parenting (or not)

I am a mom of three. Two girls (9 and 10) and a boy (14). I became a parent for the first time when I was 21 (4 weeks shy of my 22nd birthday).

Sometimes it is hard to be an authentic and honest parent, even more so when your mind is broken or fragile or unquiet.

I did not have a great childhood. It’s a part I rarely or never talk about, because who would really understand? No one who wasn’t in a similar situation. I was not beaten, I was not molested. I was ignored and emotionally blackmailed. I cared for a grown woman who was supposed to care for me, even though many adults were around. But apparently, even a 5 year old is old enough to wipe her mother’s butt  – I will never understand why my older sister didn’t have to do these things.

And don’t let me get started on my father. I don’t know him well, he left when I was a baby and my mom was already in a wheelchair. I like him, he is a fun man now, but when I was a child he was not there. Never there. He did not throw ball with me, he didn’t teach me how to ride a bike, he didn’t teach me to swim, he was nonexistent. He taught me how to run away from difficult situations – which I never did. He is a stranger. The worst part: I resent my parents. They shouldn’t have had a second child. My mom knew about her diagnosis when she was pregnant with me. I should not have been born – something that my grandmom never tired to tell me from an early age on.

I don’t visit my mom. I haven’t in a long time, years. And I know I should, but I can’t. If I talk to her or if I visit, I have a hard time recovering or coping. My mother lives in a home for disabled people. She is in a wheelchair and is not able to eat or do anything on her own anymore. Her mind is lucid, but her body doesn’t cooperate. I don’t have a relation with her anymore. She doesn’t try to get in touch either. Not even to ask about the kids. And my dad? He is a proud grandfather, but he never gets in touch on his own. My half-sister is our middleman.

I feel heartless and cold when I write things like this. But I feel rootless. I was depraved of love and affection when I was a kid. I didn’t talk to anyone outside of my home until I was 7. And no one seemed to mind. I was simply the shy kid. As I am working with kids and am in a special training about speech development, I can’t understand why no one sent me to a specialist, not even the teachers. Then again, I grew up in a very small village were everyone knew everyone. My family was the weird one anyway. So many adults on one heap, my mother, disabled, divorced with two kids from an Italian. My grandma tried to keep up appearances.  And everything that was not normal was put under a rug. We had large rugs…

Oh well… This was not really what I wanted to write about when I opened the app. I am an affectionate mom and apparently, I am hard but fair with the kids. We have rules that are defined for every kid and they know it. If we play by the rules everything is fine. And if we don’t, mom grumbles, but there is no yelling and rarely there are any punishments at all. (and if there is punishment, it is of the kind that the kids aren’t allowed to watch TV or they will not get a new book from the store that month – they get new books every months, because they asked for it.) And I spoil them all the time with little things. I am not afraid to be silly or to be lazy with them. Not every minute of the day needs to be planned, and we love to lie in on Saturdays and Sundays. They are intelligent kids, emotionally intelligent too. They are at the age when they ask about the self-harm scars on my arms. I never really know what to say. I don’t want them to feel that it is okay to deal with inner pain in such a toxic manner. I don’t want them to see how much of a failure I was and still am on occasion. And so, I often reply that I will tell them at a later time and change the subject. It is not my proudest parenting tool, so if any of you knows how I should deal with this situation, tell me. I am open to suggestions.

But this is not what I meant to write about either… I am unfocused.

Have you seen the movie Rambo 3? There is a scene where John Rambo goes to pick up weapons that were delivered for him. He is shown a suitcase with everything and the guy with him looks through the stuff. He finds a stick and asks “What’s this?” Rambo snaps it and replies “it’s blue light”. The guy nods. “What does it do?” “Turns blue.” Duhh!

Although that is not a children’s movie, it is a quote that is used at least once every day and is the first answer when asked “What’s this?” or “What does it do?” and yet, after a smile or a roll of the eyes (I hate when they do that) they get their deserved and rightful response.

Then there are the “Why?” questions. There are two kinds of “Why-questions”. A lament or an interested question. To the lament, I always reply “Because I said so, that’s why.” and that leaves no room for arguments at all. The other questions are answered to my best knowledge. If I don’t know something, I look it up with the kids together. It is not a shame not to have all the answers and admitting it. The kids are learning that it is okay to do research. I like that a lot. Kids ask questions, as they should. How else are they supposed to learn?

My kids also know how to do their own washing and they are very proud of that. They love cooking, and reading, and they like to be informed (watching or listening to the news.)  But, I am careful with giving them “adult” tasks. I want it to be fun for them and not an obligation because I cannot do it on my own. I make them unload the dishwasher everyday too, but that is because I want them to help with the daily chores. My ten-year old loves cleaning the bathrooms. I don’t. She uses way too much product, but that is okay, as long as it is fun in her eyes. We bought a new wireless vacuum cleaner, they fight about who is allowed to use it first.

Don’t get me wrong, my house is not spotless, far from it, even with the kids’ help. There is dust on the sideboard and there are a couple of folded laundry baskets in the living room that are waiting to be put away, there are greasy finger prints on the front of one of the kitchen cupboards, and at the entrance are dirty footprints from wet shoes. The beds aren’t made either. But, who cares? My kids are growing up in a home where there is lots of love and laughter.

What is happiness? My kids are my happiness.

It is raining again. I should grab the girls to go outside and jump in puddles. After their homework is done.

Not sure why I felt compelled to wrote this now; even more so after claiming that I was done with the blog. Apparently, I am not. Who would have guessed?!

Cathy

 

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