There hasn’t been a moment in this parenting journey where I’ve felt like the life, love, and memories I’m giving my children are enough. I need to be better, always better. That’s not a bad goal to have, right? Then I realize so much of this perfectionism is deeply internal; I never feel like I’m enough for anyone.
Constantly, I worry that someday my kids are going to come back to me and tell me that I broke them. The blood I have running through my veins taught me that families simply survive one another; we break one another and then we separate, so we can breathe, finally. As adults, we don’t stay together unless we want to hurt; we’re always hurting each other. That’s the only truth I know about family units.
I come from a broken childhood.
I desperately, deeply, profoundly do not want that for my children.
So I work hard. I’ve gone to therapy to repair the wounds from my own past, though some remain. I’ve done what I can to finally stop that cycle of abuse. I try to remember that in taking care of myself, even when it feels selfish, I’m taking care of them. They need to see a mother who values herself.
They need to know that I’m not perfect.
I am far from perfect.
I give them boundaries. I treat them the way I wish I had been treated as a child. I’m patient, mostly. I try to be fair. I try not to yell. I don’t ever tell them they aren’t capable of doing something. I talk to them, a lot and always. I trust them. I love them hard, and I make sure they know that every single day.
Will they remember those moments? Or will they remember the ones when I lose my shit over something astronomically stupid? More importantly, will they forgive me for being so unbearably flawed, and, well, human?
I hope so.
Kids should see their parents apologize to each other, to themselves, to them. Will that lesson be enough to break the cycle of my broken family? Will it counteract the lack of big family trips we can’t seem to take, the activities they can’t do? Will all the ways I feel like I fail my kids overshadow the love I desperately want them to see and feel?
I’m asking because I have no idea, because I never saw it in my own home: Is love enough?
Lately, I’ve been reminiscing about my childhood. I’m trying to find the positive. There exists an undoubtedly thin line between the good and the bad; there has to be something of value among that blackness.
So I remember the way the freshly cut grass felt on my bare legs during the summer. I recall the way the world spun and spun and spun when I’d roll down the hill in front of our house, repeatedly. I remind myself of the songs I sang when I jumped rope or my pink Skip-It as I bounced it off the pavement until my legs hurt. There were the marbles, mud fights, slimy frogs jumping, slipping between fingers, plays acted out with neighbor kids, and the exploring in the woods behind the house.
I remember the banana popsicles melting too fast in the humidity. I remember the sticky fingers from penny candies, and the wind in my hair as I raced up and down, back and forth, down the road near our house. I remember the way the dirt washed off my feet at the end of the day in the shower.
Those parts of my childhood saved me. They save me now from the ugliness that lies behind the corner of those memories.
“Go outside,” I say. “Ride your bike and come back for a freezie. I bought your favorite kind.”
I really mean, “I love you. Go be a child. You deserve to be a child and feel free.”
I was never enough for my parents; I will never forget. But my kids are always more than enough for me. Maybe that’s the difference.
Now to convince myself that I’m enough for them.
And even for me.