Thursday, May 23, 2013

Magical Thinking...

It has been a year and a half since the day my Father died.  It was, as you can imagine, a very difficult time for me and my family.  Ironically, he had a massive stroke on my Mom's birthday - and exactly four days later he was gone.

Lately, I have been feeling pangs of guilt.  Before all of this happened with Gavin, I would talk to my Dad every day.  Sometimes I would even talk to him out loud in the car.  Then... silence.  I just haven't thought about him as much or talked to him as much or... or have I?
The truth is - my Dad wouldn't mind.  He was a man who was all about his children.  If he were alive, he'd say "Don't worry about me... worry about your boys."

The truth is - my Dad is very present in my life, whether I talk to him or not.  And I want - I need - to tell you why in the hopes that it will open your eyes to the dynamic with you and your parents - or change the way you parent your own children.
My Dad was always a positive person.  If I ever got into a situation - he was there for a talk.  He had this way of showing me how anything - even my biggest screw ups - could be turned into a positive outcome.  While there may have been moments of "How could you?!" or judgements or anger... I would always walk away remembering the life lesson more.  Even during the awful phase I went through where everything my parents did or said or wore or stood for was worthy of an eye roll (more on that later), I soaked in every word my Dad said to me.  He gave me this magical way of thinking that, I believe, laid the foundation that allowed me to survive everything since Gavin's birth... and now, death.

The truth is - I think my Dad would be proud of me right now.  Not for all the attention and the publicity and the internet response that has happened - but for how I'm handling this.  Of course I was... and am... and will remain to be devastated that Gavin died. But early on I knew that something good had to come of it.  It had to.  It was the only way.  The magical thinking my Dad instilled in me was my ticket to not only surviving this - but helping others... somehow, someway... at the same time.  My Dad was all about helping others.  As a matter of fact, the morning of my birthday when I asked people to perform random acts of kindness in Gavin's memory - I'm sure that came from my Dad.  

There's a saying that goes, "You always hurt the one's you love."  Isn't that true?  When I think back to that immature phase I went through - the eye rolling and the sarcasm and making fun of my parents who were just soooo uncool - I'm ashamed of myself.  There were two pivotal moments in my life that broke me of that.  One was a stern chat from my oldest brother.  He basically said that disrespecting your parents or your family in ANY way is pretty much the worst thing you could do in life.  As the youngest of five, I worshipped my older brothers and sisters.  Anything they said to me held a lot of weight.  I never forgot what my brother said to me that day - and he was absolutely right.  When I see people acting in a way towards their parents that is rude or disrespectful in any way, I just want to pull them aside and tell them - "You are making yourself look like a person that I am sure you are not.  You look like a jerk and in this moment, people witnessing this feel sorry for your parents - not you."  It's one of my biggest pet peeves.  

I also remember a real desire to know more about my parents on a personal level.  I put my fears aside and started asking them questions... about their lives, their fears, their dreams.  So many of us grew up - are currently experiencing - or are parenting our children in a "I am the parent - you are the child" type of way.  While there is nothing wrong with that... at all... I would like to propose a nice detour.

When I was able to see my parents as real people - with real feelings - it changed everything.  We became friends and their advice was easier to take because of that.  And when I became a Mom, it gave me a way of parenting that, in my case, has served me well.
We are open and honest with Brian - we don't hide our feelings or emotions from him.  I think this is helping him as he works through his grief.  He isn't afraid to talk to us about Gavin... about death... about his feelings.

This was our conversation in the car today on the way home from school:
"Mommy... I have a surprise for you!"  (He hands me an imaginary present.)  "It's a picture of Mommy, Daddy, Brian and Gavin!"

"I love it!" I exclaimed as I kissed my hand that was holding the imaginary photograph.

"Mommy, why did you kiss your hand?"

"Because it has a picture of you and Gavin and I love you boys so much."

"Mommy?"

"Yes, Brian?"

"The pictures now don't have Gavin in them anymore.  Only me.  I don't like that."

"Me either, buddy."
Will he go through a phase where he can't stand us?  Probably.  But I'm hoping that it won't last long.  Because now that I'm a parent... and know how much I have invested in loving, caring, researching, shopping, feeding, holding, worrying, obsessing and loving some more... it would absolutely break my heart.  And if just the thought of being treated with disrespect - or feeling "unimportant" - would break my heart... imagine what it's doing to parents who actually ARE being treated that way.

The moral of my story - from a girl who recently lost her incredible Dad?  From a girl that wings this parenting thing and is not in any way an expert of any kind (of anything).  From a girl who is hoping that her own son is reading this during his "I can't stand my parents phase..."

Be nice to your parents.  

