It's always hard for me, incredibly hard, to write about the failings of my parents. Like I talked about in this post, now that I am a mother myself I have to constantly reconcile the mother I dreamed I'd be with the mother I really am. It's humbling. Parenting is humbling.
My parents' problems always seemed obvious to me. There were three kids in my family and none of us was planned. My parents kind of raised us that way - unplanned, shooting from the hip. They abused substances, forgot about us, and got lost in their own problems. I've spent countless hours on the couches of psychologists trying to work through the quagmire of who I am because of the pain that my parents gifted me with. At least, that's what I used to believe. The simple truth is that I blamed them for what I didn't like about myself.
One of the ideas I've explored a lot here in this blog space, is the idea that the members of my family wear a "mark" because we're from Greenwood. There is a heritage of slavery that haunts us. Greenwood was slave country, and we are her descendants.
Years ago, before that idea had occurred to me, I thought I had all the answers. In my arrogance, I believed that I could construct the perfect family in the same way that I could mix together and bake the perfect cake. I met a man who didn't drink, had a stable job, and seemed to be the perfect puzzle piece to build my ideal family on. He was the cornerstone, and we were both the builders. We had two sons. I read to them, I home schooled them, took them to the park, and was convinced that my love would be all that they'd need to be perfectly, adorably happy. I was wrong.
I always thought that I was sad as a girl because I had absent, selfish parents. Then, I met my son. He is sad. He cries a lot and talks often about how much he hates himself. He is seven years-old. I play with him, read books to him, take him to all types of doctors, and sometimes, in the quiet of the night, I resent it all. He reminds me so much of myself at that age. I was 11 the first time I contemplated committing suicide. I always thought that particular detail was a reflection of the terrible, oh, so awful home life I came from.
In the life I have today, I easily spend 20 hours a week trying to save my son. I take him to specialists, read books on kids that are "different", and talk to other moms. Every day it feels like the two of us are on a course marked for certain destruction. It's a game. People are hiding where I cannot see them. They watch us and laugh at us as we try to get off, because there is no "off." There is only a mother trying desperately to find the right pill, the right program, the right diagnosis, the right anything.
Sometimes, he smiles at me. He truly is the most beautiful boy in the world (although he may be tied with his brother). He has caramel-colored skin that he hates because it's not white. He is tall and most people think he's three years older than he actually is. I know that one day when he's a man he will love being tall. For now, though, it's like a cross to bear. People look at him and wonder why he can't do more. Why is he crying? Why is he screaming?
As I deal with him, trying to nurture and love without getting tapped out, his father lingers in the background, already talking about military school. I picked him because I thought he'd be the perfect father. But, I also thought that I would be the perfect mother.
Some days, I am painfully aware of the fact that I'm the only one who "gets" my son. Others hear rage, I hear a panic attack coming on. I perceive the tears behind the behavior. Sometimes, I wish I could permanently tie him to me to help him navigate every situation or at a minimum, I want to construct a world in which he would experience no pain, a world in which everyone would "get" him.
Along with all of this, I have to wonder two things: 1) Is he like this because I am like my parents? Or 2) were my parents normal and all of my crap was my own fault because I was messed up biochemically or something?
Either answer kind of sucks. If answer 1 is the truth, then does that make me a terrible mother? If 2 is true, then I've spent all of these years blaming innocents for my own loneliness.
I've made some of the most critical choices in my life because I wanted to build the perfect family. I don't have the perfect family. I have a broken family and I don't know what to do about it.