Tuesday 13 January 2015

The Simple Things

My parents fought a fair bit when I was growing up, as most parents do. Sometimes it was about money and mum's ability to spend more than dad was making, although to be fair she came from a family that always had money and she'd learnt to want for nothing and therefore never fully appreciated the value of it always knowing that there was more where it came from. Sometimes it was about either my brother or I behaving a certain way and each parent had their own ideas on how to deal with it which then caused conflict, other times it was because each of them thought a certain way about something and the other person refused to see where they were coming from, mum's mental illness didn't help at all. The biggest or most common fights I heard and were one of the breaking point for me finally taking the plunge to move out, were over religion. It was was the cornerstone of our family and the life in which my parents had built a foundation on, yet religion and the people at church were the cause of some of the biggest and for me, the most heartbreaking fights I'd heard them have.

Most of my teen years I often wondered why, if my parents were so unhappy together they didn't just divorce and be done with it. Surely having to civilized and happy parents living apart was better than what I was living with.

My dad's parents separated and eventually divorced when he was a teenager and the ripple effect that caused through his family and the aftermath which I grew up with left me with so many questions and no one really willing to answer them. I guess that's why he wasn't keen on getting divorced.

My mother's parents were strict and had their occasional bicker but appeared to be just your 'standard' parents, if there is such a thing. Then again, my grandfather was 80 when I was born and my grandmother in her late 60's or so, so I didn't really get the opportunity to learn that much about them before my grandfather passed away and my grandmother's Alheimer's was beyond recognition.

Mum was a schoolteacher at one point until she decided it wasn't really what she wanted and she became a receptionist then a stay at home mother. She'd often tell me how it broke her heart seeing young children being neglected whilst caught in the middle of a nasty divorce or custody battle. She mentioned one boy in particular who was left outside school grounds at the end of the day for his father who had pretty much forgotten about him. I guess that's why she never considered divorce an option.

I hold a lot of respect for single parents even though for most of my life I didn't really know any, stupid religion. I often wondered about the kids that grew up with one parent absent for copious amounts of time or even those that never knew one of their parents. I also thought about the reasons the absent or neglectful parents would give for not being there, basing them on books and articles I'd read, movies and TV shows I'd seen and just interactions between people I'd see out and about.

Maybe they realized that being a parent was too hard so they gave up, maybe they thought that because they had a rough childhood it'd be better for their child not to know them or have much to do with them. Maybe they just weren't 'parent material' and had no interest in learning how to be, possibly their career was doing so well that they ran out of time to care about anything else.

Maybe all or none of the above.

I remember when I was a kid, it didn't matter that mum didn't work or that she had a mental illness (despite my very limited understanding of what that actually was), it didn't matter that dad's family were a mess or that he was overweight. What did matter was having one of them picking us up from school at the end of the day, having someone to play games with, kick around the soccer ball in the front yard, walk the dog with, someone to talk to about how school was or how my plans to take over the world Pinky and The Brain style would one day come into effect.

Anything less was just an excuse. Sure to a parent or someone struggling with their own 'demons' they would be completely legitimate reasons to avoid contact with offspring, but to the offspring they say 'I'm not good enough', 'I'm worthless', 'I don't deserve love or attention'.

On the days when I'd get home from school as a teenager and mum would be having her usual afternoon nap due to her meds or illness, I wasn't quite sure, and dad would be in the study on his computer more often than not, those were the messages I got loud and clear. I didn't understand that mum needed her nap to keep her as sane as possible, or that dad needed his time out to not explode beyond breaking point, I only understood that I was alone when I got home and no one dropped everything to change that.

If you have kids and think that you're failing as a parent because you had a crappy childhood or you don't have a job or whatever other reason you can come up with, do you really think your child cares about that? My dad was a computer tech person thing with a full time job until I was about 8 or so, then he did various contracts that suited his skill set but was mostly unemployed for most of my life. The only time that ever really mattered to me was when I was at school and other kids would briefly mention about their parents careers, e.g when we were trying to keep up appearances. Any other time he was just my dad and that was more than enough for me.

Mum stopped working just after my parents got married because it was affecting her mental state and dad knew he would be able to support the both of them as well as have the peace of mind knowing she wouldn't be wound up at the end of the day. I often wondered why she didn't go back to work when my brother and I started school or even when we reached high school and bills were piling up but she always said she'd been out of the workforce so long she'd probably forgotten everything. Again, the only time that ever really mattered was when other kids at school were comparing their stories.

I don't have children of my own, but have wanted them for as long as I can remember. As much as anyone tries, there isn't such a thing as a perfect parent. We are all human, regardless of how many people act like they aren't or forget that they are, you're bound to and meant to make mistakes, but I think the biggest mistake you can make is to not try, to forget how much the simple things really mean, especially to a kid.

If your child has an occasion which requires parental recognition or just parental attendance and you don't go, they don't care why you aren't there, they only care that you aren't.

When a child is on stage or has some kind of attention on them and they look up to the audience and see their parents faces, it changes everything. It means something. They are good enough, they are worth everything and they absolutely deserve love and attention.

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