Being a parent is an amazing gift for me. An incredible blessing beyond compare.
It can also be a gigantic pain in the ass.
Oh you all know it. I just said it out loud for us.
However on the other hand… being a child of a parent can be an amazingly love filled and joyous experience.
It can also be a pain in the ass. And unfortunately for some can be unspeakable horror. But we hope those parents are in jail or rotting in hell.
But the parent-child dynamic has always been filled with strange twists and turns. An emotional roller coaster (a physical one too, if they drive like my Mother). We all have fond memories of our parents. Then we all have those quirks that stick out that may have driven us to drink. Then we also have those moments of revelation that our parents aren’t perfect. They are human.
I just quickly quizzed my kids on some of their warm thoughts about me. They had none. No, I’m kidding but they are all teenagers and were hard pressed to think of things at first. Finally things came to mind – that I’m funny and make them laugh, they remember being snuggled up in bed reading with me every night, and that I was there for everything. Oh also my meatloaf, which is funny because “cook” is not the first thing anyone thinks of when they think of me… not even me.
And then I asked for annoying things. I was surprised to hear about my cough. In the last couple of years I developed allergy related asthma, so I get this dry hacking cough in response to my lungs feeling like they’re closing. It kind of goes away when I use an inhaler. I’m sorry I ever made fun of any nerds with asthma. It’s a pain in the ass. Anyway my annoying cough is annoying to them as well. Other things… that I’m starting to forget things that they tell me. Oh I’m sorry that you told me 4 days ago you were going to Erin’s after school, I only have 800 other things to remember with 3 overachieving kids and my job. That’s why I made all 3 make a Google account and share their calendars with me. Smart, eh?
It’s funny that there are some things that one loves about me that another one hates. Like me talking to strangers. One thinks it’s great that I’m so friendly another one is always thinking “Jesus Mom, can we just get the f*ck outta’ here?”. Also I’m not big on primping, it’s tiring to me. But when I do, oh look out girl, I’m fierce! So I tend to go out in sweats, no makeup and a top knot (that’s a hairstyle fellas) which embarrasses the hell out of one. I think I look sporty, she thinks I look homeless. Another one says it shows I’m not shallow and have confidence that I don’t care what others think. Um, maybe that’s a backhanded compliment…
Anyway, I also know that overall we go through the whole thing of thinking our parents are superheros when we are young and then discovering things when we are adults that prove they are mortal. As I’m sure my kids have and will find out about me. I just hope they realize I always landed on my feet (so far) and always gave them 100%, and always put them first.
I just went through this with my Father. He passed away just 3 months ago. I thought I always had a kind of strange relationship with my Dad but in the end I figured out it wasn’t that strange. See, when I was growing up I had a lot of friends that always talked about being their Daddy’s little princess. I was always so jealous as I would hear friends in college talk about their Dad coming to bring them to lunch or send them flowers or getting a letter.
My Dad didn’t ever do any of that. My Dad was a typical Irishman where no great praise was ever given but lots of love was given in the way he knew how. The Irish are historically sarcastic and negative. And my Father was that to a tee. Any great fete we told of, was met with a “well don’t f*ck it up” by him. That used to piss me off, but now I see it as part of his charm. You could have told him “I just won the Nobel Prize” and he would have said “Well don’t blow the prize money”. I understand now, he was really just watching out for us. No really, he was. I get that now.
But as I knew he was at the end of his life, out of nowhere these thoughts came to me. My Dad used to whistle a lot. But it was this very melodic whistle filled with trills and key changes. He was like one of those professional whistlers on the Ed Sullivan show. He would always whistle this tune “Peg of My Heart” which was his favorite song. (Guy Lombardo’s version was his favorite) Peg is the nickname for Margaret, my given name. I was called Peg sometimes as a little girl. While my Dad was whistling he would often grab me to fox trot. My 10 year old self would cringe and think get the hell away from me. My 47 year old self would give my left arm to have him do that again.
How lucky am I? How many girls were serenaded by their Dad often and named after his favorite song? Why didn’t I remember that show of affection all those years when I was busy bitching about his sometimes cold demeanor?
I sat with him at his bedside in his final days and told him he was my hero. He mustered up one of his very animated facial expressions that I realized where I had gotten mine from. I remembered my Dad was actually a really funny sarcastic guy his whole life. He made the “what the hell are you talking about” face. And whispered “why”? I told him because he always sacrificed everything to give us the best. He was always there, and always trying to love us and provide for us (in his own way). He gave a typical answer “hmpf, not much of a provider”. I was like Dad, you put 6 kids through college, we went on trips, we belonged to a country club, you had a second home before you retired, I think you did ok. But now I know where I get the self-doubt from too. Apple —> tree.
It all came full circle. That was a most incredible gift that I got to realize that. To understand that people all love and communicate in their own way and you can’t judge your relationship with people by a certain event here or there. Especially with your parents and children. It’s a big complicated puzzle. Eh, maybe not to some of you. Maybe you had the perfect “Leave it to Beaver” or “Cosby” home. Either way, look at the whole picture and appreciate what you’ve got. Even if you want to stab it with a screwdriver sometimes… :)