My parents almost divorced when I was nine. I remember the conversation my mom had with me when she attempted to try to explain this. She pulled me into her bedroom and we both sat on her and dad’s enormous bed–the kind that are so wide, they’re almost square–and told me she wanted to tell me something important, something serious.
Dad, she said, had done some very bad things, and mom was very angry at him for being selfish and unfair to her. To this day, besides watching pornography, I’m not really sure what he did to make her so angry that she wanted to kill him. She told me that in her fury after hearing his confession of sin, she’d thought up dozens of ways she could kill him to avenge her anger. Obviously, she’d reflected, she couldn’t do this because she’d go to prison, and she didn’t want to put her children through this.
Uh, well, thank God.
This reasoning also helped mom conclude that if she really wanted to not traumatize her children, she ought to forgive dad and stay married to him instead–which, of course, she did. Their relationship healing has been an arduous journey to witness, and to this day it’s still not top-notch.
Throughout the years I have been made the mediator between them for various disagreements, to an absolutely unhealthy degree; however, as a kid, it’s hard to tell your parent that venting to you about their relationship troubles, ones that often involved siblings, sex, and other married couples, was inappropriate. I just listened, and gave them advice when they asked, which they mostly didn’t listen to.
From this I learned many things:
- My parents never should have gotten married. To make a long story short–my mom was a virgin when she met dad, and my dad had slept around. They both came from fucked up families; my mom was born out of wedlock, and didn’t meet her biological father until she was an adult, and my dad experienced the trauma of growing up with five different dads. I absolutely give them their due credit as parents trying to parent without positive examples to follow. They met at church, and my mom, against her “better judgment” lost her virginity to my dad, something she now feels has caused a great deal of spiritual attack on her and my dad’s marriage over the years. Based on what Christians believe about pre-marital sex being wrong, she and my dad both feel that having sex before marriage caused their marriage to collapse later on because of a breach in their relationships with God. Something about their purity being blemished… Anyway, my mom had a best friend during my parents’ dating relationship who had feelings for her, and my dad maintained jealousy toward this relationship throughout. My parents got engaged when they were twenty-two, and eloped two months before their wedding, secretly. Because it was a secret, my mom’s best friend didn’t know, and he ended up proposing to my mom right before the wedding. Had my mom not eloped, she would have broken things off with my dad and married this guy instead. She has since compared my dad to him, and it’s wrought nothing but havoc on their relationship. My mom relayed this to me years after she discussed almost divorcing my dad with me, and I swore never to tell him, since–obviously–it would devastate him. The whole situation is fucked up and immature, but it’s made my parents’ relationship so stressed and arduous over the years that I believe it isn’t worth what it has cost. Of course, my siblings and I wouldn’t exist if my parents had never gotten married, but strictly as a third party spectator, I believe my parents could have been happier if they’d married different people.
- My parents are not the infallible adults they promised they were with every “because I said so,” “because I’m the adult and you’re the child!” and “don’t talk back to me” that they snapped at us kids when they were tired and angry. I grew up as a kid believing that when I was an adult I’d finally have an opinion that was not only given the weight that my parents’ favored their own opinions with, but that I’d somehow automatically be right…just as my parents were. In some ways, I thought I’d be kind of like God, in how perfect and correct I made my parents out to be. The realization that this was not the case when my parents proved their faultiness was a crisp, dark moment for me that I remember experiencing repeatedly throughout my early high school years like Polaroid snapshots, which I can still feel the heaviness of. However, I was lucky enough to take away from these victimizing feelings that while my parents are very much flawed, and I am too, I have the opportunity–even the duty–to simply do better than they did for the next generation. As my boyfriend’s mom has also said, “I don’t need to be a perfect mom. I am happy simply doing my best and knowing that I am doing a little bit better than the generation before me.” What a freeing thought! That thought has made it so much easier for me to imagine myself parenting children who I will not screw over because of my past.
- Children are responsibilities that–once born into the equation–should never be excluded as a factor in the decisions parents make thereafter. This is a heavy realization, one that I have experienced first-hand as a regretful priority to my parents–namely my mom–growing up. For religious purposes, and due to my parents’ own jaded experiences in high school, they decided to home school me and my two brothers. My mom, thanks to the patriarchy movement, also decided she would not be working, and would instead be a stay-at-home-mom, which, over the years, translated into an inability to identify herself with anything other than her children. I believe this has greatly factored into her issue of vicariously living through us children and our successes and failures. By default, we have been her entire world.
To flesh this idea out a little bit, because it’s certainly confusing, I want to clarify that we children have not been neglected, per se. At least not in the usual parenting way. My mom has definitely shown signs of resentment toward her duties as a wife and mom, though, through her random Dinner Strikes, apathy toward teaching us certain subjects, such as geography, math, science, history, English, second languages…basically anything other than religion, come to think of it, and from her hesitation to drive us kids, well, anywhere. We led odd, socially-limited, very uneducated childhoods, and we ate a lot of Taco Bell and spaghetti.
Not terrible, but not really ideal.
Due to her slack in these areas, we had to learn to compensate–or go without. I taught myself my school subjects, and my brothers often got away with neglecting their homework. We cooked our own meals or made poor food choices. Our social lives were either local, or mostly digital. Children always find a way to cope with their circumstances, healthy or not. It is these coping mechanisms we learned as children that still impact our daily lives today.
Today I have an eating disorder. I struggle with constant loneliness and have very few friends. I graduated high school without any knowledge of algebra, and spent two years catching up just to pass algebra 1 in community college. My interest in math absolutely blossomed during that experience in college, too, and I realized that if I’d had access to a math teacher in high school, or even a tutor, I very well might’ve pursued a math-related career.
My brothers have also inherited the poor food choices issue, mainly my younger brother, but have been less proactive in compensating for the school subjects we ought to have learned in high school. On the other hand, they are incredibly social, in ways that even the introverted side of me envies.
Luckily, for Derrick and I, our career paths don’t require a lot of college education. Derrick is pursuing a career as a computer technician, and has been running a business part time for years now. He is also attending a trade school to improve his coding skills. I have also compensated well by starting my own business as a wedding planner, and have received the education in that industry through previous experience and trade school to be successful.
It is Adam, our younger brother, who we are most concerned about. His IQ is off the charts, he has nearly a photographic memory, and we feel that he will absolutely need the education of a college degree to pursue the science career he is dreaming of. Luckily, he is still in high school, and since I still live at home, I keep pushing for him to be given the high school education that Derrick and I ought to have had.
I do think he will be alright though. Now that mom is only homeschooling one kid, she has much more time to focus on just his classes, and has started reaching out to other home school groups to help educate him in the science and math areas he so clearly needs.