Sunday, March 15, 2009

Rewriting Parenting History

The Evidence is in: Family Videos

"Turn it off!" I pleaded. My husband is converting all our old home videos to DVD and frequently has one playing in the private office we share at our business. Watching my thin, tan, young self at the beach was hard enough but the evidence of my awful mothering was too much.

There I am on Mission Beach in San Diego where our family has spent a good portion of every summer from the beginning. My husband is the videographer and the rest of us are in staring roles. I hadn't realized until I saw this tape again that my character was "Mommy Dearest."

As we carted our junk to the water, 98% of my focus was on my baby girl, only 10 months old. She was like a doll; a new toy. In the background was my four-year-old son. He was adorable in his goofy hat and baggy swim suit, carrying his own giant load of sand toys. But I hardly noticed him. I was cooing and laughing and coaxing the "baby" to do something cute for the camera.

SMACKDOWN FROM THE PAST

Looking at it now I see what a little guy my son was then. (He was always a head taller than otherkids his age but still, he was FOUR!) However at the time he seemed so grownup; like a teenager and capable of so much more than this other tiny child. (This is a hazard all parents face with a second child...even when she's 40 she'll still be the "baby" and he'll be the "big brother.")

He was trying to be patient but just wanted a bit of attention and I threw him a few half-hearted offerings. I uttered some "uh huhs" and some "good jobs!" but no focused attention.

Guilt, shame and regret washed over me like a cold wave in the Pacific. How could I have been so blind? Was this little visual snippet a true representation of my mother-son experience?

THE TRUTH IS SOMEWHERE IN THE MIDDLE

So I asked him. I explained my reaction to this bit of family memorabilia and confessed my need for forgiveness.

"I don't remember it like that," he told me. "You guys were always there and always involved in everything we did. If anything, I feel guilty because we demanded so much of your attention. You weren't able to focus on anything in life outside of our little world for all those years."

Huh! How 'bout that? He thinks he required too much from me and I think I gave him too little. Glad we had that talk. Now we both need to accept that we did our best and things turned out as they should.

(I'm still not too excited about watching my early mothering efforts in HD!)

Do you have any parent/child or child/parent regrets? Comment here.
Diane Markins

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

Interesting and insightful. :) Makes me want to be a more sensitive Grandmar and aunt and great aunt. Thank you!
Marlene

Ally Johnson said...

Oh, I could make a list...but will focus on my biggest regret that has to do with my son. I was very controlling with him when he was very young and even though I think I was good to him most of the time, I would lose my temper and have flashes of anger. I think I spoke too sharply to him and probably spanked him too much. I wish I could go back and be more patient and less easily frustrated. I wish I could be more easy going with him...the good news is, my level of awareness is pretty high and has been the last few years so I'm hopeful that I've been able to undo, some of the things I did. I think he would say I'm much easier on him now, and when I get upset we have good conversations instead of me just blowing my top.

Anonymous said...

When my daughter was little I did not have Jesus in my life to give me patience. She was quiet, creative, but extremely stubborn; getting her to cooperate was next to impossible. I wd go crazy with how non responsive she could be; I did not know how to get through to her. Dear God forgive me for all the times I wd get so angry that I wd scare her. What evil lay in my heart, waiting to destroy her little spirit through me. I still grieve over how angry I had become in response to her lack of responsiveness to me. What a fiery ball of negative emotion Satan had created between the two of us. I finally fell to my knees when she was 15 when I realized that my apologies for my behavior no longer affected her either. What a soul crusher!

Diane Markins said...

In John C. Maxwell's book Failure Forward he says Someone who is unable to get over previous hurts and failures is held hostage by the past. The baggage he carries around makes it very difficult for him to move forward.” He goes on to say, “In fact, in more than thirty years of working with people, I have yet to meet a successful person who continually dwelled on his past difficulties.” Sounds like you need to 1. Forgive yourself so you can be free to move forward. 2. Realize that with God nothing is impossible, even a restored relationship with your daughter.
Thanks so much for your humble transparency about this painful situation. I've already prayed for you today.
Diane

Diane Markins said...

Correction: the book is called Failing Forward.