Thursday, September 3, 2009

What I hope to do better. . .

Looking back on my teen years and well into my 20s, it’s easy for me to see that I was completely unprepared for life. I really didn’t have any idea what it meant to be an adult, to make decisions. But because of a lack of parenting, I didn’t realize this at all. Pretty much the only parent I had growing up was Elaine. Most of time I listened to her. But after a while even that fell away and I only listened to me.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I had parents. I had 4 parents. But none of them parented in the nitty gritty, down and dirty way. My Dad would never touch major subjects of any kind. Hell, after he married when I was 12, he didn’t do much parenting at all. And as for our stepmom, she had never had any children and to suddenly be raising a 13 and 12 year old, well, you can imagine. So there wasn’t much help there.

My Mom was my friend. When I was young I called my Mom every day. I considered her my best friend. I thought I was the luckiest kid ever. But my memories of being around my Mom are chatting and giggling and shopping and eating and watching movies. There was never any direction or re-direction or discipline.

And of course, my stepdad stayed out of it all.

As an aside, I want to clarify that I’m not putting down or judging my parents. I’m very much of the school of thought that everyone is doing the best they can and that includes my parents. I know they loved me and believe me none of them came from great functional homes where they might have learned this stuff.

Because of the lack of parenting, I really felt like I was on my own for a long time before I was. Elaine and I did whatever we wanted. If it was necessary to lie, we lied. We drank, did drugs, spent the night out partying (while our Dad and stepmom thought we were at a friend’s house), threw house parties when they took summer vacations for a week or so and left us at the house. In other words, we were bad.

Elaine, of course, moved out first. I stayed at home and continued to do whatever I wanted. When I graduated Elaine and I decided to get our own place in another town to go to school.

A (I was going to write ‘the’ but there were so many problems who could pick one main one?) big problem I had was that I believed that because I had done whatever I wanted for so long with no discernible parenting, I felt completely prepared for life. And being a teen, I thought I knew it all and listened to no one.

The main change between living at home and moving out was that I was free to drink more. And that was very helpful. To this day I might still be a virgin, if weren’t for alcohol. An example, I didn’t kiss a boy until I was 16. 16?!? I had sex for the first time at 18 after drinking a quart of vodka. Alcohol truly was my social lubrication. I’m socially awkward and have trouble interacting with people and making friends. But alcohol made that a thing of the past. Hooray for booze!

The ironic thing about all this is that I was quite vocal about everything I was doing. I wanted every to know how much “fun” I was having. The drinking, the drugs, the partying, the going-to-work-hungover-or still-drunk, the guys that I casually tossed aside (because I was cute and flirty, a real heart-breaker, not at all a dysfunctional, terrified, can’t-date-anyone-that-might-be-good-for-me, love-guys-that-treat-me-like-crap kind of girl. Uh,uh. Not me.) But why?

Looking back I’m sure some part of me wanted to change, wanted help, wanted to understand why I was my own worst enemy. Or even to realize that. I was so dysfunctional in who I picked to be in my life and how I treated them, that when they reacted badly (which is normal), I could play the victim. But as I look back and sort of trace back, I know there were things I should have been taught as a kid that I wasn’t.

Like about sex. I knew the basics from my Mom and my Dad’s girlfriend’s 12 year old daughter but no one ever talked about the emotional aspects of sex. About self respect and honoring your body and your wants and that it’s ok to say no. Since before I even got pregnant with Maggie I’ve been practicing all the things about sex and self respect and love and dating that I want to teach her.

But mostly I want Maggie to always feel loved and valued and adored so that she never feels like she has to go out into the world and find that. I want us to provide a foundation for her of love and support so that she doesn’t desperately need love and attention from others. I want her to stand on her own as a happy and content and loved person who can then share that with someone she chooses.

Can I teach her that?

God, I hope so.

1 comment:

becca said...

It was interesting to read that your "friendly" relationship with your mom, all giggles, chatting and fun was not helpful to you as you look back on it. I always thought I wanted to have that sort of relationship with my daughter and have had a hard time realizing that I'm her MOM not her friend and that she needs an authority, not a friend. What you wrote, reinstates that and I will take it to heart!

I am so sure that you're giving Maya tons of love and instating strong, important values in her. Great post!