Sunday, January 23, 2011

sins of the fathers

parents. everyone has two, somewhere out there - that's biological reality. we all have a mother and a father, at least at the point of conception. but in a lot of cases, way more than should ever be the case, one or both of the people who give a person life just... check out. i am not a parent. it's only been recently that the idea of being someone's mama hasn't caused me to break out in hives. but i am someone's child. i love both of my parents, my dad who's here and my mom who's passed on. and even though i came out okay, even though i have next to nothing to complain about regarding my raising, i still have scars. and i'm one of the lucky ones.

my friends and i are at the age when most people historically start their own nuclear families. i've had a couple of friends give birth. it's a hell of a thing - all of a sudden, there's this kid you're responsible for. and watching all this go down has made me reflective, i guess. when you do this, when you create life with a partner (one you love or not), you've opened the floodgates. you're now on the hook for things that happen to that kid. and like it or not, more often than not, what's done can't be undone. we forgive, but we don't forget.

so back to the checked out parent. sometimes it's a tragedy, an unintentional trick of brain chemistry, that pulls a parent away. that's what happened to me. other times, it's willful hatred, cruelty or reckless disregard for the consequences of actions that sear into a kid's mind. those are the times that try my soul more than anything i can articulate. i've seen the breakdowns that occur, the way the victims of situations like this have had their hearts broken time and time again, and even so, still hold their attackers in a place of rueful, painful love, twisted around the mangled frame of their conception of what that parent should be and what that parent actually is. it's shattering. there's no other word for it.

kids are so fragile, such blank slates. that's what scares me about them, what gives me so much pause about the idea of having one myself. if you're a thoughtful, caring person on any level, you can't help but evaluate yourself against that standard when contemplating reproduction. everything you say and do to and around that baby is going to go towards what that baby becomes in adulthood. there's so much focus on prenatal medical care. hell, some people go so far as to say that women of childbearing age should take prenatal vitamins all the time, just in case. while that strikes me as a little too "women are nothing but walking incubators," there's certainly no doubt in anyone's mind that if you're thinking of conceiving, you should get yourself into good medical shape.

but no one ever seems to pay much mind to prenatal mental care. shouldn't that matter too? if we're so concerned about whether the fetus is getting enough vitamin B-12, it seems that we should be just as concerned, if not more, about whether the parent(s) of that soon-to-be-baby can handle what's about to happen. nine months of gestation is one thing - the rest of your life as someone's parent has WAY more impact on what that baby will become.

so i guess my point is this: parents, be careful. for that matter, everyone around those babies needs to be careful. when they put that little bundle in your arms, that's the first impression you'll make. it's incumbent upon you and everyone else to make damn good and sure that every impression after that does as little harm as possible. that's the wage of being a parent. for the sake of that bundle, and the rest of the world, you had damn well better pay it.


  1. Agreed.

    but no one ever seems to pay much mind to prenatal mental care.

    I would take that a step further, and take out the word "prenatal." If it can't be poked, prodded, biopsied, or scanned, we tend to discount it... much to everyone's detriment.

  2. Great post.. I totally agree... there is worry about the pre-natal health of the little one, but none seem to worry too much about the health of the Mom before and during conception and gestation.

    In Memphis, TN... just up the road, one of the great stories raging right now is that at Frayser High School, somewhere in the neighborhood of 90 girls are pregnant or have given birth since September, 2010...

    Kids having kids...

    Unfortunately for this group of kids, having 'kids' seems to be a status symbol and a source of income...

    How sad for the little ones...

    I was fortunate enough to have a great Mom and Dad (for Dad, it took me a while to realize it)... I want my kids to know that if they ever need me, I am here for them.


  3. Purging a toxic parent from my life was one of the greatest decisions I had ever made. He was "checked out" in his own way for most of my childhood with over-the-top Evangelicalism. The damage to my mother and siblings was great and some of it beyond repair.

    I'd like to start a family and now that I'm 30, sometime soon-ish. But there is still so much that scares the crap out of me. My gut tells me I'm too selfish and/or lazy.

  4. I agree too. This is one of those things that I think about a lot's a lot to consider when having a child. And it scares the crap out of me. Perhaps that means I'm not ready, huh? ;-)

  5. I choose not to be a parent because I've put a lot of thought into whether I'm willing to commit to that. I would never be able to forgive myself if I caused the sort of damage to a child that was caused to me (not that it was anyone's fault, being brain problems and all).

  6. Very well said. I think about stuff like this a lot when it comes to my baby, and even my nephew. I wish I could take my nephew away from what seems like is going to be a toxic childhood that he's going to have with my sister and her boyfriend.


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