09/14/2014 by syrbal-labrys
Parenting, and particularly motherhood, is the most bitchily difficult and under-appreciated job on the fucking planet.
And no, I am not talking about the newest fad of uber-involved moms over-scheduling their infants and toddlers so they can vicariously exist in a “perfect” childhood of their own. (Oops, I just pissed off the Uber-moms, too.)
I’ve seem far too many of the arguments on both sides of the line – from childrearing being as hard as rocket science and seriously less well funded, to the good old misogynistic “anyone can pop out and rear a kid” opinions. I grew up in the era of feminism where women like me who married (after having slept with the enemy and NOT left him in his cold bed) and had kids were treated as if we had betrayed the sisterhood to the patriarchy. Then I saw it through the era where women had to be superwomen without capes OR wonder-women with no airplane, visible or invisible. My generation was expected to do it all and do it perfectly without batting an eyelash.
Let me tell you, anyone who is honest and has tried that shit on for size? They’d like to bat more than eyelashes before it is over with, trust me. It leaves one feeling more than a bit like a scaled down Eleanor of Aquitaine: “bad
queen feminist/woman, bad wife, bad mother.” I feel horrible, for instance, having told a student I tutored that sure, she could do it all. It doesn’t show up all at once right there when one is doing it all, you see. Sometimes way down the road, where the rubber meets it, you see how it didn’t quite all get done as you would have liked after all.
And what, you wonder, has this to do with petitions? Well, this poor guy’s daughter was murdered by a neighbor boy not much older than the poor girl, and the grieving dad had a petition to punish the killer’s PARENTS. Wow. Gee, all that omnipotence as parents must make one giddy, eh? To me, as much as I feel bad for the guy whose daughter was murdered by a messed up kid; it makes as much sense to punish HIM as the parent of a murder victim.
The killer’s mom and his school officials WERE trying to get the boy helped. Much like the seriously messed up young man who killed in that Sandy Hook school, or the crazed misogynistic shooter in California — the parents WERE trying to get issues addressed. Thing is, even if parents KNOW something is wrong, and by the way, especially MOTHERS trying to convince someone to listen to their worries; they are often dismissed.
I brought three children into this world. Two boys and one girl. My two younger children both have some issues. My daughter began acting out in distressing ways at age four; but telling her pediatrician got me patted on the shoulder with a condescending “Oh, now don’t be a nervous mom, ok?” At age six, she tried to kill her new baby brother because she didn’t want a brother — I’d been told to deliver a sister, you see.
I got her a psychiatrist. “Sibling rivalry,” he announced, and “it will wear off.” Between ages 8 and 10, she stole things so relentlessly that I demanded more counseling. A counselor came to the house to treat her “in situ” so to speak, for six months. He told me he loved my house; it was his favorite jobsite — no drugs, no drunkeness, no abuse; yes, some frustrated yelling, but we were good parents and she would “grow out of it.”
She did not grow out of it. In her teens she became completely secretive and good at lying and manipulation. She sneaked out of a sleep over to go to a party and was raped, and the mental health issue almost got out of the bag then. But in the end, she doubled down and laughed on car rides back from therapy about how she “played that silly bitch like a violin.” Her counselor was sure the rest of us were horrible people and my daughter a poor misunderstood little artist. The therapist had it half right, my daughter was a great actress.
In adulthood, she abuses prescription drugs and alcohol. She lies and manipulates people till they catch on and run. She is alienated from us because her constant mental bad-check writing ended up bouncing on our reality. She is dangerous, she attacked me once physically and tried it on her father. Had we been older, weaker, and less afraid of her — it might have availed her something. We tried on four separate occasions to get the issue handled. We even called the police. We were told to stop over-reacting EVERY time. Luckily? She doesn’t own guns. But she is fond of knives and not above using her fists. If I had to guess, though she was once tentatively diagnosed (after legal age) as bi-polar, I’d say she may have some sort of personality disorder. She openly says what is wrong with others who act like she does, but says she doesn’t follow those rules for ‘other people’ because she doesn’t WANT to do so.
My youngest son was much her disciple, especially when his idolized older brother went off to military service. She fucked with his head. He ran away at age 14; at age 16 she took him out of state against my will and abandoned him in Southern California. I will doubtless never know what traumas he endured on the streets. He joined the military and added PTSD to his issues. He is still far away, and doing his best and he means well. He has none of her malice and narcissism; but I know he struggles. He is thirty years old this month.
I spent more than 20 years trying to get help for my children. If my runaway had committed a serious crime (he was once jailed for vandalism), would it have done any good to punish me? I was not even allowed to have him forcibly picked up and brought home by the cops while he WAS in state — nor allowed to lock him in his room, etc to try preventing his running off. I had NO rights to keep him from running, but I was legally and financially responsible for ANY of his actions until he was 18. And after 18? For both him and his sister, it did me no good at all to argue that they might be a risk to themselves or others — I was just a nervous mother.
So yeah, being a parent is NOT being omnipotent. I didn’t sign that poor grief-stricken man’s petition. Even the most well-intentioned parent cannot always control a child. Punishing parents, who even as bad parents (like my own) are often doing the very best they can in impossible situations is not a solution. Punishing neglect and abuse, early on? Yes, that — but even there, normal childhoods still produce abnormal, even horrifying results at times. I don’t know what the answer to these sorts of problems are — I’m no Wonder Woman, nor Superwoman, nor omnipotent.
What I am IS a woman, frustrated and furious and in my own jungle of grief and guilt for the children I tried SO hard to bring up to be happy, healthy, productive people. Hear me roar, and yes, if you think it is all so damned Wonder Book simple? Kiss my ass.