When I look back on my childhood I see car rides without carseats (or seatbelts for that matter), frozen dinners, food microwaved in plastic and white carpet in the kitchen. My mom did a fantastic job of taking my sister and me to new places and on new adventures and she also let us hang out with her grown up friends quite a bit (I’m pretty sure if her friends weren’t cool with us tagging along my mom wouldn’t have had much of a social life.) She was a single mom from the time I was in first grade and she did a darn fine job. Of course it’s much easier to say that now that I have kids of my own and I knowing that every struggle I go through with my girls my mom went through as well.
But I have my days, when I’m not at the top of my mom game. I wonder what moments my girls will remember if any. When I look back on my entire childhood there are three exact moments that I remember, moments that changed me as a kid and made me wonder why my mom was the way she was. Now that I’m grown I can see why my mom reacted the way she did in some situations, does that make it right? Probably not, but y’all this parenting thing is hard and as much as I’d like to keep my cool 100% of the time? Sometimes my cool turns to lukewarm, but somewhere in the back of my head a voice tells me to stop, not to go any further because that may be the moment Addie remembers when she’s 30.
My room was never clean. Ever. Neither is Addie’s, I take this little personality quirk and work with it the way I wish my mom would have worked with me. Everything has a place and while it doesn’t have to be perfect, I have to be able to make it to her bed without fearing for the well being of my feet. Today I walked into my own room to a pile of clean, folded laundry that had been on my bed thrown on the floor in a heap. Addie had decided to play on my bed with no regard to my things after I told her to stay out of my things. I can remember my mom throwing everything off of my toy shelf when I was about Addie’s age to teach me some sort of lesson about how fed up she was with my messes. It would have been so easy to go into Addie’s room and do the same thing, but I didn’t, because I can remember how scared I was of my mom losing her temper with me.
Another time my mom told me that anything I left lying out would go in the garbage. Oh how tempting this one has been after telling Addie to pick up her tiny little knick knacks a hundred times. Unfortunately the only thing having my things thrown in the garbage taught me was to live in constant fear of something going in the garbage. I constantly checked the garbage for any little thing I may have forgotten. I’m pretty sure this is one way hoarders evolve. While I don’t throw her things away, they do go into ‘time out’ until she can earn them back.
I never understood the phrase “I love you but I don’t have to like you” until I was grown. Now it makes perfect sense, there’s an unconditional love that comes with being a parent however there are moments when children are melting down, sobbing and in desperate need of a nap that you don’t really *like* being around them. My mom had no problem using the words “I love you but I don’t have to like you” often. But what I don’t think she understood was that to a little kid and teenager, being liked is everything, love is still a very far away concept for many kids to grasp completely. While I understand the words completely, I have never, and will never be uttering them to anyone.
I’m absolutely sure I’m making heinous mistakes of my own, but I’m keeping in mind what I longed to hear as a kid and what I reacted well to. Addie and I are very similar, we thrive on words, physical affection and knowing we are loved. We are hurt by words more than actions although actions can speak awfully loud to us at times as well. I always have to remind myself that my mom had never dealt with someone like me before, she did the best she could, or at least I assume she did.
On hard days it takes all I have not to fall prey to old patterns and ineffective ways of parenting, in the long run? They’re just not worth the long term struggles.