One day, they may be the only one's in your corner.  And they have loved you longer than anyone else.  And as my brother said, disrespecting your parents or your family in any way is just about the worst thing you can do.  And he's right about everything.  Trust me.  
Oh, and try some of Pop's magical thinking.  That's the other moral of the story.  It really can get you through so much.


p.s. - if you don't have parents, or your parents are abusive or just horrible people - find surrogate parents!  Ed has many sets of surrogate parents who stepped in after his parents died when he was young.  If you find incredible surrogate Moms and Dads like he did, treasure them.

p.p.s. - I miss you, Dad.  So much.



9 comments:

  1. I think you hit the nail on the head. I began to find forgiveness for some of my childhood pains when I began to understand my parents' background. I can now relate to them better because I know them better as whole people, not just people who told me what I could and couldn't do. (And this highlights the importance of humility in parenting. I had to apologize to my 6yo today for being quick to anger with him and he immediately melted into me with a big hug. I'm so glad I can see my wrongs every once in awhile to mend things.)

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  2. The fact remains that children will try their parents and sometimes disrespect them. It happens growing up. I have one teenager who is very respectful, mature and focused. The other teenager I have is just the opposite and they are being raised by the same parents. Don't be surprised when you are challenged your teenager to be. Don't be devastated but work through it, love them, and continue supporting them. That phase will pass and soon things will be different.

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  3. I think children need to go through a phase where they realize their parents aren't perfect so that they can separate from them. If they always looked at their parents as perfectly wonderful and totally powerful they couldn't let go and find themselves. I also think that if children didn't get somewhat obnoxious then parents wouldn't be able to let go of them either. When your kids aren't very nice to you it is easier to want them to grow up and move on. Hopefully, once the kids have "found themselves" and are out on their own a new, more respectful, adult relationship will develop between parents and "adult children." If that happens it is a great bonus for everyone.

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  4. I have great parents, but I want to adopt your parents too!!! They look like wonderful people. Just so kind and loving.

    I think we all to through that trying time, of testing our parents. God knows I was a horrible teenager. As the parent of children who are now teens, I hope I have learned something. We've had our share of eye rolls, but we are plodding through.

    I prayed for you and your family today. May God bless you all and watch over you. Take care of yourself.

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  5. Thank you for sharing this story. Having grown up with an abusive, distant, noncommunicative father, I often dreamed of having such a supportive, approachable, loving and inspiring Dad like yours. I had hoped things would change once I was grown and he had the opportunity to be different with his grandchildren, but unfortunately that has not been the case. How fortunate for your family to have those wonderful experiences and memories! I am very sorry to hear of his passing, but happy for anyone who has such a heartwarming story to tell about their experiences with parents (and siblings!) such as yours.

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  6. Thank you for this very good read. It was just very nice. Your parents are amazing people and you are very blessed to have them in your life. It really shows that they care for you and love you very much. Your story is very heartwarming. Thank you so much for sharing this.

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  7. You are so, so right. On both points.

    I think parents and their influences are completely underrated. I was fortunate to grow up with incredible parents. They are completely imperfect, but they have loved me perfectly and continue to love me, and now my daughter. They have stood beside me through thick and thin and I have so much respect and appreciation for them. Both of their birthdays are in May, and then Mothers Day and Fathers Day also, so I struggle to find the words or actions or things (as much as I dislike things) to show them how much their love and support have meant to me through the years. Everything I could say or give seem so insufficient.

    Thank you for this. So beautiful.

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    1. hmv003, I found your tribute to your parents beautiful as well. How wonderful to be able to feel that way about your family of origin. I try my best to be the parent to my daughter that I didn't have myself growing up. I hope that one day she will think as highly of me, looking back on her childhood (and throughout her adulthood,) as you have expressed about your parents :-)

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  8. Kate,

    I hope you are enjoying your weekending! Thank you for this story. Your dad sounds like a very special man. I am going through this pulling away, you-embarrass-the-crap-out-of-me with my daughter right now. I was actually thinking about sitting her down for a chat to let her know how I feel when she mistreats me. So the timing of your words is so important for me to hear right now, a gentle reminder that "This, too, shall pass."

    I am go glad for all of you that you speak openly about Gavin, and that you allow Brian to share his thoughts, even as hard it it might be for you at times. That is such an incredible gift to him, Kate.

    We did the same with our children about their oldest sibling, even though he was dead before they entered this earth. They do have a better understanding of death, and don't fear it... Being honest and open has been a great asset in helping them to cope and heal from many of life's disappointments, and to give them a tiny foundation up which they were able to process death and devastation in other areas of their lives...

    And what an amazing, thoughtful, and intuitive young boy you have in Brian... He seems like such a genuine and generous soul...

    Hugs and healing...

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