Okay, I’m just putting a warning out there right now, right at the start of this post: there is a high chance that this post could sound defensive. And in fact, it is. But not defending myself to other people. It’s defending myself to me.
The better part of a year ago, someone was mad at me for several various things–some of which I honestly don’t even understand still–and to this day I don’t know how much was legitimate and how much was based on other things in her life. But I’ve always been a firm believer that most things people say in anger, even if they’re largely untrue and just said in anger, usually have some basis in truth. Or at least in truth as the speaker perceives things.
This is what she said, or the general idea of it anyway: “Why can’t you see that you already have become your parents?”
This tumbles around in my brain frequently. It terrifies me. And sometimes fear can be a good motivator, but sometimes it can be utterly paralyzing. So for the times when I move from fear of becoming like them into a paralyzing depression that screams at me that I’m already ruined and can’t possibly ever be “good enough,” I am making this list.
Why I am Not My Parents
1. I am actively striving to improve. My mom will tell you that she’s a “terrible housekeeper,” but she doesn’t do much to try to improve in that. She’ll tell you that maybe she yelled more than she should have, but she doesn’t do much to try to improve in that. My dad . . . well, I really can’t think of any imperfections that he’ll willingly admit to, but there might be some that just aren’t coming to mind. At any rate, neither of them actively strive to change. They talk about it, but they don’t do it. Not only did I seek counseling on my own, and seek other ways (support/accountability housekeeping groups, striving to find my own groove to be able to keep up with things regularly, etc.) to improve, but I can actually look back just over the past three years and see marked differences and improvements in my life. I’m learning to throw things away without feeling anxious because it might possibly maybe eventually be useful. I’m learning to keep up with dishes regularly. Am I perfect at them? No. Do I have more improving to do? You better believe it! More importantly, I better believe it! And I do. And I work to improve. Because I am not my parents.
2. I don’t ignore problems until the last second. Okay, I have to admit, this one is DEFINITELY still a work in progress. It’s my natural tendency to. “If I ignore it maybe it will go away.” I don’t like to deal with the hard stuff. But I’m LEARNING to deal with the hard stuff. I’m learning to do things promptly and not ignore them until the last second. I’ve also been in circumstances when I know there have been some times that people have thought I ignored something until the last second when, in fact, I was actively working on the problem (eg. finding a place to live before it was time to move) but because other people weren’t privy to the process they seemed to assume that we hadn’t done anything. I don’t know why. Because I am not my parents.
3. I don’t blame the mess in this house on my child or expect him to just know how to fix it. Does he make messes? Sure. He’s a toddler. What’s more, it’s incredibly difficult to clean anything with a toddler. While you’re cleaning one thing, he’s uncleaning something else. But you know what? I wanted to be a mother. I decided to be a mother. And I hope to have several more little people eventually, making messes and making it difficult for me to clean. That doesn’t mean that I just let the mess grow. (I really hate when I see memes that say something about just not cleaning until the kids are in college. Intended to be funny, but makes me cringe. But that’s another post for another time.) It also doesn’t mean that I yell at my son for the mess and expect him to clean it up. If he was 8 or 10 or 15, it doesn’t mean I yell and expect him to clean it up. Not unless I invest in his life NOW and make sure he knows how to clean. Sure, he’s not even 2. I don’t expect him to do my dishes for me. I don’t expect him to clean things perfectly or without a lot of help and supervision. But he is my son, and it’s my responsibility to invest in his life and make sure he knows how to clean. If he unloads all the books from his shelf, with however much supervision it takes, he puts them back. If he takes his toys out, with however much supervision it takes, he puts them back. And that boy LOVES to sweep. Not very effectively yet, but that’s okay. He’s still learning. And I’m still learning too. I’m learning that I am not my parents.
Well, that’s only three ways right now. Maybe I’ll post more later. But hey, meanwhile, I have a few tools in my arsenal to combat my feelings of uselessness when I’m sitting in a house that I know was clean the day before, but somehow is extremely messy now, and I think maybe I should just give up because I’m somehow forever doomed to be just like my parents. The fact is, I am already not my parents. If I give up, if I refuse to try anymore, then, and only then, will I have become my parents.