During the Parent Season. . .
guest post by kmillecam
As Mother’s Day is behind us and Father’s Day looms, and inspired by a sermon I heard this past Sunday at my local United Church of Christ parish, I have been thinking about my parents . I have written about my abusive childhood before, both on The Exponent here, and on my blog here. For years I have been struggling to identify as a survivor instead of a victim, to heal and make sense of my life. I feel a sense of wonder this year, after making it through Mother’s Day for the first time without feeling manipulated and sad. I actually had a wonderful Mother’s Day. That this would be so momentous tells you how my previous years have gone. In fairness, this year could result from the fact that I have not spoken to either of my parents in nearly three years.
Now my case is certainly an extreme, where no contact with my parents was and is necessary for my mental state. But whether we speak to our parents or not, or we are parents or not, or we want to be parents or we can’t, or we have lost parents or children to death or estrangement, or we have dealt with infertility or miscarriage or abortion, we all probably feel something when it comes to the Parent Season.
We are told to “honor thy father and mother”, but how do you honor an abusive parent? In my case, my patriarchal blessing refers to how much my parents love me “even like unto my Father in Heaven”. How do I reconcile that supposed love with being belittled, sexually assaulted, or physically struck? My UCC pastor made an interesting argument during her sermon, that we are specifically instructed to “honor” our parents in the Bible. To her this meant something like how we would honor a deceased person, by remembering them, by not speaking ill, or merely acknowledgment. I take it further. To me it means that I must only accept that “it is what it is”. I accept that my parents are who they are. I am bound to acknowledge them, as fellow beings. But I as I accept who they are, I also accept the consequences of their abuse.
During this time of year, I also occasionally wonder about the miscarriage I had three years ago. I have my baby E now with his mended cleft lip and palate and other physical differences, and I wonder about that baby I miscarried before him. Is there a genetic issue with my DNA? Do I know how lucky I am that E is as healthy as he is? I think of how many of us have miscarried and might think of our children who might have been. That always leads me to think of those who have miscarried late into a pregnancy, or had a stillborn baby. I can barely understand that pain. A friend of mine recently lost her 10 day old baby, suddenly and inexplicably. I wonder how Mother’s Day and Father’s Day will be for her and her husband from now on.
There are so many complicated parent relationships for so many of us. We may find ourselves estranged from a parent or child, trying to make peace with that reality. We may have been touched by a school shooting or another violent crime. Or perhaps you have adopted a child, or given up a child for adoption, or may be adopted yourself. I imagine that even if you are completely content you may wonder about your biological child or parent at this time of year. And what if you are infertile and you think of children that you want to have but cannot? What if you have lost your parents to mental illness? Your child? Physical illness? Death?
Off the top of my head I can think of people I know, people I know well, who have dealt with all of these issues. Lost a parent: nine. Abusive parent: five. Adopted a child: four. Was adopted: three. Has had a miscarriage: 18. Has lived with an abortion: one. Has lost a child: four. Is a stressed parent: ten. Is estranged from a parent: four. Is estranged from a child: two. I would wager that the vast majority of people I know fall into some category I have mentioned, rendering each able to appreciate the nuanced nature of Mother’s Day and Father’s Day.
Are we not complicated and varied creatures? Don’t we deserve to feel many different things without feeling the pressure of how we “should” feel (read: happy)? I feel grateful for my children, happy that they love me. I feel a loss when it comes to my parents, but I have accepted it. I wonder about my miscarriage, but I think it was meant to be that way. I hope I am a good mother, and my children call me when they grow up. I feel the sting of knowing that I spend too much time being angry with my children, and that they notice, and that I must accept that they know that and then work on that problem. That is how I feel after Mother’s Day. And it’s okay.
There is something beautiful about being grateful for what we truly have, and accepting the painful parts of our lives. It can be so freeing. What are you feeling this Parent Season?