Sunday, July 19, 2009

pick yourself up, dust yourself off

It�s been one of those days with my future DRAMA MAJOR that leads me to question not only my sanity, but whether or not I should have ever become a mother.

And it�s barely noon.

Any of you have mental illness in your extended family medical history? I do. Some very bad seeds? Me, too. Unhealthy patterns in parenting? How about anger management issues, depression, and passive-aggressiveness?

That�s just my adoptive family. My biological family was one big Korean soap opera. And it�s harder to detach myself from the crazy in their family, since I am actually genetically related to them. At times, when I feel particularly shitty as a mother, I imagine that all the bad parenting qualities in both my families have coalesced into one perfect storm of nature and nurture and settled in me, with my daughter as the unsuspecting victim.

I remember when I first learned the truth about my birth family � specifically, about the abuse and misery my birthmother had inflicted on my sisters, and the fact that she was a truly disturbed woman who hadn�t wanted me because I was �another girl.� Also, I was born so prematurely, the doctors were sure I�d never lead a �normal life.� As it turns out, I was the luckiest of my birthparents� daughters, because I was the one they gave up.

The night I learned all of this, I couldn�t sleep. Of course, it might have had something to do with being eight a half months pregnant with Abigail at the time. I just lay there in bed, hour after hour, asking myself, �Am I going to be like them? Am I going to be a bad parent?�

I think that most people have the potential to be good, even great parents. The truth I had never really confronted � until that night, facing down the skeletons in my family closet for the first time � was that most people also have the potential to be extremely bad parents. I decided I had probably not inherited some �bad parenting gene� that would doom me and my children to a life of unhappiness. But I would still have to be aware of my limitations, my weaknesses, and yes, my sins. I would have to be humble.

Sometimes, when everything is going well with Abigail and we�re clipping along for weeks on end with no major disasters or meltdowns, I forget to feel thankful for the relative peace. I may even get a little cocky, and start to think that I have something to do with how smoothly things are running. But days like today keep me humble and well-acquainted with my own faults, lack of patience topping the list.

I hate feeling so aware of my own powerlessness, when I can do nothing to make my daughter feel any better; when I put her down early for a nap and then punch a pillow in sheer frustration; when I sit numbly on the couch with a cup of tea in my hands and seriously � seriously � question whether someone like me (lazy! impatient! selfish! only child! needs alone time! has latent CRAZY GENES!) should have ever had a child in the first place. Too late to spare Abigail, but maybe she doesn�t need a sibling. Maybe, I think to myself, maybe there�s somewhere I could get a tubal over my lunch break.

Here�s where I should stop feeling sorry for myself and say something uplifting, something positive about motherhood. If I wanted to, I could say what a lot of parents say � that I�m aware of my faults, but that having a child has given me the perfect opportunity to work hard to correct those faults for the sake of another person. And that�s true, except you don�t have a child as a means to self-improvement. Abby deserves a good mom now, not a good mom-in-training.

If I were grading myself as a mother today, it would be pretty grim. Not even a gentleman�s C. But she�s napping, praise God and all the saints, and I have another few minutes to repair my tattered nerves. A deep breath, a sip of tea, and some lunch are in order.

Soon she�ll wake up, and I will still be here. I�m leaning towards still being here, anyway. And then we�ll start all over again.

Nikki has officially made it to bedtime and is about to start drinking heavily. This entry was written earlier today and cross-posted at A Small Song.

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