Sunday, March 10, 2013

Mostly Different, But Sometimes the Same

My dad was raised by wealthy parents.  He had one half sister ten years older than him.  His family was not particularly religious but they believed in God.  They were upstanding members in the community and had wonderful friends that I have heard numerous stories about.  He was fairly intelligent and I grew up hearing about how high his IQ was and his natural propensity to exceed at a lot of things.  Many would label him a WASP.

My mother was the first of her siblings born in a hospital, the rest having been born in "the Marsh".  She had an alcoholic father who left their family while she was very young, a single mother, 5 sisters and 1 brother, who was the baby.  They believed in the Mormon faith and tried to attend church as circumstances allowed.  She remembers being hungry throughout her early child years and was the first to attend college in her family dropping out after one semester/year (I can't remember) due to lack of funding.

I tell you all this to simply say, my parents could not have been raised more differently.  Yet incredibly they found enough common ground to get married.  Many in my family would argue too much common ground, which would often be cited among close family and friends as the reason for their marital demise as well. 

Some of the things I remember their opinions being very similar on were the roles of women.  To say my parents viewed women as inferior and second hand citizens was something I grew up feeling.  The burden of my womanhood was a weight I carried early on and tried to shrug many times, often attaching the label of tomboy to myself was a relief, an acknowledgement that maybe I could fit in.

Likewise their views on children were similar.  "Children should be seen and not heard." was a common refrain around my home.  Dinner time was often the time we, children, were expected to sit quietly, with my dad being served first, then my brothers, then my sister and I, and last our mother.  Most discussion was considered an abrasive rub to my parents already day-worn nerves.  And being one of many children the amount of time my parents focused on us as individuals was next to non-existent. 

Needless to say I grew up feeling tenuous and practically expendable.  Often I felt like their level of love for me was dependent on what I had done or would do.  The more I excelled, the better it reflected upon them and therefore garnered me indifference.  But any weakness either physical or emotional was a liability that they didn't want to carry and treated with disdain and punishment often severe and physical. 

What is most shocking is that despite their similarities in views on these matters they could not have raised a child with more different ones.  I laughed as my brother texted me the other day seeking some parenting advice.  He was weighing it along with the opinions of three other trusted sources.  In the end I texted him inquiring what he had decided and why.  He gave his answer and reasoned it by saying, "I thought of what Mom and Dad would do and I did the opposite."

There are times when I feel the same way.  I could not love anything more than my children.  Their knowledge of my love for them is firm and secure.  I tell them constantly what incredible little people they are and I love to hear how their minds work and operate and how they view things.  Talking to them is the healing balm for my day-worn self and they guilelessly, as only children can, give me their advice and insight.

I have only one daughter and she could not be more treasured by any member of our family.  She is singularly the princess that could run and rule this house, but her purity makes her the most loving and generous soul you could ever imagine. 

So it alarmingly shocked me to realize today that despite these differences there are some ways in which my kids still need to prove their worth to me.  Once I received this epiphany, via a public breakdown, I vowed to adjust my views once again.  Because even though I choose to do things differently, I'm sometimes the same.  And guess what that's not always bad, but in this case it was.


candice said...

love catching up on your blog! Can't wait to see you this summer!

Alisa said...

Love this post, Mary. It is good to know someone's past to be able to understand (and sometimes just to be able to "stand") why they do the things they do. Not to justify the hurtful and scarring tendencies but to understand them can be very powerful in the process of forgiving. But even more, I love that you recognized some views that needed to be adjusted. Now that, can be the hardest of all.