What is it about this month that makes people so crazy? Everyone is stressed about the holidays, worried about how much they’re spending on gifts and anxiously anticipating (or possibly dreading) seeing their family at mandatory parties while they drink spiked eggnog and try to figure out a way to sneak a cigarette outside somewhere so no one notices.
This holiday season, as I was digging out holiday decor, I found a handful of baby pictures. The thing is, they weren’t any ordinary baby pictures- there was something unique about them. They were all of me and my dad. My parents divorced about ten years ago. It wasn’t pretty, and in my hazy recollection, I’m pretty sure quite a few photos actually got ripped up. I get it. They were angry, hurt and spiteful at the time.
I consider myself to be an anti-hoarder, otherwise known as a compulsive declutterer. If you dated me at sometime (and by some weird chance are reading this)- I want you to know that there’s no record of our relationship anywhere except for in my head. I did the same thing my parents did. Any photos, gifts, jewelry or keepsakes were all dumped in the trash or burned once things ended. It’s just my thing… move forward, learn from past experiences, keep my head up and keep moving on. If by chance there is a photo of us somewhere, it’s because I missed it during my purge session.
Back to these baby photos- my mother must have given them to me when things were divided up. I found them fascinating to look at because for reasons I’m not going to go into depth here, I don’t have much of a relationship with my father today. He lives exactly 10 miles from my home (I mapquested it), and I’ve seen him a just handful of times just since my children have been born. He came by the hospital the day they each were born, visited them in the NICU and has seen them about two times since. Our lack of relationship is probably a bit of both of our fault somehow, but like I said, I’m not going to bore you with details. Our relationship is just estranged. I’ve spent time in therapy rehashing things and I’m finally at a point that I accept this “non-relationship” we have… to some extent.
The thing that was so fascinating about these photos is that we look so happy in all of them. It made me sad, and a little angry. There are many candids of us having a good time. He obviously loved me, and I did him. What happened?? When did things go off the rails?
I have a panic attack almost every time after I see him and I’ve just decided to “cut the fat” from my life. If you aren’t someone who is making me happy, I don’t owe you room in my life…and that’s him. I refuse to let my relationship with him define me, and though I may be able to forgive some things, I’ll never forget it all. As petty and childish as it makes me sound, I can’t find it in my heart to forgive it all either, and I’m ok with that.
I’ve been both praised and criticized for being too open, too honest and too personal in my blog posts. For those who praise me, thank you. For those on the other side of the fence, stop reading. I won’t miss you as a follower.
Typically, no one likes to take responsibility for their own issues. I can bet you that if you talk to someone long enough though, some of their “issues with life” relate somehow back to their childhood. Seeing these photos and thinking about this made me think of what kind of parent I would be remembered as once my children grow up. I have photos of my children and I now, happy and loving; proof that our relationship is solid. Right now, at their age, their father and I can do no wrong. We are their best friends, security blanket, safe place and biggest loves in their life.
As they grow older, I know this is going to change. They’ll make friends, want to spend less time with us at some point and there will come the day when they disappoint us. It’s just life. I don’t know the answer but I do know that I always want to be someone whom they can come to, to be able to share things; without being scared of being shut out. Maybe I’m too easy on them sometimes because I don’t want our relationship to ever turn into what I have with my father. (See what I did just there? I blamed one of my shortcomings on my childhood). But maybe I’m too soft on them sometimes because to me, they’re still babies and no matter how old they get, they’ll always be my babies. I don’t have the answer.
What I do know, is the simple fact that I’m thinking about this now makes me a pretty decent parent, shortcomings and all. I don’t want to screw things up and I will work my hardest so that history does not repeat itself. The formula to being a good parent is simple: LOVE your child. Continue loving that child. Make sure that they know you love them- like all the time. Make it annoying if you have to- but don’t stop. Don’t stop ever telling them you love them. Don’t let them forget. Giggle with them, show interests in their interests, encourage them and praise them when they deserve it.
Regardless of what life has in store for me or my family, I vow that my adult children will not find some random 30year old photo book of “the better times” and wonder where those days went. I’m going to make sure that the good times just keep getting better.