Too often I find it easy to look at my adult flaws and foist off the blame for them on my childhood upbringing. “If only my parents had paid more attention to me, “ “If only they had been more demonstrative in their love,” “If only they had allowed me to take dance classes like other girls,” “If only they hadn’t fed me baloney on white bread with mayo for every school lunch (causing perpetual stomach aches),” and “If only they had acted more like Ozzie and Harriet or the Father Knows Best dad and been WHO THEY WERE NOT.”
Frankly, they did the best they knew how. My mother grew up in the Great Depression without a father and occasionally without a place to live or enough to eat. She came from a difficult childhood where “sucking it up” and “making the best” of it was a way of life. That’s how you survived. Being frivolous in any matter was not her nature and that is how she taught her children. Stoicism reigned supreme.
My father grew up with a harsh father who demanded much of him and showed little affection but was liberal with the bullying. Hubris, not allowed. Humility and responsibility were the cornerstones of a childhood without luxury.
These two wonderful individuals did the best they knew. If they had known any better, they would have done better. Showing affection and warmth was not in their DNA. That’s not how one survived. This they passed on to their children. And who am I to say what doing better would be? They taught me responsibility and commitment.
I could blame my perpetual childhood stomachache on the fact that my mother fed me white bread every day and never bothered to investigate why I was uncomfortable so often. Or I can love her for the proud, strong, disciplined woman she was and admire her for surviving difficult years as a child. And I could blame my father for not coming to my defense when a family friend’s son abused me. Or I can honor him for being proud of his children in whatever they did.
I choose to love these two for who they were and to be thankful that they stood by me as I bumbled into adulthood. Their love was outwardly limited, but it was always there. This piece of my life is my responsibility and mine to enjoy. And I am and I do.