Letting go of what never was

As I continue to think about my recent discovery about food being a positive connection to my father, I move forward. I am now in a place where I can see several things that I didn’t realize as a child or even as a younger adult.

  1. He really undermined our relationship with our mother in a ton of ways, from including us in his sneaky food antics to telling us to just avoid our mother when she was a cleaning rampage. We could complain about her to him when she was acting like a crazy person.
  2. I now completely understand why she was acting like a crazy person. Having a full time job, two children, and a child-like spouse who isn’t helping at all is very draining. She was doing EVERYTHING for our family and he was undermining her in his own mind and to my brother and I.
  3. My father has grown up so much this past year and we have been close this entire time. I have had a front row seat to his development and change. He really feels genuinely happy inside himself for maybe the first time ever. I had no idea that he was so emotionally immature.
  4. My mother had so much working against her. A very cold upbringing, a husband who was lazy and selfish, one extremely difficult child who was a ton of trouble at home but an angel (for the most part) outside the house, one child who was an angel at home and a monster outside the house, and a never ending stream of pets that she would end up primarily responsible for despite telling us that wouldn’t be the case.

All of these realizations have been swirling around me at an increasing pace and I begin to see my parents as real humans and not the perfect people I grew up thinking they were. It helps sometimes to think about them as children going through the stories I know about them and how they were shaped by those experiences. There was so much alcoholism on my father’s side, for generations. And also a lot of toxic, neglectful parenting that I am sure shaped his parents into the terrible people they both were. My mom’s side wasn’t as bad, just very cold and unemotional. I understand that it was a different time, especially because I was raised in such a different time. But I look at that as a charge to move forward and do better, not replicate the shitty upbringing I had to recover from.

For me that means apologizing when I’ve hurt their feelings, trying to understand why they feel the way they do about something, and checking myself to ensure I am behaving in a way that helps them grow up healthy and happy. It’s not about exerting authority because I can, making arbitrary rules to flex my adulthood, and belittling them with shame over totally normal kid things. It’s about teaching them what true friendship looks like, what sticking up for yourself means and how to do it, and how important it is to stay true to yourself.

I am letting go of who I thought my parents were and what I thought our relationships were built on. The foundations I have with them are solid. They did want me and they do love me. They want me to be happy and they want to be close to me. We can work past the imperfect actions of imperfect humans who were doing their best to bring up tiny imperfect humans. I think if you can get to a place where a relationship’s foundation is good enough, you can tear down and rebuild as many times as you need to for both people to feel happy and heard in any relationship. People grow and change and everyone deserves the space for growth and the opportunity to share who they have become as they grow and change.

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