Parenting & ReParenting...
Both are incredibly difficult. But doing both at the very same time is excruciating...
I think it is a fair statement to say that none of us got exactly what we needed growing up. And some of us got served a shit sandwich in the whole childhood thing. Regardless of whether we had the best parents or the worst (I was very lucky and got very good ones) we all have to come to terms with all the stuff that happened, how it was handled (or not) and what we are going to do with it now.
Now most people I know do not really even begin to come to terms with their childhood issues until at least middle age. It seems that we spend our 20s and 30s living the life that we have and striving to provide a better future for ourselves. Then at about 40, we begin to see the level of our own dysfunction. Then that takes another ten years to really begin to sink in. Usually a divorce is part of this process. Or two, or maybe even three. Then we being to look to see if maybe, just maybe we might be part of the problem.
It is a hard fucking day when we realize that we are totally the problem! And others might be too but that information just doesn’t really help us at all. I mean, that is great if you are married to a narcissistic asshole who has done horrible things and your side of the street is pretty darn swept off...but, but, you are the one that picked that one to marry and that, my friend, is yours and yours alone. So even if you were the mostly saintly person married to a treacherous, philandering piece of shit, you are still the one that selected that person over all the other 9 billion people on the planet to marry, and, to reproduce with...and no matter how you slice that particular humble pie, the slices are all yours!
But around 45 or 50, we begin to reflect and to review and we do this with the idea that we are now on the back slope of life. We are not cruising down the front slopes of life, no, we are and will remain for the rest of our days on the back side. Scary shit really. I try not to belabor this point too much as it freaks me the fuck out. But, I can own it now. I am almost 53 and that is just reality. And, fuck if I haven’t had a great run so far!
Now, the point of getting to the middle, the tipping point of a normal life expectancy is that it begs examination. Where have you been? Where are you going? Why did that happen? Why did that happen again? What is wrong with you? What is wrong with everyone else?
Now if you are like me, lazy, you will realize that figuring out what is wrong with you is way easier a task than trying to figure out what the fuck is wrong with everyone else. I mean it is way more fun to take others inventories, but other than give you vicarious pleasure that they are so fucked, it really is a wasted effort. Time is better spent asking yourself the much harder question as to why you would want to be engaged in a relationship with someone who acts like that or lives like that? See? Now you are neatly back on your side of the street.
I swear to God I am getting to my point...
Ok, so it has taken me a long time to build the case for middle life reflection. You get here and it is just part of the deal. We might even call it a crisis. We do crazy shit. Marry people that are our adult children’s age. Leave long standing careers and marriages. Sell everything and move to Bali. We do a lot of crazy ass shit all to avoid the one thing that is required and will set us free: evaluate where we are and why we got here.
So for those of us that do not buy a Ferrari or marry someone who is still in college, there is a lot of sorting through. And this is where the reparenting comes in. If you are lucky, your spiritual quest will show you that your parents did the best they could with what they had. I mean, parents are always going to come up short in review. I mean most especially if you grew up in the 70s and 80s. I mean, what the actual fuck was going on back then? Well guess what? Our parents didn’t know either! And they were likely in full flight from their own realities with drugs, sex, alcohol running from their own childhood debacles. And consciousness wasn’t raised so there was not a lot of encouragement for them to slow down and reflect.
But society today begs us to reflect. All the time. And I think that by and large, this is a good societal norm. We are the manifesters of our destinies after all and in order to manifest better shit you have to deal with and come to terms with the old shit.
Now the real kicker here is that almost all of us are doing all this soul searching, gut wrenching internal work while we are raising kids of our own. We are not on some mountain top in Nepal staring at our navels all day reflecting on the meaning of life, ours in particular. No, no we are driving kids to school, putting meals on tables that no one wants to sit at, parenting and desperately trying to keep lines of communication open. We are fucking busy people: working, living, parenting, reparenting and we are tired.
