Do you like hearing about or seeing the failures of others? Go talk to my mother, she’ll tell you many tales of how horrible her daughter has been from toddler baby steps to adulthood decision-making. She’d probably invite me over so I could hear from her once again what a screw up and embarrassment I am. To demonstrate, let me share with you some highlights from an email I received from her the day before Christmas in 2010:
“You and your husband do not believe in Christ and are not living according to his beliefs, so i am confused as why you celebrate Christmas. Oence again i do no care how you feel about me, get that through your thick and sick head, all i care about is my grandson, i do not care about you, you are nothing to me, nothing is going to change, Go on living you litttle make believe world with that man you married, and leave us alone and allow us to have a relationship with Dominick. Merry Christmas and may God have mercy on you.”
She is right about one thing; my husband
and I don’t share the same beliefs as she does. Growing up, my parents treated church like a place you were obligated to go in order to prevent being struck by lightning. I was baptized, received communion and was confirmed as a member of the Catholic church while my parents took a lazy position in the church, going once in a while to Sunday service, always complaining of how pointless it was afterward. I made a serious effort to involve myself in the church though; even at age 10 I was very independent and sought out ways I could involve myself more in the church. I went on a retreat where myself, other preteens and teenagers, and some supervising adults and church members participated in a 48 hour fast and numerous faith building activities. Upon returning home to talk about my experience, my mother called me “self-righteous” and requested I shut up about it. So I did. I still continued participating in church sponsored after school activities for a couple of years without the support of my parents. It was a while before I lost the faith that seemed lost to my parents years prior. I still baptized my son because I don’t want to hinder him if he chooses to involve himself with the church (he goes to services, just not with us) and I want him to be able to have a choice. My mother began down the preachy path you see above about a year after my son’s baptism, taking a cue from my younger brother who found God after high school. She doesn’t go to church or read the bible, just talks like what is above a lot.
I will admit, I was somewhat of a problem as a child and teenager, so my mother does have some room for complaint. Colic as an infant, sibling rivalry issues at age 5 when my brother was born and the attention was no longer on me, acting up in school out of boredom (I was in the gifted program and ahead of most in my classes), detention for skipping class in middle school, kissing a boy when I was only 13, in school suspension for holding hands (yes, I’m 100% serious) and skipping gym class in high school, dating boys and having friends they didn’t approve of, the usual things. I angered them by not getting straight As, by not dating rich boys, by not dressing girly, and by liking the wrong music. I was a disappointment later on for failing to follow the path my cousins took and dropping out of college to join the National Guard (stemming from a score of 99 on the ASVAB) then a bigger let down when I decided not to go out of fear of my safety. Having a kid the way I did was the ultimate fail as was declining to date the guy at NASA my mother adored who could “take care of us.” When I broke the news that I fell in love and was moving to eventually marry my husband, they both flipped out. Nevermind the fact that my husband had (and still has) a steady high paying job and is a brilliant and loving person, he wasn’t right for me in their eyes and I was once again screwing up my life for “some guy.” I was, am, and always will be a loser.
I honestly don’t think I was that bad; my parents seemed to enjoy focusing on the negatives rather than the positive parts of my life. When I was going to school in Connecticut, as an after school activity myself and a few friends would head over to the Teen Center
to play pool and video games and just hang out. A large part of our experience there was community service. I volunteered at soup kitchens, camps for disabled children, and homes for mentally and physically disabled adults, just to name a few. My friends and I did this totally voluntarily because we wanted something to fill our afternoons and it was exciting to be young and able to go around town without our parents around.
As far as grades go, I didn’t get straight As but I was close. I was in the gifted program for as long as they offered it in my school. I participated in volleyball and track and excelled in both. I played alto and bass recorder (yes, the little plastic thing) from 6th grade until 10th grade when I moved to a different state and was part of a very talented group of kids who accomplished a lot. I was an extremely talented writer, and although I did engage in a bit of dishonesty in selling papers in college, most of what I did was for positive and productive reasons. I dealt with transferring schools and moving 2 months into my second grade year and again before my junior year of high school, adjusting better than most kids would. Oh yeah, I also never got allowance and worked jobs around the neighborhood starting at 10 years of age, getting a real job as soon as I turned 16, bought my own car and never looked back. I was an all right kid.
So what if I’m the outcast, the black sheep that exists in every family unit? Living a different life isn’t the same as living a bad life; my path was certainly out there in comparison to my cousins and brother but it worked for me and taught me more than I can say. It’s a damn shame that my blood relatives cast me aside because I followed a different timeline than they would. Out of my brother and our cousins who live in the US, it does sting a bit to be the only one out of the 5 of us who doesn’t have a diploma, but I chose to explore another option. It didn’t work, then I was slightly tied up raising a kid but I’m enrolling in school once again on the 15th of this month because I am finally ready to finish. I’m unsure why my parents act like my husband is some sort of criminal or scumbag, as he is a highly intelligent and incredibly loving and understanding man who, prior to my father doing some underhanded things to us both, never did or said anything even slightly negative or unsavory to or around my parents, or anywhere else for that matter. And while I get that tattoos aren’t for everyone, I fail to see how having them makes me a bad person or holds me back from anything in life; mine are easily concealed for certain purposes such as work and don’t contain anything that would be considered bad, such as pot leaves or guns or naked women. What it boils down to is that my mother can’t stand me because I went against her wishes as far as how to live my life, so she went on a mission to bad mouth me to everyone to the point where I felt forced to break contact with relatives our of concerns for my privacy.
I wish I knew what I know now when I was still a teenager. Having the ability to create a child doesn’t come with the ability to raise a child properly. Ideally, I’d have somewhat of a relationship with my parents. Sadly, after years of trying I had to give up in order to better take care of myself and in the best interest of my well-being and that of my husband and son. You can’t force someone to love their kid. How else can you explain the number of deadbeat moms and dads, the babies abandoned in dumpsters and on the sides of roads, children locked in cages and neglected, or the countless spineless folk who beat their children? Had I realized this earlier, I would have cut ties after high school and saved myself a lot of heartache, as well as saved my mother a lot of time spent creating stories to save face and straining her vocal cords yelling in my general direction.
Too many parents fail to understand that their kids are growing up in a different time than they and they can’t choose their child’s path, they can only provide the map and hope their baby picks the right road to venture down. We are the products of our parents, but only to a certain extent. The majority of what we are and what we become is up to us. No one else.