Now, I'm past all the "will I be a good parent when there's two of them" thing and I haven't had a nightmare about forgetting the new one in the car or at the park in at least a few weeks. The worry has slowly shifted from my own flashing neon parental impotence to the basic opinion the child will have about me. I'm pretty awesome, in general, but there is always a chance someone out there is going to have a problem. And is it so far off an idea that it might just be him?
A friend and fellow expectant parent recently posted about his distant and somewhat despondent relationship with his family in this narrative spewing so much candidness that I am still reeling over his bravery. It was probably that post and this one by Dooby and the Bean that gave me the courage to finally post something I've been hiding away about my own fears on parenthood and being the child of a disappointed and perpetually put-out mother. Here's where it started:
I thought I wanted to be a teacher when I grew up. Maybe I was eight or nine when I realized I didn't have to choose what my mom or dad did as a career, but by then- being an educator seemed like a pretty fair gig and a retired army mechanic/alcoholic wasn't looking all that promising. So much for royal succession.
My mom loved her job as an English teacher and worked hard and long at it over the years and often summers in order to make a home for us and offer me things most single parents couldn't. ( I got a new-to-me car when I turned 16 and had the privilege of going to summer camp six years in a row.)
I just realized I always refer to her as a single parent although she was married through my entire childhood. Let me define single in my own words: divorced from my biological father and married/divorced/married/divorced from my stepfather. And I think there was a marriage before the one to my own dad that she has conveniently omitted from her history whenever telling me stories.
None of the men in her life contributed to the household with much financial gusto and I think my mother preferred it that way. She was smart when making large purchases and kept her things hers and let my stepfather worry about himself when I turned sixteen, moved out of the house and left the embarrassingly teen-aged cliche "him or me" ultimatum in my wake.
My stepfather was a particularly difficult person to live with. He seemed always on disability leave from his contracting jobs and only sometimes mad enough at her to throw dishes after dinner. There was once a broken nose during a family vacation to Lake Whales. I was very young and would probably have believed her lawn chair folding story had I not been up the whole night listening to them fight and toss the cabin furniture around.
After thirteen or more years of sharing our lives with OCD guy, I suppose I was forcing the choice for both of us. It was depressing to watch a strong and independent woman like my mom get up in the middle of dinner to change "the wrong fork" for the "the right fork". Especially for the wrong man.
Life was a little more relaxed after she kicked out my step-dad for good. We had pizza parties a few nights a week and sometimes just ate popcorn for dinner. (Not too much food involving forks...) The fun didn't last. The air turned an ugly gray in the house and it became common practice for my mom to pour herself beer after beer into a coffee mug starting at four o'clock every day as the nights "alone" got harder for her to face.
Soon the quiet turned angry loud and I determined that the choice she made was, in her eyes, a regret. So I counted the days until college started in the arms of my first boyfriend. Chris was abusive,completely obsessive, and easy to hide from the glazed-over eyes of my depressed and single mother.
Moving two hours north to go to college was apparently just the thing my mom needed. She helped me pack my car up and waved, standing barefoot in the driveway with her coffee mug of Pabst and I saw her face wrinkled up in a tearful grimace in my rear-view mirror. My worry made it difficult to be happy leaving her, but I felt free and alive again on the road and out of her sights. "She'll be fine," I remember thinking and I don't remember if I had my fingers crossed on the steering wheel or not.
I decided to stop there and say something before I get to all the "disappointment" I promised in the setup. I have been writing this blog for a while now and have often mentioned it to my mother during our obligatory weekly phone calls. (They're only recently weekly because I keep calling to see if she's had a chance to visit this blog.)
I pitifully try to make it sound like fun and toss in that I post photos of her impossibly cute granddaughter as bait for her to give it a go. She laughs a guilty laugh and then goes on about being computer illiterate and not knowing how "the damn thing" works etc... and I remind her I put a link on her toolbar and she says, "what's the toolbar" and I then I pretend to give up.
If she can figure out how to play a never-ending game of solitare on her 2008 PC and buy an iPod for her boyfriend on ebay, then she can probably figure out how to click a link. (right?)
Maybe I'm insane or just pissed, but I told her that if she didn't spend a few minutes acknowledging my tiny space on the internet, I was going to start writing about her.
Sometimes I don't mean stuff and sometimes I do.