It has been my experience that reparenting myself and finding out where all my issues lay buried, dormant and volcanically active while parenting teenagers is just brutal. I mean, I am not sure there is anything that I have done in my life that is harder. And I have taken four bar exams, gotten sober and dealt with some pretty hard shit. And none of that compares to trying to sort through my own dysfunction while raising children...now teenagers. Teens who will call you out on all your stuff accurately and in a way that makes you feel like the child and them the parent. There have been times in my house that I walk through it, impressed with all the shit that happens and is taken care of here, and then I am overwhelmed and think, “fuck, whoever is responsible for all of this is nuts! This is a fuck ton of responsibility and work!” Then my knees buckle a bit when I realize that it is me, I am the one responsible for all of this! Those are the days that I just have to go lay down and pull my shit together.
So reparenting yourself, while parenting the child that is right there sitting on your couch wiping orange Cheeto dust on your white couch while high as a kite is one of the most under mentioned, addressed and challenging things about parenthood. No one mentioned this to me in all those books I read when I was pregnant. Where the fuck is the book “What to expect when they are 17?” I think that should be an actual book and that it should be required reading for every person who even thinks that they might want a child...ever.
Easy tip: Read that BEFORE you get pregnant. Then really sit with what the parents of teenagers have to say. Then really think if you want to do that. Seriously. It is fucking brutal.
Parenting is hard. Reparenting yourself is also hard. Doing both at the same time? Perilously hard. I have wanted to quit so many times. Just blame him or her and give myself a fucking pass. Because, dammit, I am really doing my best over here. And no one seems to acknowledge that. Not even me.
So where I end up, where I land in all of this is that the best place we all come to at about 45/50 is that we realize that everyone, including our parents, has to walk through some hard shit to even live to be 45 or 50. And they likely made quite a few mistakes on the way there. And that even though some of those mistakes were egregious, they were always doing the best they could. Sometimes someone’s best still sucks ass. It doesn’t change that it was and is their best. Lord knows I have been there. Doing my best and knowing all the while that it just isn’t going to cut it. Like ever. But there I am with the choice to just quit and give up on life and living or to continue to do whatever piss poor job I am doing and be willing to keep trying and working at this whole life thing.
Parenting and reparenting requires a lot of forgiveness and a pretty fucking amazing sense of humor. It takes a pretty evolved person to really look at yourself squarely, find yourself completely lacking and then find something amusing in all the horror that you find. Now that is outer limits spirituality in my opinion.
So I guess this is my very long winded way to say that this is hard. This middle life shit. This parenting while reparenting ourselves and seeing how much our own dysfunction was the breeding ground for the dysfunction of our children. And to see that it is intergenerational. We are really just doing what everyone else did before us. But hopefully, I mean I pray every single day, that I am more aware, I am more conscious of my defects and glaring deficiencies and because of that I am doing work sooner and more thoroughly and that will have a positive impact on the trajectory and lives of my children. I will be a better parent because I am actively working to sort myself out and even though it is incredibly hard, I am committed to doing this while I am parenting these teens often badly.
Any kind of parenting is hard. Be it little ones, teens, yourself. All parenting is hard and demands things from us that we could not possibly know would be required or even needed.
So today I just want to shout out to all of us who are in the trench of middle age. Raising kids while feeling like every day we are cheating death another day. Seeing ourselves for who we are instead of who we think we are, and then doing the very hard work to own that and begin to change it. It is hard fucking work. It is exhausting and it is mind numbingly boring at times. We are all works in progress and parenting of any kind is a call to action that requires depth, and breadth and a fucking killer resolve that is hard to summon on the best days.
So raise a glass to us middle age parents who are doing our best to sort through our shit while trying not to create more shit in the lives of our kids and are failing to do so everyday. Some days it seems hopeless, I know. But, then there are days when your 15 year old climbs in bed with you at 4 am because she can’t sleep. And right there you know that all the effort, work and drudgery is worth it. So you vow to keep going...one minute at a time.