Day 32 of 365 Tiny Changes
My daughter, Angie, is in the USA. Hurray! She’s been in Paraguay for the last 2 1/2 years, serving in the Peace Corps. As a reward for extending her commitment to 3 years, she was given a 30 day leave of absence and sent home. And she’s here. Well almost here.
She lived in Atlanta for a number of years before she left for Paraguay, so she is spending the first 10 days there, with her friends. She will be flying to Cincinnati on the 23rd, when her Dad will pick her up. She will stay with him until the evening of Christmas Eve, when I will FINALLY get to see her, and hug her, and let her know how much I have truly missed her.
We haven’t had the best of relationships. It’s hard to say when it all started to go south. I wasn’t given the opportunity to raise my children in the ways of the old TV shows, like Leave It To Beaver, or Andy Griffith.
My relationship with their father was tumultuous, to put it lightly. We were married for 12 years, but during that time we lived apart nearly as often as we lived together. By the time Angie was 11 we were divorced and apart permanently.
I found being a single mother extremely difficult. In order to make ends meet, I needed to work 2 jobs. I had very little family support, when it came to caring for the kids, and they were left on their own a lot of the time. I didn’t have a choice. Their Dad lived 70 miles away and chose to visit occasionally, on a Sunday afternoon.
Somewhere between the divorce, the 2 jobs, the exhaustion, and the loneliness, a rift occurred. Suddenly, it seemed, they had turned into really angry teenagers, and I was at a complete lose. I was just trying to get through it. Hoping that as they grew up, they would learn to understand how difficult trying to hold a family together as a single parent is.
A single parent has to carry the whole load. EVERYTHING is the responsibility of this one person. The job, the income, the bills, the housing, the maintenance, the food, the food preparation, the relationships, the child rearing, the discipline, the rewards, the fun, the experiences, the homework, the sports... All of it, every part of life for the parent, and the children, rides on the shoulders of this one person.
If anyone falters, society blames it on the parent. In my case, my children blamed me, too.
My son and I have been able to let the rift between us heal. He is local. So local in fact, he lives in the guest room. Being this close has let us learn to interact as adults. Most of the time anyway. Sometimes I forget and slip into my Mother role, and sometimes he forgets and slides into his mouthy teenager role. But we have moved forward. He, also, has a child of his own. I think that helped to expand his point of view, some, too.
On the other hand, my daughter moved out at 17 and hasn’t been back. Our rift remains. I feel it’s because we’ve never created a relationship past the one we had when she was 17. She is 31 now, and we’re stuck in the past.
She has done a lot of work to forgive me. I accept her forgiveness. For what, I haven’t quite figured out. I wasn’t a perfect parent, but neither were mine. Yet, I always understood they were doing the best that they knew how. I never felt the need to forgive them for any of the child rearing choices they made. Sure, I didn’t agree with all of their choices, so I just didn’t repeat them with my children. It's all in the past.
I have always felt that Angie wanted something more out of me than I was able to give her. I’ve never been able to figure out what.
I had a boyfriend once who said, “Help me the way I want to be helped.” My answer was, “That would be great if I knew what that was, but since I don’t, I will help you the way that I can.” Two sides of the same coin. Both valid points.
With my daughter it’s more like, “Be the parent I want you to be.” My answer is, “That would be great if I knew who that is, but since I don’t, I can only be the parent that I am.” Thus the rift continues between us.
I found out via FaceBook, this morning, that she arrived in the US late last night.
As adult children, I think we forget that a parent worries about us, even when we’re not around. As a child and a parent, I know that I worry about my children more than I worry about my parents. It’s an old habit that I should probably work on changing, because my parents are getting to the age where I should be worrying about them a lot more than I do about my healthy adult children.
The relationship between a parent and a child is complicated. It is one that, because of the fact that we are aging human beings, demands that we change and grow within the relationship. As the parent we were once the caregiver, but are progressing to becoming the one that needs the care. As the child, we are used to being cared for, but must grow into the care giver. This change isn’t always easy for everyone.
Perhaps if we took the time to step back and look at our parents and our children as others might see them, not as we have gotten into the habit of seeing them, we would see a completely different person.
We might see a person, that by virtue of our history together, deserves our love and respect. We might see a person who has given freely of themselves for their chosen path in life. We just might see another human being. That, alone, should be enough to garner our honor and appreciation.
Tiny Change 32: Honor my parents and children, by giving them a heartfelt hug, the first time I see them during the day.
If you were expecting that I might want to work on mending the rift between, myself and my daughter, I think a heartfelt hug is the perfect tiny place to start.
How are you honoring your parents and children?
Tiny Blessing for the Day: I am blessed to have my daughter back in our country, safe and sound.