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Posts Tagged ‘fathers’

From my earliest memories, I always wanted to be a mother. I had a bevy of babies that I would wrap up, feed bottles to, change diapers, and talk to, including my actual baby doll, Jill, three Cabbage Patch kids, and an assortment of stuffed animals. They are some of the very few things that I saved from my childhood. I loved playing mommy, it was always in me, and I looked forward to the day when I would have my own real babies.

When those real babies began arriving, I was exhausted and sometimes overwhelmed or irritated, but totally and completely in love. I still am, even though they’re all bigger than me now. My job was very simple to me: I was entrusted with these new souls, these helpless little squishy beings that I brought into the world and depended on me for everything. It was my job to protect and nurture them into becoming caring and wonderful adults one day. Did I and do I continue to make mistakes? Oh, yes, indeed. There are things about raising them that I would go back and do differently if I could, times when I let adult problems overwhelm me and I would lose focus, times when I was just too tired to play or I didn’t listen properly. But I will tell you this: I tried my best to make sure that they knew that they were loved and wanted, no matter what. I hope they felt that way, I hope they still do, because I wouldn’t trade them, or the experience of raising them, for the world

That being said, I know that not all women are geared that way and I get that. I have dear friends who have always loved on my kids and the kids of other friends and family, but are very content not having any of their own. I admire that, because, let’s face it: there’s a lot of pressure for not only women, but people in general, to have children. Kids are a humongous life change and commitment, but society pressures couples to have them anyway. Women especially, who choose to remain childless, are often called selfish or unnatural if they choose to not have kids, a totally unfair judgement. Society doesn’t make it easy to make those decisions permanent, either. Women of childbearing age who seek out voluntary sterilization are often turned down by doctors, told that one day they may change their minds. How insulting! Sterilization is a pretty intense operation for a woman, I seriously doubt that anyone would go through that on a whim, not to mention that it is incredibly condescending to question a decision like that, but I digress.

So, why am I writing about this? I read an article the other day that infuriated me about parents who regret being parents, which again, I understand that someone could feel that way.  In a perfect world, every baby would be wanted and born into a loving environment where all of their needs are met. Unfortunately, not every child brought into this world is wanted or loved. People have children sometimes because they feel like they are supposed to, because of restrictive birth control issues, or because it’s expected, rather than having a real desire to parent. It would be a terribly difficult situation to be in, one that isn’t true for me, but I definitely have sympathy for those who find themselves there.

No, my beef isn’t with parents who regret having children, it’s with the parents who regret having children and then publicly tell the world about it at the expense of the feelings and well-being of those children. That second part is definitely not okay.

There have been several articles written in the past few years by both women and men who regret having children and then decide to write about it, using their own names and stories, such as in the case of Corinne Maier, author of No Kids: 40 Reasons Not To Have Children.  Google it, it’s amazing how many sources there are. As much as I think that those feelings of regret are legit for a lot of people, is it really ethical to air those grievances when those very children will very likely hear or read them one day? Simple answer: No! No, it isn’t. It’s never okay for a child to hear that they should never have been born.

To be fair, many of these articles contain comments from parents who are remaining anonymous or who are using pseudonyms. There are even closed Facebook groups for parents who regret having kids, with the idea that it is a support group. Again, I understand that those feelings are real, even among parents who initially wanted children, and having an outlet to discuss those feelings with others could definitely be therapeutic. In fact, I think that therapy is an excellent idea in general. But it was shocking to me to see how many parents did not bother to conceal their identities, who openly stated that their lives would have been better if they had never had their kids.

Normally, I’m all about being open to ideas and feelings, truly I am. I draw the line, though, when airing those ideas and feelings can only serve to hurt innocent people, especially kids. Kids can’t fight for themselves, they need adults to stand up and do it for them. If your own parent doesn’t accept you, how does that shape your self-worth in relation to the rest of the world? Articles and statements like that are extremely damaging.

