I was a prom night baby, and knew I didn’t want to do that. When I was 9 my parents were divorced, dating, putting distance between them. It was hard to be heard. In the 80s I found family dynamics theories and my “inner child” — and with some blame and some anger I just listened to my own damned self.
I worked, moved away, got degrees, moved in with a guy. Struggled with infertility. It wrecked us.
Then…”don’t worry, it can’t happen” and then “oops!” We jumped into parenting after just one kiss.
I was 39. The baby came early, we fought for him, feared for him, settled into being unmarried parents. He sat up, stood, walked, talked, defied predictions; it was going well.
We did it again. I was almost 43. Now the Things are 10 and 6, and remember my inner child’s anger? It’s back, like Iago, pointing out every gap, every failure to attain that “good parent” award, even when the award’s rules and goals are shifting and undecided. The judges who decide on the award do not agree, making it an award impossible to win. Instead we parents point fingers and judge each other, dividing up into sides.
And I’ve watched the news 20 years longer than my parents had. It’s never good. Diseases, predators, and bullies, oh my! I often ask, “Is it worse, or is it just more reporting in search of news ratings?” — nobody knows. So being an older parent means that my kids are heard. But it also means they will never see me in my carefree 20s, they won’t be parented by that young, always laughing and dancing, me. Instead they will see the worry that always seems to walk before me into the room. They will roll their eyes as I time their screen exposure, sneak junk food at friends’ houses, shrug off unwanted hats and coats. But I was a prom night baby; I don’t want to do that.