A surprising thing happened when I became the Girlfriend Mom. I started to see my relationship with my parents in a whole new light. A softer light. Maybe this is obvious to people when they become parents, but since I never thought that I would ever become a parent, or parent-like, it was like sticker shock for me.
On my road trip last weekend with the GMD, we talked about parents, our expectations of them, falling short and forgiveness. Listening to her speak about her experiences, I empathized, as I put myself in the child role. I shared some of the same feelings; disappointment, frustration, and anger.
She asked me how often I speak to my parents. I didn’t really know. There are times when we speak several times a week, and times a couple of weeks will pass before we speak. I wasn’t entirely sure why she asked but I didn’t push.
It made me think about how daily calls were never our thing. It used to confuse me. I thought that they didn’t care. I wondered why they wouldn’t call. Wasn’t it their responsibility as parents? Wasn’t this listed in the How To Be A Good Parent Handbook? The simple fact is, we weren’t, nor are we, that family; no judgement, neither good nor bad. Just is.
I told her that when I was younger, I didn’t speak to my mother for an extended period of time. I was angry, as I was still wrestling childhood demons. I couldn’t have known it then, but my silence was hurtful and painful for my mother. I can now imagine that pain and hurt because of my experiences as the Girlfriend Mom. P.S. Mom and I have since made up!
As we continued driving, and talking, I started empathizing with the parents. Hers and mine. I don’t know where my profound wisdom came from, or if it would help her on her path, but like I always say, I’m a sharerer, so I offered the following.
I told her that no matter what, her parents love her, and her brother, intensely and that she should never doubt that. Humans are flawed (even parents) and they’re doing the best they can. I also added that, sometimes, their best isn’t good enough, and it sucks.
I now know (many years later) that my parents did the best that they could with what they had, and who they were at the time. Yes, at times their best didn’t cut it. Yes, they fucked up. And yes, they royally pissed me off when they called my theatrical endeavors a ‘hobby’.
However, how can you blame someone for their limitations or abilities?
I never doubted their love and as the years wore on, I learned to accept their shortcomings and focus on all that they can, and do, offer. I’ve embraced what they’ve given me and not what is lacking.
A parent may be incapable of giving you what you need. They may not be skilled in a particular area. Perhaps they didn’t grow up in an environment where they learned from their parents.
To this I say, speak up. Give them an opportunity to hear what you need— trust me, they don’t friggin’ know. After my parents called my theatrical passion a hobby, I had a temper tantrum in our den, screaming at the top of my lungs, sounding (and looking) like a mental patient. “It’s not a hobby. It’s my LIFE.”
I’m not suggesting that you have a hissy fit (although they shifted their attitude but quick), but I am suggesting communicating.
I ended my, sharing is caring moment, by letting her know that, in time, she’d learn how to work with what people, including her parents, can give her. That, hell yeah, her parent’s will disappoint her, just like she may disappoint them.
I told her that it wasn’t easy and can take years of practice, but that if she’s kind, and is open to acceptance, and forgiveness, then she would be way ahead of the game. And for the record, I told her that the, How To Be A Good Parent Handbook didn’t exist.