I have a friend who is an A+ dad. He goes to every soccer game and school event. He has breakfast with his girls every Friday morning at the same restaurant. He even drove for eight hours, inch by inch in a snowstorm, to spend the night with them when they were stranded at school. I understand where his devotion is rooted. He wants to do better because he did not have it good growing up.
I had lofty goals for parenting my children. Not only did I want to be an exceptional mom, I wanted to change my family’s sad story through my children. Both of my parents grew up in families with tremendous challenges as a result of mental illness. When I was a child, families kept secrets because there was so much fear and ignorance surrounding mental illness. Most of the people who were ill in my family got either no treatment or the wrong treatment. I was not a fan of the do nothing approach so I spoke up whenever I saw crazy in action. I made trying to fix things a habit. No one in my family seemed to see what I saw, and no one listened with action in mind.
There was no way that nonsense was happening in my little family. I was going to manufacture strong, healthy and intelligent children who would thrive. They were going to rock school and grow up to be helpers and humanitarians. I was under the impression that I could master our genetics. Through will and work, I was going to crush the past.
Well, you know that’s a big ha, ha. I couldn’t fix anything, but I did learn a very valuable lesson for parenting. I discovered that my children could master everything they needed to learn on their own with good tools and the right environment. My mother taught me the biggest lesson of all. It went right over my head as a child because our family crest said Chaos. I was focused on being likable and surviving. Most days my mind was the blank screen from an old TV. Remember that milky picture and the sound of frantic confusion that droned from the innards?
I didn’t catch on until last year. Writing helped me find the pearl. My mom instinctively knew what mattered the most. She used heaps and heaps of love to inoculate me. Hugs, kisses and nose rubs. Silly songs and tickles. Letting me sleep slip in bed beside her and glue myself to her back. She changed our family’s history. I am just continuing the new tradition.