Children have no choice about whether they are born or not. They come into this world as innocents, helpless and needy. Part of parenting is to not only fulfill their physical needs, but their mental and emotional ones. When those needs are not met, the emotional damage is extreme and lasts a lifetime. I’m no psychologist, but I’ve had the very eye-opening experience of working with children who were victims of abuse and neglect for most of their lives. Underneath the exterior of violent outbursts and abusive speech, they were still children, desperately looking for someone to trust, for someone to love them. The child who had cussed me out right and left and tore my room apart one day would come into my classroom the next day, lay his head on my shoulder for the entire lesson, tell me that I was the best teacher ever, and let me mother him a little. As damaged as they were, that instinct to be taken care of, to feel that someone out there gives a damn, was still present, as it is in all children.

Children not only want, but need to feel loved and accepted by their parents; it’s a basic life necessity. Sadly, it doesn’t always happen. Families can be dysfunctional. There are so many world problems that it can be difficult to be present with kids and to give them everything they need. But what purpose does it serve to tell a child that if you had to do it over again, you wouldn’t have had them, that they should never have been born, that they should not exist? It’s selfish and destructive, no good can come from it. I can’t even imagine it’s cathartic for the person saying it. What comes next after that moment? What do you say when your child reads in an article or a book that your life has been dismal since he or she came along? How would you ever repair that? I don’t know if you could.

We live in a society where everything is overshared. Social media provides an easy platform for us to get things off our chests and say things online in the heat of the moment, especially when we’re angry or frustrated. I know that I’ve been guilty of that, especially when social media first started becoming a thing. Opening up about things, speaking one’s mind, and speaking truth are all very trendy, but I firmly believe that there are some things that should not be publicly shared. Telling your kids that you regret having them is one of those things.

So, what to do then with those feelings if one has them? Again, therapy is GREAT. I should know, I’ve been in it long enough. There could also be underlying problems that a therapist could diagnose that might be contributing to those feelings, such as depression or anxiety. From what I’ve read in these articles (I tended to be a bit obsessed once I started reading), there are also support groups where one can talk about these feelings without hurting the children involvedHopefully, actively addressing those feelings and having a support system instead of taking them out on kids will help temper the angst into something more manageable.

A wise neighbor once told me that with children, the days can be long, but the years are short. As parents, we only have so much time with our kids, especially when they’re little. We think the sleepless nights will never end, the diapers will never end, baseball season will never end (oops, maybe that one’s just me), but it all will and one day, they’ll be gone and the house will be empty. Depending on who you are, this might make you happy, or, in my case, you will tear up every time they leave after a visit home. Whatever the case, a parent’s job is to turn out grown kids who are prepared to be a contributing member of society. If a child believes that he or she should never have been here, what motivation will they have to believe in themselves, to be joyful, to have a happy life?

To wrap it all up, parents have good days, parents have bad days. It’s a parent’s job to raise the children they have to the best of their ability, whether they regret having them or not. It can be a tough racket at times, mistakes will be made, but if you brought them into the world, you owe it to them to give them every possible chance at having a successful life. That starts at home, in the heart.

Until next time.

 

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We told Oldest Child back to college today after spending a really nice, but short, summer with him. His first year was wildly successful, he adjusted very well and did a lot of exciting things, like being able to attend a dinner where Bill Clinton was speaking. Early on this summer, he got to spend five weeks in the UK as a kind of class, boosting his credits up and making him a junior after one year of college. I’m proud of him to the point of bursting, so forgive me for bragging just a little.

In many ways, dropping him off today was remarkably similar to how it was last year, except that we brought Middle Child and Youngest Child along. It poured down rain again while we unloaded the cars, but with five of us, it went pretty quickly. The rain cut our planned walk around campus short, although we did all go out to lunch together and visited a wonderful old book shop that Marty Man used to frequent when he was a student there. All around, soggy students and their families were busy unloading, visiting, and saying their goodbyes, just like us.

But when it was time to leave, it was much more casual than it was last year. There were no tears, yet, anyway. Will I miss him as much? Yes, absolutely. I miss him already. We had a really good summer and I enjoy his company immensely. I love seeing this independent person getting himself up and out the door for work in the morning, doing his own laundry, taking charge of his own life. At this point, Marty Man and I are pretty much bystanders who help when we’re needed, but he doesn’t need us to do much for him anymore. He will be just fine.

