Sunday, July 20, 2008

Not My Fault

It is so easy to blame.

Popular theory today explains that most of the behaviors, strengths and weaknesses in our adult relationships can be traced directly to the way we were treated as children. Unfairly simplified, an argument over the purchase of a new sofa can really be about not enough love a very long time ago.

We are taught to forgive because our parents did the best they could, given the tools they had to understand and cope with the problems they experienced in their own childhoods. My dad worked so hard and was a bit aloof because his father was 50 when mine was born, and had been working to support his family since the age of 11 when his father (my great grandfather) died.

We want to uncover some of this to better understand how we operate today in the world-at-large, and more specifically, in our own homes where we so greatly can affect our children and their tomorrows. I can recall the terrifying wish to run, to vanish, the night I stared at my soundly sleeping daughter, after I had read that a personality is completely shaped and unchangeable after the first three years of life.

We want to understand, but it so often comes out as blame.

Who am I to have such power over this little soul so helpless innocent and trusting? Newly launched into my own life and unclear about my own choices and answers, it is completely daunting to be responsible to provide for this tiny one. If she awakened and I sat with her and sang in the darkness, would I gift her the ability to be unafraid in her life? Or would I permanently scar her with the fear of facing problems on her own?

Now she can blame me for an inconsistent childhood of love and inattention. Instead, we drink a beer on the back porch and talk. I share my struggles to recognize and overcome my inadequacies, and she tells me about the contradictory loneliness and independence of life on a navy base while her husband is 10 months at sea in the Persian Gulf.

We acknowledge to ourselves and each other the depth of the pain we each experienced to live so much of her childhood 3000 miles apart. We celebrate how wonderful we made it feel on those relatively few nights when she slept in the room next door.

Likewise, with my mother no longer able to translate and interpret, I do little errands and repairs in my father’s apartment, and we talk. He hears me grapple with the concept of “friends with benefits” and “hook-ups” in high school, and confides that he respected my mother’s commitment to wait until they were married, even as he went off to war.

We do the best we can, one foot in front of the other. There is plenty of room to blame, but that keeps us standing still, immobilized, staring at the cradle. Love moves us forward.

Please share with your friends

5 comments:

rebecca said...

"We do the best we can, one foot in front of the other. There is plenty of room to blame, but that keeps us standing still, immobilized, staring at the cradle. Love moves us forward."

I love this last paragraph of yours because it defines the lives we have with our children succinctly. Oh, yes, it is easy to blame. Yet, it is the will of the ego and the belief that WE could never be wrong. So, obviously, our parents take much of the blame. Also, today's society does not help. I, like many before me and many more after me, now and again blamed my parents for certain things not going well in my life. Guess what? I grew up. There came a day when I realized I was no longer a child and I had to take accountability for my own actions. It had been ego, plain and simple. And, most importantly, I realized that my parents did their very best given the tools they had at their disposal. All of us as parents do. And we need to understand that we are all human filled with the frailties and flaws that we are born with as humans and we will make mistakes (that is a guarantee) because we are not perfect. And in the end we hope and pray that our children realize this and that love and want was never an issue and that we have done a halfway decent job with them.

This was very well written.

Zannah said...

I love that photo of us! Pretty awesome post, dad. I love you tons!!!

Hayden Tompkins said...

"strengths and weaknesses in our adult relationships can be traced directly to the way we were treated as children"

I like that it can give one 'guidelines' for how to address your current situation. My husband's father was an emotionless, uninvolved robot and wonders why most of his grown son have emotional problems.

I think there is a yang to the situation too. Yes, we should take responsibility for what our own choices - regardless of how we were raised. But parents too need to take responsibility, especially if their childrens' lives have imploded.

That's the one reason my father and I don't have much of a relationship. I have forgiven him, but he isn't willing to accept any responsibility for what he did. Until he can, we can't have a relationship, because we have such fundamentally different experiences of some traumatizing events.

Kip de Moll said...

Rebecca,
thanks for stopping by.

Your comments are so true to the thoughts in my mind that will be future entries here. Blame is the blanket that keeps us safe and warm, protected against the truth that whatever our parents did or did not give us, we are responsible for what we do and how we live.

Zan,
I love you too, sweetie. Can't wait to see you!

Hayden,
I can only "blame" my parents for loving me too much (is that really possible? Ha! I don't think so!). I am definitely taking responsibility for my half of giving my children an insecure and unsafe childhood, no matter how much I loved them. That is why we can talk about it.

stamperdad said...

One of your best posts ever. I really enjoyed this one. We are lucky that you are willing to share so freely. Your children are lucky to have you.

Steve