The passage of time has a way of making even the most mundane events seem, great. The old dilapidated house, with broken banisters, missing cabinet doors, and uneven floors, becomes “ the home” that you now miss. The food you once thought would be better sent to the those “less fortunate” children you often heard of as you protested having to eat it, now becomes one of your favorite memories. My sister has but to reference the time, when at 14yrs old, I decided the spanking I would get for deliberate defiance, was worth the trip to the record store, to make me laugh. We saw our parents as people we who told us what to do, got in the way of us doing what we wanted, thought they knew everything, people we couldn’t wait to get away from, and more importantly….people we NEVER wanted to disappoint.
Something about hearing either one of my parents tell me, that I had “disappointed” them hurt worse than any spanking I could have ever gotten. Knowing that, in some way I had failed their expectation of me was a weight far too great to bear. I know now, that their disappointment was two-fold. Yes, they were disappointed in my actions as a child, but each unfortunate circumstance caused them to question their abilities as parents.There was devastation and pain in their eyes each time they delivered the dreaded “you have disappointed me” speech. I understand now, that disappointment, really was just as much for them as it was for me.
Just as parents realize they must begin to let their children go, we too must learn to let go of the notion that our parents have perfected the art of living. We see them through the eyes of a child who feels no greater sadness, than to know that our actions have, in some way disappointed those from whom we feel obligated to hide our imperfections. They too, hid their imperfections from us, as not to appear as confounded, frustrated, let down, and confused about this thing called life.
As a parent who, on a good day, realizes that our children’s actions are based on their choices and decisions, I know that. On a day when I wonder who these young people are, that seem to follow me from place to place, ask for money, leave big messes, and call me Mom – I understand how my parents must have felt.
My son innocently said “Mom” pointing at my oldest daughter “she was late for her period.” In an instant, my whole world shifted, as I stood there wondering how I had failed, where I had gone wrong, what I could have done differently, he said “so she needs an excuse for her tardy.” In that moment, my mother and I burst into laughter. Though my children didn’t understand how we came to find humor in a tardy, my mother and I laughed to the point of tears, without exchanging one simple word.
My education has taught me well; my life has taught me even better. My parents were afraid that if at any time it appeared as if they did not know what they were doing, we would lose our ability to believe in them. I understand now, why my father missed the times when I was a tiny kid who only wanted to be, wherever he was. My mother laughs when she thinks about the First Holy Communion Dress that she made for me out of one of my sister’s old white dresses with red oriental piping down the front, a leftover yellow headband, and some tulle, cinched with elastic at the waste. As a child in the second grade, all I needed then was that my mother told me that I looked pretty. I believed that my dress was just as beautiful as the other girls dresses. She said it. I believed it. End of story. In actuality, my belief in what she told me was what enabled me to wear what we now refer to (again through laughter to the point of tears) as a hideously horrible creation, made by a working mother, the night before, with little money, and even less talent on the sewing machine.
It is precisely times like those, with my communion dress that the , “everything will be ok” foundation is laid in place. She pulled it off, and (at least in my mind) everything was just fine.
Our ability to believe in, and see our parents as people who know more than is humanly possible, got us through life’s trials and tribulations. In many ways, it gets us through the curve balls life throws at us now. We make comparisons to how things were then and constantly utilize our experience with our families as the benchmark by which we set examples, or simply remind ourselves of how far we have come. Do we ever take into consideration that our parents were individuals first, who took on the responsibility of caring for little people and seeing them into adulthood as best they could?
As long as we continue to see our parents through the eyes of a child, we fail to provide ourselves with the opportunity to get to know them as people. It saddens me that life ended for my father before my understanding began. There are many questions I would have liked to have asked him, yet looking at him through the “eyes of a child” prevented me from accessing a wonderful source of wisdom. My fear of “disappointing” him, prevented me from allowing him, to see in me, what I now see in him; he wasn’t perfect, he was just doing the best that he could.©