Anyway, today has made me think of my job as a mother now as opposed to, oh, say, ten to fifteen years ago. Things have definitely changed. As a parent of young children, there is so much physical work that needs to be done: diapers, feedings, baths, carrying, dressing, car seats. Little by little, it gets easier physically, but it gets more difficult in terms of setting limits and guiding them through the process of growing-up. There are difficult ages. I’ve blogged in the past about the age of eleven at our house, but there are hurdles at any stage. Grades, girlfriends, friends, chores, and family relations can all be sticky topics. There are days that any frustrated parent can be tempted to walk out the door, but you don’t because you’re the adult, you’re the parent, and raising these kids is the most important job in the whole world, because you are their whole world. Then, the crisis is over and the tears have stopped, emotions calm down. There’s talking, there’s hugging, there’s love, and you start all over. It’s always a new day with kids and thankfully, they can be more forgiving than we are.

Our job isn’t done once they’re grown-up, of course, we’ll always be parents, but the job description is constantly changing. Someday, they won’t need us to provide for any of their physical needs, even money (please, let them eventually stop needing money.), but hopefully they’ll still want to come around just to talk and to spend some time with their parents. And not just on holidays.

There are things from when they were very small that I miss dreadfully, so much that it hurts: the baby smell (oh, that smell!), the sweet, sloppy, whole-mouth kisses, rocking them in my arms until their long lashes droop closed, kissing boo-boos, squishy little hands and feet, kissable cheeks, talking attempts, and my absolute favorite, the belly laugh. You know, the one that comes right up from their toes? It’s the best thing in the whole world and if you can’t at least grin at one of those laughs, you’re not human. These things are gone forever with my boys.

But there are things that I love about them as big kids/young adults that won’t disappear with time. Things like their sense of humor. All of them. They are just a weird as I am and we laugh at the same things. They can hold all sorts of fabulous conversations on any topic: current events, politics, sports (ugh), introspective, technology, and strange things. They are such interesting people and I love hearing their perspectives. They’re all bigger than I am now and the older ones are protective of their mama. While I think I handle myself pretty well, it’s nice to see that they have my back, just in case. My boys are turning into amazing young men and I love them so much, more than they can ever know.

Are they perfect children? Oy, no. We fight and argue over curfews and appropriate movies; they can say ugly, hurtful, things to each other and sometimes to us, like any other teenagers, but in the end, we still love each other. We’re a family, and we know that no matter what happens, someone will apologize and life will go on because that’s what we do. It’s all a part of them growing up.

We dropped off Oldest Child at college again today. Let the parenting adventure continue.

 

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I watch the Today Show in the morning while getting ready for work. Sometimes it’s background noise, sometimes they have stories that I really listen to. I tune out a lot of the political stuff because I’m sick of hearing about Donald Trump and all of his insanity. The cooking segments are okay and I listen to the headlines, but my favorite things to watch are the human interest stories, stories about real people in different situations and how they handle them, in good ways or bad. The human psyche fascinates me. I am endlessly curious about the motivations people have, what circumstances in their lives led them to act the way that they do.

I was watching on Tuesday when a story came on that caught my attention. Apparently, Old Navy had put out an advertisement that portrayed an interracial family: an African-American mother, a Caucasian father, and their little boy. It’s a really cute picture, as many advertisements are, with everyone smiling and happy. When I looked at it, I  thought that it was a cool thing for Old Navy to show an interracial family, a reflection of our modern society. As I found out, though, the reason that that advertisement was being shown on the Today Show was because many people didn’t feel the same way.

I went on Twitter to read the comments. (I know, I know, the comments are scary, but if you’re going to take something on, you should know your enemy.) I’m not going to put even a fraction of them on here, they were that horrible, but they range from “disgusting” to some extremely vile things. I was really (unpleasantly) surprised that so many comments had something to do with “white genocide” Huh? Genocide? Um, no. Genocide= what Adolph Hitler did to the Jews. Genocide= what is happening to certain groups of people in the Middle East right now. Genocide= what happened to the Tutsi in Rwanda, 1994. Genocide≠ people of different races marrying and having families. The ignorance is staggering and more importantly, frightening. Here is an article from the New York Times, if you’re so inclined: http://www.nytimes.com/2016/05/05/us/upbeat-interracial-ad-for-old-navy-leads-to-backlash-twice.html?smid=tw-nytimes&smtyp=cur&_r=0 You can also see the controversy on Twitter and most news sites.

