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Windows & Gates

Windows & Gates

My mother called me last week to ask why Mini doesn’t like going to school.

That was the first topic she mentioned, anyway, and the one that set the tone for the rest of our conversation. We would switch to hypothetical drop-in visits, my brother’s impending wedding, whether or not my dog is to have ACL surgery, all the while me adjusting, and readjusting, my hurt and then, later, anger about the way she chose to start the conversation, several times over the course of a ten-minute conversation. Did she say it to hurt me, or was it just something she didn’t understand? How can I be that woman — the one who, at 36, and-now-almost-37-fuck!-let’s-face-it-I’m-pushing-40-now still resents her parents for things that happened years ago? Doesn’t everybody do the best they can, given the tools they have available to them?

I don’t usually talk about my parents here. Somewhat out of respect for them as private people who don’t necessarily want their lives deconstructed on the internet. Somewhat to avoid conflict. But mostly, if I’m telling the truth, mostly it is because I really don’t want to be that woman. I hate that woman. I wish she would just get over it already.

Occasionally, one or the other of my parents will peek in here, and catch a little glimpse of my life. But sometimes, these little windows they see are worse than if they had never looked at all. We relate in fits and starts, half-truths and omissions. I don’t think my parents know what to do with me as I exist here — it is an Anna they really do not know. It is a me that I rarely let them see. Because I don’t trust them with it.

Did the window through which my mother saw Mini’s day at school make it look like he was a child who did not enjoy going to school? Did she see an introverted child, sitting patiently on the steps for an absent mother to come and fetch him, listening intently for the jingle of her car keys while the other kids laughed, played, sang John Jacob Jingleheimer Smith? Did she imagine it? Was it the same window through which I looked? What if her window was the more accurate one?

Parenting changes you in so many ways. You don’t expect some of them. I never thought I would be revisiting my own childhood every time I went to pick up Mini from school. I never thought I would be the one faced with these kinds of dilemmas and the politics of leaving a child at the gate.

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Comments (13)

  1. Normally Out, This Time Anon.
    Jun 23, 2010

    Normal commenter, but for this, I need to go underground.

    DUDE. I thought becoming a parent would make me understand and have more empathy for my own parents. All it did was highlight each and every way they have failed me, and continue to fail me, over the years. Still, it is tricky, because my kids love them and my parents are good grandparents (because being a grandparent is EASY, so that? They can handle. LOVE IT. The irony.) Do I deny my kids their grandparents?? The temptation to do so is great, because I am fucking tired of getting my heart broken by my parents. Then, I feel selfish for potentially denying my kids.

    Awesome. Childhood all fucking over again.


  2. Jun 23, 2010

    I think I know exactly what you mean. But I don’t let my family read my blog. It just causes more problems than we already have. Because the me I think I am, and the them I think they are, they hate it.

  3. Michele
    Jun 23, 2010

    Even those of us with the best childhood will have some issue at some time. I think my son has a great and happy childhood but he may not see it that way when he’s grown. I guess I’ll know when I get all the therapy bills addressed to “Mom.”

    I carry a big chip on my shoulder when it comes to math. My dad who is nearly a math savant , would slam down his fist on the table when he was helping me with my homework and say, “God damn it, why don’t you get this Michele!” I don’t know why, maybe I was scared to death? For years I believed I was math deficient. When I stopped listening to that voice of “You SUCK at math” I realized I’m actually pretty good. But taking my recent assessment test for entrance back into college the only part of the test that made me nervous and doubt my abilities, was the math, apparently it’s still there.

    I don’t know the back story of your childhood, but I do know that at times I have heard my what my parents have said through the “you suck at math” filter and it lands wrong.
    When I try to hear them with love, it sounds different. Of course there are times I think, “whatchoo talking about Willis?” because they’re parenting style and mine are very different. We’re still very much children in bigger bodies, and you know what…so are they.

  4. Jun 23, 2010

    This is one topic on which I am pretty much useless as far as advice goes.

    But I have to say…there’s nothing wrong with Mini. He’s fine. That’s ridiculous.

  5. Susan Tiner
    Jun 23, 2010

    Normally Out, This Time Anon, I know what you mean. It’s complicated either way.

  6. Jennifer
    Jun 23, 2010

    I am continually amazed by the power my mom has to crush me (and not intentionally – I have to believe). she still sees me as I was 30+ years ago, and assumes I’ll make decisions today as I would then. I hope that I realize that the reality I see of my daughter isn’t her entire reality and that I’m able to frame it appropriately. Im afraid I won’t.

