My daughter and I had an interesting conversation last night. We have a lot of interesting conversations, the kind that go into the late hours, despite the fact that she has to get up to go to school the next morning. Once she gets an idea knocking around in her head, she has to talk it out. She was talking about family and the love, or lack of love, that can be in a family.
Growing up, I never had to worry whether or not my parents loved me, or if I loved them. I was lucky. Sure, I thought my mother was harsh and I never believed I would live up to her strict moral code. I didn’t try her. I was too afraid of her disapproval to get into any trouble. (and quite honestly I was too shy to have gone looking for it in the first place) I knew my mother would protect me to the death, but she didn’t know me as well as she thought she did. We got along great. I just kept my opinions to myself because it made things easier. Although I did worry about her approval, I never worried about love. My mother loved me fiercely. Sometimes too fiercely. My father was very different from my mother. I was the last child, and Dad was older when I came along. I don’t know what he was like to my older siblings, but all my personal memories of my Dad are the warm, fuzzy sort. I trailed after him like a puppy and he took me fishing and pitched endless baseballs. I loved my Dad dearly. He never even raised his voice to me that I can remember. I didn’t want to disappoint him, either, so I never tried to take advantage or be “bad”. (I’m sure I have a couple siblings that would say I might not have been “bad” but could definitely be “annoying” at times) I know how fortunate I was as a child. Yes, bad things happened, some of those things haunt me to this day, but no matter what, I had the love of two parents. Always.
My daughter’s initial question was whether it was “wrong” to cut a parent out of your life. That is certainly a tough one. My opinion on the matter is that if a parent is toxic to you, and you can recognize that, then you owe it to your health to not put yourself in the situation if you don’t have to.
My daughter struggles with some issues in her life. I hate it for her, I can help her through as best I can, but at the end of the day there is precious little I can do about any of it. When she is older she will have to make her own decisions about what is, and is not, best for her. I don’t like to talk about it all, really. (yes, I do sometimes rant and rave to a select few who are willing to listen) For the most part, I do not like to dwell on negativity. I do not like to live in constant drama. I prefer to find the joy in life, and to be grateful for my many blessings. Negativity is toxic. There are certain things that bring stress, and things that will always have to be taken care of, but I choose to let go of as much of it as I can.
Without going into the details of the conversation, all I can say is how lucky I am to have never had to wonder if I was loved. To know, that even when your parents drive you mad, that they love you and support you, is something I really always took for granted. I cannot imagine an existence where I have to wonder if a parent loves me, or cares about me at all. I don’t know what it’s like to feel that you are a possession to be controlled, not a child to be loved. I can feel the pain of others, especially my own daughter. When she hurts I can feel it to the core of my being, but at the same time, sometimes I do not know how it feels to be in her shoes.
Children have opinions. They might even be different than yours. Children have their own manner of speaking, of walking, of being. Maybe it reminds you of someone else and you don’t like it, but it isn’t up to you to change it. Children are smarter than some people give them credit for. Children are not a possession. They are not something to be controlled at any cost. Teach them to use their own judgement and to trust themselves. Teach them the value of love, kindness and sincerity. Teach them what it takes to go out into this world as a productive member of society that can contribute something to the world, not a puppet who only knows how to please. Be firm with your children , but not cruel. Teach them values and responsibility — but know that one day their values may be different than your own. You are teaching them to live their own life, not lead an exact replica of your own. Teach your children that you love and support them to your last breath, but teach them also, that sometimes they have to fight a battle for themselves. Cherish your child’s thoughts. Encourage them to be the person they are meant to be. Talk to them and listen to what they say. Make rules for their safety, expect rules to be adhered to, but make sure the rules are there for their betterment, not just because you need to dictate something. Allow them to have their own personality, their own way of doing things. So what if it isn’t like yours?
I am grateful every day for my daughter and the lessons she teaches me. I look forward to our talks, no matter how late in the night they go, because I can think of nothing better than the fact that she wants to share her thoughts with me. She is full of new insights, a different way of seeing things; and sometimes I am amazed by the maturity of those thoughts and ideas. We are heading into precarious territory over the next few years — the thought of parenting a teen quite frankly causes me to shudder. I only hope that no matter what, she knows I love her. I hope that no matter what, she is always confident enough to share with me, and allow me into her thoughts. I hope that she is not so terrified of disappointing me that she can’t be the person she is meant to be. Little does she know that she could never disappoint me.
I am grateful for having two parents that I know loved me. Sure, each in their own way, but I always had love. I can’t imagine the not knowing. My daughter thinks it would be easier to know that your parents didn’t love you at all, than to wonder if they do. To always wonder what they expect out of you, and why you can never seem to get it right. She says the stress of not knowing how to act, or how to talk or how to think without being belittled for it is just too much. I think she’s right. It is too much. Why do we insist on hurting the people we are supposed to love the most?