I don’t understand the mentality of people who have been posting those inane responses. Some of them are so evil that I’m surprised they’re walking among us, but most of them vowed to never shop at Old Navy again. Really? You’re not going to shop at Old Navy any more because they used an ad of an interracial family? Stupidity and ignorance at its finest. If you are threatening to harm people because of their racial background, you should not be out on the street. Period.

What really floors me (and makes me smile to myself) is that many of the people who are so opposed to racial mixing are possibly of mixed race themselves and don’t even know it. During the period of legal slavery in the United States and its territories, thousands of children, often the result of rape from white masters. were born to slave women. Some interracial (and illegal) couples also lived together consensually and had  children. If those children, or their children, could “pass” for white, they often did in order to have a better life. Many times, their white families didn’t know and still don’t! A good example of this is Bliss Broyard’s fascinating read, One Drop. The title comes from the premise that if a person had only one drop of African blood. he or she was classified as black and was treated as such during the time of slavery and many years thereafter. Her father, Anatole Broyard, an acclaimed New York Times columnist, had come from a racially mixed family but decided to pass for white when he was a young man. It wasn’t until he was literally on his death bed that the truth came out and his children were introduced to a whole new branch of the family. It’s a fascinating story.

The TLC show, Who Do You Think You Are?, and PBS’s Finding Your Roots have both surprised a few celebrities with DNA test results showing that they have an unexpected racial connection. Ty Burrell, who stars on Modern Family, was surprised to find that the family whisperings of having a black ancestor were true. Several African-American celebrities uncovered white ancestors. Some were surprised, some were not. The truth is, we all have quite the mixture of races in us already, there is no such thing as a “pure” race. People who perpetuate the myth that there is a pure white race need to check their facts, and possibly their DNA.

My own roots are pleasantly jumbled. My father’s side of the family is pretty straightforward English/Scottish/Irish with some Swiss and German thrown in for good measure. My mother’s side, however, is a bit of a mixed bag. My maternal grandfather, Grandpa Nick, was born in Sicily. Poor Sicily, while now part of Italy, has been conquered many times by other empires: Arab, Spanish, Italian, Greek, Northern African. It is difficult to say what our racial background actually is based on Sicily’s history. His son, my uncle, took a DNA test several years back. It showed that we have northern African cousins, in Algeria and Sudan I believe, but it didn’t say how far back in time we were related. It could be 200 years ago or 1000 years ago. Like I said, it was an older test, but my sons and I thought it was cool that we were part African. You wouldn’t know it by looking at me, I’m a sickly pale about ten months out of the year, but I have some African roots.

The point I’m trying to get across is that the idea of race as a kind of a club is stupid. Sure, I love looking up my family history and learning where my ancestors came from (especially the English, for the simple fact that they kept amazing records in their parish churches), but equally intriguing for me is finding the different cultures that dwell inside. How exciting!

I taught 5th graders for several years and that is when they begin learning about slavery in United States history. Many of my students would self-identify as their religion, so we always had to have the talk about the difference between race and religion. One can be born and raised into a certain religion, but that is a choice. One’s racial background is not a choice, it’s just how you are born. You can’t choose it before you are born, you can’t change it, it’s something that is a part of you forever. We talked about being proud of whatever background we had, but also how it was important to respect the identities of others and how different cultures contribute so much to the world. We also talked about how it was not okay to disparage somebody because of their race. You see, children are taught racism, it’s not something that they’re born with. Something to think about…

The term “race” has been used by bigots as a way to separate people, to create divisions and animosity, instead of simply being used for historical or scientific purposes. That never made sense to me, seeing as how science and religion agree that human beings both started in northeastern Africa, even if their ideas of how we began are different. Differences developed in response to our environments. A translucent-skinned person like me would burn to a crisp on the African continent today, my lack of melanin meant to soak up Vitamin D from the sun in northern climates. My northern European genes have won out in that respect. My Grandpa Nick, however, had what one would call a “swarthy” complexion, necessary in sun-drenched Sicily to protect him. I look more like my father’s side of the family, but I have just as much DNA from my mother’s side as I do his. What you look like doesn’t necessarily have a bearing on what your roots are. Remember, with every generation back, your number of grandparents doubles: two grandparents, four great-grandparents, eight great-great grandparents, and so on. Unless you are a careful genealogist, you really don’t know all of your racial background. Maybe that’s worth taking a look into. You might find out some really cool things!

