that i can't deal with trying to ignore this and making my voice heard to her... is that i realize she is changing. aging. mortal.

and, when you've been raised to know that you are your parents' whole life, exerting your independence is a scary thing.

when you've been raised in a codependent family, trying to break away and change those patterns is hard enough, but what happens when you realize they won't always be there? what happens when the relationship that is causing you the most anguish is also the relationship you feel compelled to spend the most time with before it is no longer? and what will you do when that person, that family, is not there?

i know i will get through it. i know i will go on.

but damned if it isn't the scariest thing to think about.