  7. Jun 23, 2010

    I feel the same way–now that I have a kid, I’m in awe that my father treated our relationship the way he did. I’m amazed at what he was willing to give up with me, and it hurts that much more because I can’t imagine a world where I would make the same choices. And yet I don’t want to deny my son his grandfather, just because I don’t feel like he’s my dad.
    I hope against hope that my kid won’t look at me when he’s 30 the way I look at my dad. I hope I won’t have hurt him the way I was hurt–in small, insignificant, and yet heartbreaking ways.
    Anna, you’re right, no one ever tells you how much your child will make you revisit your own childhood.

  8. Me again
    Jun 23, 2010

    I’m going to come at this from a different angle.

    Mini started at this “school” at age two, which means it isn’t really school, and I’m not sure when it became fashionable to start referring to daycare/playgroup/pre-nursery school in this manner and why it did. I’m guessing it’s to make parents who don’t feel comfortable with the term daycare, for whatever reasons, feel better about their decisions.

    In any case, it’s perfectly normal for many kids this age not to like being out of the house. My daughter who was in daycare from six months — first, a homecare situation and then an official daycare — never really liked it. She didn’t cry or cling, but every single time I dropped her off I knew she would have preferred to stay with me. This was definitely not at all the case for many of the other kids and it was indeed a very good daycare.

    Anyway, all this to say that maybe your mother is just concerned that this isn’t the right situation for him not that there’s something wrong with him.

    I know that if I’d had more money and, as a result, more choices I might have done things differently.

    Maybe this just isn’t the right place for him now no matter how well it works for others.

    BTW, once my daughter started real school, she loved it.

  9. Jun 23, 2010

    I second this. Show me a kid (and a mom!) who doesn’t go through this at some point, and I’ll show you a liar.

    Mini is great. So are you. This shit is hard.

  10. Jun 24, 2010

    Did you mean that to sound as judgmental as it did?

  11. Me again
    Jun 24, 2010

    No, I didn’t, but I can see rereading it how it did. Apologies.

    My point is basically this. There’s absolutely nothing wring with Mini if he doesn’t like “school.” Lots of kids don’t.

    And if he really doesn’t like it, there’s also nothing wrong with switching him out if that option exists and he’ll be happier.

  12. Michelle
    Jun 24, 2010

    I’ve always wanted people to see me as strong and capable (I usually assumed they saw me as odd at best). Everyone has an opinion on how children should be raised and beyond the emotional roller-coaster hormones put us on, we can feel everyone judging us. As not strong, not capable. Not able to parent effectively, whatever that means.

    It’s been really hard for me to drop being defensive long enough to hear what advice-givers are saying. And it’s been really hard for me to explain (when I wasn’t defensive and could hear them) that, while it may sound crazy to you, but I believe in what I’m doing.

    In other words, everyone is right, everyone is touchy, everyone seems wrong.

  13. Jun 25, 2010

    I am really close to my parents. Really close. I wasn’t always. In high school it wasn’t clear if we’d all live through it. I have wonderful grandparents. My mom’s mom was not a good mother but not because she didn’t love her, rather because she had some issues and had to work full time so my mom ended up parenting her two younger sisters. As a grandma she’s amazing. She’s my best friend and she and my mom are really close but my grandma apologizes ALL of the time for her raising of my mom. My dad’s mom was a SAHM of 4 kids who were born in like 18 month intervals and she was a ranch wife. I love her but I’m not as close to her. She’s a very judgmental person. Never toward me, never. But towards others, all of the time. She’s really hard on my aunts behind their backs and one of my cousins who I’ll admit is a disaster.

    Anyway, the point of this is my mom had two young kids 18 months apart and moved to a town where she knew no one but family. She had no help. She called my grandma in tears a lot. My dad’s mom didn’t want to be the meddling mother in law so she stayed away unless asked for help which never happened. Both my mom and grandma regret that now.

    My mom can be snarky. She doesn’t even realize she does it but she does. When she is it totally stings. My grandma tells me how it is and it doesn’t sting despite how close we are, but my mom can cut deep. My other grandma never, ever doles out advice despite raising 4 kids. I wish she would sometimes!! I bet her information is invaluable! I long to ask her how she survived but she’s the type who would never complain or judge to your face. I think I was a disappointment to her in my younger years but now I’m kind of elevated because we adopted our daughter which is completely ludicrous but it is what it is.

    Anyway, sorry this is so long I just wanted you to know even those of us with good familial relationships get smacked down at times.

    Mini seems just fine to me and you’re doing a great job!! There are no perfect parents, anyone who thinks they were/are a perfect parent is delusional. Keep your chin up!

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