Thursday, February 26, 2009

Disclaimer | It Wasn't ALL Bad

From the sounds of all my posts, my childhood, teen years, and young adult life was pretty grim. Well, mixed in with the mind boggling stuff, I did have some fun, memorable, and loving times.

My parents made holidays fun and exciting up to the point my Grandparents passed away in 1977. So, up until I was around 10, holidays were great. My parents made Easter, our birthdays, and Christmas special with tons of gifts, traditions, and decorations. I have many fond memories of those special occasions. Thanksgiving is a weird holiday as my brother and I don't have any 'real' memories. My mother didn't cook, and we didn't have relatives over for dinner. So, I suppose the holiday was played down.

We went to Disney World quite a few times when I was a child, as well as when I was a teenager. That place was all magic, and I have many cheerful memories of the place with my parents. We also went to Six Flags, Stone Mountain, Daytona Beach, and Sea World. So, we had our fill of amusement parks and vacations as young children.

A few 'good' memories I have of my mother were mainly linked to music and living room. When I was little, we listened to an 8 track tape of "The Sting" on a rainy afternoon and dancing around to it in the living room. I also remember her getting out her old LP's that she baton twirled to, and we would run around the living room. I remember her holding me before bedtime and dancing to "Edelweiss" in my Grandparents' living room.

My mother wasn't one to get outside and play with us kids, but I have a picture of her in the backyard when I was around 8 years old, and we were playing baseball. She also climbed Stone Mountain with us at one point. She wasn't much of an outdoors person. She did, however, attend almost all of my brother's Tee-Ball and Little League baseball games. She would become enthralled in them and would cheer like crazy.

My father was the 'fun guy' who would take us down to his office on the weekends, and we would run around the place, playing on the typewriters, rummaging through drawers, and exploring the place. I can still remember the smell of that place. He also took us to feed the squirrels at the park, get us treats to eat, and take us to places that he worked with. The coached my brother's baseball teams for years and years-- a very participative father.

Once the divorce hit, fun times with my parents became few and far between-- if any-- and life was completely different. I remember my Dad taking us to Disney World, and the trip was surreal, being there, in that fun and magical place with all the turmoil and divorce fall-out happening in the background of our minds. I don't think I had another fun time with my mother until she was in her new apartment (after I had initially lived with her when the divorce was announced then moved in with my Dad). My mother and I would hang out at her pool, sunning ourselves while my brother wilted with boredom.

When I was in high-school, I lived with my Dad then moved in with my mother around the end of my 2nd year. Living with my Dad wasn't typically happy once he married my step-mother, as she had control over all situations, and things were always tense. We did go to Disney World as a family (2 adults with 4 kids) but the trip was pretty hectic. Once I lived with my mother and step-father, we went to Hilton Head and Williamsburg. I managed to have a ton of fun at Hilton Head, as I have always been able to make friends fast.

So, our holidays and family trips made some happiness in our confusion of a life. And as I type this, I think, shouldn't happiness, fond memories, and good times also be found in day to day living? I would say I have always been a 'happy' person-- it's in my nature. Did I have a happy childhood? I would say 'yes' up to the point of my Grandparents' deaths and my parents' divorce. Things just got too darned confusing, jumbled, and conflicted afterward-- and life became very stressful.

My teen years were filled with the promise of tomorrow, the thrill of discovering new experiences, and enjoying life with my friends. I found solace in running and think that it kept my head screwed on straight, taught me how far I could push myself, and created priceless memories. Interestingly enough, my mother came to less than a handful of my track and cross country meets. As far as good times with my parents in my teen years, on a day to day basis, I think my happiness and good times were all derived from myself. My mother was tied up with her own life, and I spent time doing my own thing, trying to look toward the future.

Once I was out of college, I formed relationships with both parents off and on. I would say that I have never had my 'true self' exposed to them, as I have to be guarded with what I say to each of them pertaining to certain subjects. I think that withholding what's bugging you, not being to ask questions regarding your past, and not being able to talk frankly causes the relationship to be shallow-- and I feel my relationship with both parents as an adult has been shallow. I think my mother loves me but she can't accept my decisions or thoughts. I don't think my Dad loves me (he may love the thought of me as an object in his life) but he doesn't know or care to know me.

Even when my mother and I were seemingly 'close' at the end of the 90's and beginning of the 2000's, I still wasn't able to talk to her about what bugged me from my childhood & teen years or about my Dad knowing she would flip her lid. Additionally, our relationship ended within a blink of an eye on that July day in 2004 because she didn't like my fiance and my thoughts (not plans, just preliminary thoughts) for our wedding. If I were so special to her, if she loved me as much as she professed, how could she just let the whole relationship go? The relationship wasn't built on a solid foundation to start with.

Having to go through life with conditional love is very stressful. Not only that, having to walk on egg-shells all the time is also very stressful. So, although all the times haven't been 'bad', the 'good' times are also tainted with the conditions and precariousness of the relationships.


  1. I think this is what adds to the over-all confusion inherent in the picture of Growing Up CB-Parented: Not *every day* was a Dickensonian Drama. There are "good times" in the whole experience as well.
    Also, our bar for "Bad" is set so high, often the cessation of outward hostilities/periods of Cease Fire are held up in our own minds as indicative of Normalcy. Or at least a way of minimizing how nasty it really is. If the definition or conceptualization of CB included "always" and "never" we couldn't possibly see our own Truth or Reality. It's painful enough to live these experiences and consistent enough to reach a bar set at a Preponderance of Evidence. The bad outweighs the good exponentially. And of course, the CB "Parent" is very quick to remind you of every last "good" they've ever done whether it's food, clothing, shelter (umm, that's your *job* as a parent/Orphanages provide this as well) to some "gift" no matter how minor (or unwanted/inappropriate.) Then there's the cultural sanctification of the label "Parent," the challenges in explaining to others how bad it *really* is, Trauma Bonding instead of Unconditional Love and-oh baaah! ;)
    That we get out at all is a testament to the tenacity of the human spirit. The whole mess is so heart-breaking and painful, it's a decades-long nightmare that could easily become an inter-generational Legacy.
    And here's where we can make it stop: With US and our own families.

    1. EXCELLENT points! I especially relate to "the CB "Parent" is very quick to remind you of every last "good" they've ever done whether it's food, clothing, shelter (umm, that's your *job* as a parent/Orphanages provide this as well)" as my mother was the queen of emphasizing how we were 'well taken care of' because we had food, clothing, and shelter (no mention of the lack of love, security, or safety). And in regard to "our bar for "Bad" is set so high, often the cessation of outward hostilities/periods of Cease Fire are held up in our own minds as indicative of Normalcy", that issue was the inspiration for my blog post (which was also a topic frequently addressed in emails to me from readers)