A friend of mine, M., is eight and a half months pregnant with her first child. Talking to her this morning made me feel warm and fuzzy about the early days and years with my own baby, and I also thought about things I wish I’d known back then that I know now, ways that I could’ve been a better Mom.
I was still a good Mom, but I always look back and see ways I could’ve done better- even in the inner sense of handling my thoughts and fears and being more present for the little joys.
I look forward to the rest of my son’s big, beautiful life and of course I don’t know what all will happen, what more joys and challenges he will face or we will face together as a family, but I do know I want to try to do my best and not mess (him) up too much.
Sometimes I can’t determine which parts of me (my flaws) are things are environmental or stuff my parents did “wrong” and which parts are just who I am in my DNA, just part of my being human and being Heidi- in other words, not their fault at all.
This made me take a cursory look at what my parents got from their own parents, my two sets of grandparents just two generations ago.
Well, one big thing is that my Mom’s parents were undiagnosed alcoholics and drank a lot of Dewer’s scotch pretty much every night, often getting very drunk together. They didn’t ever quit until they were elderly and the damage that undiagnosed, untreated alcoholism causes to the relationship with my mother- their child- had already been done.
My Dad’s father left the family when my father was about two years old and never returned. My Dad’s mother was pretty much never employed, so she and her two kids, my Dad and my aunt, were poor and on welfare and by most accounts my grandmother sounds like she was a depressed smoker who eventually killed herself. She didn’t sound like the happiest person- and to be honest, I never knew her. At all.
This is just the tip pf the iceberg of my family stories, (book to come when I gather the courage) and by the way, I’m not saying that my grandparents didn’t have any good qualities that they gave to their children, but they were big zeros as grandparents because I never had a relationship with any of them, sadly, they never tried to get to know me or my sisters or spend any time with us.
Hang with me, this is about to turn positive…
Where I’m going with this is not “poor me” at all, it’s more like WOW, considering what my Mom had to work with, she really did a fantastic job as a loving, present mother. She did wayyyyy better than her own parents, and she deserves credit for that.
Her accomplishment in motherhood- as a single mother of three children after my Dad split- is to me, heroic. She went from food stamps to nursing school and became an RN to support us. She was always there and she still is.
And my own father, while he left us after my parent’s divorce when I was 11, was certainly in his kid’s lives more than his own father was around in his childhood. He made big mistakes, but he DID do better than what he was given.
We all try to (hopefully) do better than our parents did in some way. And looking back on how much better my own parents did than the previous generation, I’m very grateful for that. I’m so happy to have a chance to try to do better in my own life and as a parent, to look at the past without bitterness or self pity, but acceptance that we are all trying our best with what we have been given.
We have a chance to do better than the generations before us. To stand on their shoulders and try to reach higher.
What an awesome gift.