I just read a post over at Mom Spark that tugged at my heart. Amy was talking about divorce and suggested that parents need to work through their issues and stay together for the sake of their kids (she says it all much more elegantly, so please head over to read her post). Her post suggested to me that she has some pretty negative feelings about at least some aspects of her childhood and that makes me sad. I won’t get into my response to that because you can read it in the comments section of her post. But I decided that it was time for me to bite the bullet and write a few posts that have been on my mind.
I am the product of a “broken marriage.” My mom got pregnant at 22, got married, realized she made a mistake and got her marriage annulled. I saw my father intermittently until I was about four years old and my mother told him to stop coming around because he was irresponsible and unreliable. I’ll share that whole drama another day. Over the next few years, she dated off and on (I only remember one guy, Jim, who drove a van and had a motorcycle). Finally, when I was about 6 or 7, she met the man I now think of as my father. He has two daughters right around my age and we became an instant family. It was an incredibly difficult transition for me.
My childhood in some ways reads like one of those how-I-overcame-adversity books: broken home, absentee father, growing up black/bi-racial in a white neighborhood, dealing with re-marriage, growing up black/bi-racial in a white family, overcoming poverty, coping with two instant sisters, an overwhelming fear that my mother would die and leave me alone. And, in fact, it has taken me about 35 or so years to recover from some of it.
But despite the challenges I faced and the anger I had to cope with (mainly directed at previously mentioned absentee-dad), if you were to ask me without context about my childhood, I would tell you that it was fairly happy. In fact, I think I’m pretty lucky. As far back as I can remember, we had a comfortable place to live, plenty of food, more toys than I ever needed and a strong network of people who loved us. We took family vacations, celebrated holidays and did all of the silly things that kids do.
Were there bad things? Most definitely. But we weren’t abused or neglected in any way and for that I am very thankful. Yeah, my sisters and I fought. And, yeah, I definitely felt a bit betrayed at first when my mom remarried. And I felt even more so when I realized that my biological father was choosing to not come around. But those aren’t the things that stand out. Instead I remember riding bikes, singing songs, silly games we made up, birthday parties, Halloween costumes and school plays.
Now that I have kids of my own, I have a certain ongoing anxiety about providing them with happy childhoods. I am certainly not winning any parenting awards as I cope with a short temper and a need for a base level of alone time. And yet, when I listen to them talk and when I go back over our family photos, I have hope that they will remember their own childhoods with good thoughts. I know that we’re providing them with a stable and secure home environment and all the tools they need to grow up happy and healthy. And I feel strongly that, even if something should happen to me or my husband, or our marriage just doesn’t work out, we’ll continue to provide those things for our kids. Because that’s what parenting is all about.