Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Slow Demands Come 'Round, Squeeze the Air and Keep the Rest Out

The girls' friend did a project for her English class where she recreated a picture that was taken 7 years ago. Here are a lot of the neighbor kids and one of the moms. This is the original...

As we get closer and closer to Coadster's 18th birthday, I've been doing a lot of thinking about my parenting throughout the years. I became a mom in my 20's, when I was too young, and immature and didn't have the self-esteem to pick a better dad for my girls. I was the sole financial provider for the girls for most of their lives, which meant that I continually struggled to pay the bills and day care and food and we lived above a bar for the first few years of grade school because it was the only place I could afford and it was close to the store and their school and we could walk whenever my 1981 Toyota Corolla broke-down. I didn't have parents to ask for advice, and I just had to figure it out as I went. I can guarantee you that I made a shit ton of mistakes, I was cranky, I spoke in a harsh tone sometimes and said things I didn't mean. There was a divorce, a move out of the only home they knew at the time, there were nearly fatal accidents and illnesses and much, much, much flying by the seats of our pants.

To my credit, I've always tried to be fair and open and honest and affectionate and compassionate, and if sometimes my initial reaction was one of impatience and annoyance, I always tried to come back and apologize and let the girls know that I was having a bad day and not to take it personally.

...And this was taken this weekend. Pretty cool, huh? It's so weird to see how much everything has changed in that time. Most of the facade of the house was ripped away by the tornado...And the little kids were ripped away by age, hormones and experiences.

The other day, Stinky and I were driving by her grade school. She went to preschool there as well, so she was there for 9 years. Stinky started talking about some of the proposed redistricting the city is considering. Since her school is the oldest in the district and most of the neighborhoods around it are full of college students, they bus a lot of kids there and they're considering closing it down. Stinky said that she would be really sad to see it vacant, since she spent most of her childhood there. I asked her if she had a happy childhood, with more than a little trepidation. You never know how anyone perceives things and she may not have thought the positives outweighed the negatives. But she responded by saying, "Oh yeah. I loved my childhood. That's why I'm scared to grow up a little..." I told her that for me, everything keeps getting better and better as I get older. Adult life can be hard and a lot of work, but just like having kids, it's always worth it and the positives have always outweighed the negatives. I hope it's the same for her and Coadster too.


rel said...

I've asked that same question to each of my kids and each time got a positive response. It seems I noted the negative things and they the positive.

Tara said...

Everyone makes mistakes, but you and your girls have proved that you can rise above them and be stronger and happier for it. You've done an awesome job raising your duaghters, and just reading about how much they do for others and how well they've done in school is something you should definitely notice and be proud of! So give yourself a huge pat on the back! Cyber pat from Ohio. :)

Mrs. Hairy Woman said...

I have always thought that you have a done an amazing job as a mom.. You have had your struggles and come through it stronger and wiser and they are better for it.. They can appreciate it much more..

SkylersDad said...

I came to your blog pretty late in things, but from what I have read, you have been one hell of a great mother!

Mnmom said...

Probably because you made clear how much you loved them and you were just plain THERE. Love and being present are no small things in a child's life.

Is the school H.M.?

NoRegrets said...

You are indeed courageous for asking that question, and glad and not surprised you got a good answer.

laura b. said...

It goes by so quickly, and I think all of us struggle in a variety of ways to do the right things.

I'm not at all surprised that your daughter would consider her life happy :-)

Churlita said...

Rel, I'm sure it's easier for a parent to worry about the negatives, while the kids look back nostalgically and only see the positives...

Tara, Thanks. My girls certainly aren't perfect, but I do feel lucky that they seem happy and positive.

Mrs., I also think a little struggle makes for a more interesting person. We all need a bit of an edge to us.

Skyler's, Thank you. I can definitely have my bad days, though.

MnMom. It is Horace Mann. Good guess. It was such a great school because they bussed in the student housing kids and it was a lot like going to a UN school, with half the kids being from different countries. Diversity in Iowa? Who knew?

Nor, It was scary waiting to hear what she though...

LauraB., and you had THAT many more kids. I admire how well you did with so many more children. I could learn a lot from you.

booda baby said...

What a great answer - did it feel like a big breath of fresh air?!

And, because the word verification gods love this story, too, they asked me to type in 'wings.' WINGS! Wheee!

Johnny Rojo said...

This post really made me reflect and think a lot, hence the late response.

When my son was 4 or 5, I had an epiphany. I was filled with anger for my parents' failings-- particularly my father, who wavered between being intelligent and reflective, and being a violent physical (and verbal) bully. I began to realize that no matter how much I tried not to be like my father (and I've managed to not be at all like him, to the point of probably being too much of a softy), there will be some thing or things they will fault you for.

It was at that point, I talked to my father, who was very contrite about how he was. I forgave him for it, and realized that whatever my failings were, my son would do the same eventually.

Of course, the fact that my ex is a screaming, bullying shrew has helped me look better as a parent by comparison. It's been excruciating, though, seeing my son have to deal with her, and not being able to do much about it.

My mother is fond of quoting Maya Angelou-- something to the effect that she did the best she could as a parent, and when she learned something, she did better.

They don't issue a manual when they're born. You do the best you can. From what I can see, you've done a great job, particularly given that the other parent hasn't been too helpful. Nobody issued you (or me) a crystal ball to show how the other person would be as a parent. Don't fault yourself on that one.