Any type of Parental Figure Day is tough for me. I am product of a teen mom, a father that had a tough time conquering addiction problems and a stepfather that was kind hearted. I can remember empty pantries and conflict. I also remember seeing someone who would sacrifice herself for her children, humility and how hard work does provide stability. I always find myself conflicted during Mother’s and Father’s Days and what walks me off the ledge is that not everyone has a perfect childhood.
It always hits me hard when I think about how much I really do remember from my childhood. Then I panic. What in the hell did I do when T1 was 3? T2 when he was 5? What do they remember and how did they perceive the situation? In my opinion, what I was doing was the right decision for all of us but what was their lesson from it? When you become a parent, I think the most difficult lesson to learn and live is to become selfless. You place your kids’ wellbeing, dreams and goals above yours. It does not mean that you can’t have a girl’s night out or dates with your partner; it just means that you’ll make sure they are safe, comforted and feel loved before you head out.
First up this year was Mother’s Day. My mother raised me as her friend more than like a daughter which is not always a bad thing. It might have been tilted in my favor when I wanted to date when I was younger than T1 currently is. I also like to say that she raised me to be a better version of herself-the good and the bad. For example, she likes to shop around and look for bargains and so do I. She might be guilty of bending truths or leaving things out to benefit her situation and I like to think that I have perfected that when I needed to tap into that skill a few times in my past.
My mother and step father have been together since I was 9 and life was a whole lot more stable after they got married. Like most household drama, ours started when I was a 14 year old latchkey kid and ended when I decided to join the Marines at 16.5 years young. I did not enlist until four days after my 17th birthday but once I decided to enlist, I was focused only on excelling in the Marines. Those 2.5 years were full of things that I would probably lose my shit over if T1 or T2 ever imagined doing. My mother did the best she could and my step dad was basically there to referee versus impose and enforce any rules. I am not sure if I would take the same steps but here we are and I seem to be doing OK.
Those 2.5 years were not always troubling. Because we were close in age, we would always joke that we were sisters. Our way of making up after an argument was to go shopping….which I seem to do with my own boys and significant other. It’s easier to buy new Nikes or a book than say “I’m sorry-let’s move on.” I did always go to her to ask her advice or opinion on things throughout my time in the Marines and for a little bit afterwards. It might have been a crutch for both of us since we never really bonded with other females up to that point.
Then we had a falling out.
There are so many variations, history and stupid details that I think we just decided to let it go. We talked sporadically over the 9 years that we did not see each other. This was my Princess Elsafrom Frozen moment on Facebook-cue Let it Go:
“Mom, we haven’t seen each other in nearly 9 years. We had our share of laughs, ups & downs and misunderstandings but at one point, we both just would not back down. Through it all, we have both been comforted that you raised me to be strong, calculated and independent-much like you. Looking back I know why we both did the things we did especially since we were both babies having babies.
Sometimes I’m bitter when I see pictures and hear stories of daughters and their moms. I know in my heart that you probably feel the same. We don’t excel in communication or feelings and a lot goes unsaid so this is a public expression of gratitude for you. Thank you. You gave me life, strength, attitude, adversity and love. We can’t wait to see you in 2 weeks.”
Then we saw each other. It was great to be around family. I missed it. It made me emotional in a way that I don’t like to admit. We spent a few hours of the last day together and it was quite lovely. She and my step dad are coming to stay with us in August for an undetermined amount of time. We are looking forward to it. Honestly, I am excited.
Collectively we are now on the cusp of Father’s Day. My mother and father were childhood friends as both sets of my grandparents knew each other. My father had a charmed youth but he fell victim to addiction. By this time, my mother was now a product of divorce in a time that it was still taboo-though I like to think that it helped form her strong personality. They did their thing and I came into existence in not the best circumstances.
My mother tried to shield me from most of the things going on around me. Times were rough and I know she did everything she could for me. I do remember her trying to keep me involved with my paternal grandfather but minimally with the rest of the family. I always thought (and still think) that my grandfather, my Lolo, is the Most Interesting Man in the World. He is well read, spoken, active, talented, and has had so many odd interests in his life it is mind boggling. Crossbow owner-check. Race car driver-check. Olympic Fencer-check. Art collector-check. A clown-check. (No, really. He volunteered his time performing magic tricks at children hospitals.) His house reminds me of a museum with trinkets from around the world and books-it is magnificent.
Back to my father.
He has gone through rough times. He remarried and I have three other siblings from this marriage-cool siblings and an equally cool step mom. Around the time of his marriage, he really cleaned up. My mother allowed me to see him more often to create some bonds with my new family. Then he fell on hard times-life can be a vicious circle. My father is now remarried, doing his nursing gig, racing motorcycles and coming into his own being Lolo to three grandkids.
Unfortunately, I don’t have memories of father & daughter dances-though I think those are kinda creepy. I didn’t have a protective father. Not one fatherly figure told me “no” growing up. Nobody comforted me if I had a broken heart from puppy love. No father telling me that the boy down the street was not good enough for me. What I do gleam from my father is a sense of humility and perseverance. He had a volatile adult life but he keeps on pushing through with a smile. He knows that he is not perfect, and he might fall a few steps back, but he keeps on moving towards his inner peace.
My step father has been a mechanic forever. Really, I think he was born with a screwdriver in his hand. He taught me that hard work pays off. He was a blue collar worker in a time that professionals were taking over the world. I admire that. He was always honest about who he was. A man from the Midwest that grew up on a farm. He raised 6 kids in his life and only a fraction of my extended family are biologically his. That has never mattered to him and it never will. He has a heart of gold.
From my step father, I learned how to grill and keep a full pantry. Sunday mornings are for big breakfasts, Monday nights are reserved for a 6 pack of beer with the latest pigskin match on the TV and Friday’s are Blockbuster (now Redbox) movie nights. We do household chores on Saturday and you cut down your Christmas tree the day after (or as close as possible) to the day after Thanksgiving. Also, that Fords are better than Chevys.
I had to put these thoughts down because, like I said, Parental Days are hard for me. These words are my first steps to making it easier. When I am emotionally impacted, I am compelled to put my ramblings on a paper screen rather than talk about them. I write my feelings down, edit to make sure this was what I wanted to convey and then I must publically proclaim said emotions. Everyone has some type of adversity growing up. It could have been a few financially tight months, single parenthood or abuse in any of its forms. I own my upbringing. It will never be an excuse for me to not push myself to my limits. I like to think my parents did the best they could with what they had. I hope my boys can look back on their upbringing and proclaim the same thing.
Sooooo…this was a long winded way of finally saying
Happy Father’s Day to Two Dads and Mom that Sometimes Wore Both Hats. Thank you for the love, soft hand, good skin tone, traditions, kindness and humility that have helped me guide my two boys. I don’t want to imagine it any other way.