Open your mind and think. You’ll be surprised at actually makes sense.

A presto.

 

 

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I just realized that I haven’t posted anything in almost a month. I have some catching up to do! March can be a tough month for me, though. Bittersweet. The sweet part is my Middle Child’s birthday, smack dab in the middle of the month, balancing out the bitterness with joy. I’ve blogged about one of the bitter parts before (https://juliabbb.wordpress.com/2014/03/08/march-8/) so I won’t revisit that right now. Today I want to focus on the other part of March that I think about on a regular basis: My father and his death on March 22, many years ago.

He’s been on my mind a lot lately. I never knew him, at least in life. Those of you who know me personally already knew that. He tragically died in a car accident seven months before I was born, the night before he was going to apply for a factory job so that he and my mother could get married and give their family a good start. That never happened. The circumstances of that night aren’t especially clear to me, but the fact is that he died, leaving us behind.

Do I think he wanted to leave us? No, absolutely not. From what my family tells me and from a poem that one of my cousins wrote for his funeral, I know that he was excited about being a dad, that he was planning everything out. It took a bit for him to get used to the idea of being a father, though. When my mom told him about me, he went to his grandparents house for three days to process it all. When he came back, he was ready to go forward with a family. I hold that little scrap of information dear and tight.

I’m not writing about him to elicit sympathy or to rehash sad old feelings. I guess I just still want to know him better and this blog is a great place to express that. I want to know if he felt the way I do at times, what he would think of the world today, how our family dynamics would be different if he were still around. I want him to know his grandsons. I think he would have been a cool grandpa. My boys are lucky: they had another grandpa, Marty Man’s dad, for a few years. They have my uncle-dad, my brothers, and cousins who have all stepped up to give them extended family closeness. I don’t think they know what they’re missing, but I had two wonderful grandfathers until I was an adult. I wish they could have had the same experience as I did.

I used to be a hot mess about him. When my mother told me about my dad, I was around seven years old and at first I was elated. I already knew that the step-monster wasn’t my real dad and all of the other kids had dads, so I asked my mom about it. I had also just learned the facts of life, so I knew with all of my seven-year-old wisdom that there was a missing piece. When she explained that I indeed had a dad, the big question in the back of my head was finally resolved, but then the realization that he would never be there crushed me, especially as my life got worse. All through my very roughest years, I used to pray for God to say that his death was a mistake, that he wasn’t really dead, sobbing in my bed for him to come back, thinking he would rescue me. My grandma had given me a lens from his glasses and I took it everywhere I went, wanting a piece of him to be with me all the time.

I had a lot of anger toward him for a while, too. I was mad, so mad at him for dying and leaving me. After all, if he hadn’t died, my mother would never have married the step-monster. Of course, none of that was his fault, but as a very angry and confused teenager, it made sense to me to place the blame on him. I wondered about him all the time. Did he crash on purpose because he didn’t want me? Did he not try hard enough to survive? Had he been on drugs? Was he drinking? Like I said, even today, I don’t know all the details. I don’t know if anyone does, but that’s not important anymore. I’ve worked through the whys and made peace with that. I’ve made my peace with him.

I really truly think that he is still here, still around me. Things happen. I’ve had dreams where he’s there for very short periods of time and in them, he’s told me things about himself that I didn’t know, things that later checked out to be true, such as the fact that he played guitar. A song will come on the radio, that I’ve heard thousands of times, but for some reason, I’m overwhelmingly moved to tears for no reason at all. Later, I find out that it was one he liked. I feel him around me. He may be gone physically, but I believe that his spirit is here.

My anger is long gone. My pain is much fainter. Talking about him, learning more about the person he was from my family and his friends helps. I wish I could talk to him, to have one short hour with him. I still have that frustration sometimes that I can’t pick up my phone and call him to tell him what his grandsons did or to invite him to Thanksgiving, but it doesn’t happen nearly as often as it did when I was younger. I am a part of him, I have his hair, his eyes. Half of my very DNA is his and that’s saying something. I have a father. I am his daughter.

I don’t have a rhyme or reason to this post. Again, my dad has been on my mind a lot lately and I just needed to write about him. If you have a dad, hug him tight. Hold him close, tell him you love him. If you are a dad, do the same for your kids. They need you more than you’ll ever know.

 

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