Forward from the Past

This is what I’ve been thinking about lately: Promise. (It’s a funny cartoon. Click over. C’mon, don’t be lazy! You won’t regret it.)

I promise that when we mess you up it’ll be in ways we couldn’t foresee. Mostly.

Last week I emailed my therapist and pushed back my appointment an extra week. Truthfully, I’m no longer in crisis the way I was two months ago and for three (four? five?) years before that. Even the fear of losing this pregnancy only surfaces immediately pre-ultrasound and fades after a glimpse of the twinkling heartbeat versus my typical habit of obsessing on worst-case-scenario outcomes. (After a prolonged period of serial disaster, it’s hard to expect anything but.) This feels like progress, an accomplishment, and I’m a little hazy about the role of therapy at this point.

The only reason I don’t simply cut myself loose revolves around a fresh set of fears–parenting after dysfunction. If you’ve been a reader for a stretch of time, you might know that my family history is sordid. Happily, I can say with bald candor that those old wounds feel mostly healed, as much as possible with my mother, the x-factor, still kicking around and working her magic as a monkey wrench in every well-oiled plan, but the promise and looming responsibility of a real child who already depends on me–for oxygen, nourishment, survival–has unearthed these old fears that I lost sight of while merely trying to survive my pain:

Will I be a good mother?

Can I? Do I have it in me? Will I make more mistakes and scramble behind the learning curve because I had bad models? Will I be warm and nurturing enough, or will I turn cold and harsh in the face of stress? Can I keep my temper in check to find those essential stores of patience and make decisions with foresight in moments of maddening frustration. Who will I turn to for guidance when I don’t know what to do?

I started accumulating a list of parenting books on an Amazon wish list, but that’s just my way of trying to proactively control a scary unknown– read, educate, and think my way out of any problem with tenacity and resourcefulness. I predict most parents will tell me that these truths are revealed and wisdoms gained in the real-time of life’s trying and treasured moments.

** Thank you, Gerald Stein for turning me on to this cartoonist!

12 thoughts on “Forward from the Past

  1. After reading a few taking care of baby books, I highly recommend reading Parenting with Love & Logic by Foster Cline and Jim Fay. Fantastic tools to use. I take it the 10 week ultrasound went well?

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  2. Damned wordpress. I was trying to say maybe not needed out of the gate but I have found some fundamental truths and guidelines for gauging and reflecting on my parenting post-dysfunction and childhood abuse in Barbara Coloroso’s Kids Are Worth It. I also frequently find solace in something I read by someone to whom I regrettably cannot give credit as my memory sucks (especially these days) and it was online about how as a parent who agonizes over one’s daily parenting fails, hiccups and shortcomings, I (and you) are not likely to unwittingly carry on at length replicating in our children’s lives the toxic or just pedestrian-level unhealthy stuff that we grew up with or promised ourselves (and our anticipated children) we would not repeat as parents ourselves. I believe in you; you can and will do this. I never sever our relationship with our counselor either and we always end up there at least a few times a year in need of help!

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      • I could give a long answer, but the short one is that I thought you could bear a laugh. More to the point, you are a conscientious mom-to-be with a best friend as a partner. You will be great — or as great as any of us are at the most important job on the planet. Moms and monkey wrenches need to be dealt with. My own could have had a movie made about her approach to parenting and grandparenting: “The Irritation Game.” Hope that gave you another laugh.

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  3. I definitely understand your fears. As a new parent I am struggling with similar issues. I don’t know if this will be helpful to you or not but my dad recently shared with me that he battled (and still battles) nearly debilitating fear that he will be a terrible father bc his father was so terrible to him (think classic abuse here-broken arms, withholding of both food and affection, verbal and emotional belittling). He said he awoke every day with the determination to be a good father, and when he was in doubt about a course of action or when his reaction came “too easily” he would leave the room and make the cognitive choice to do the opposite of what his father would do. And he was a wonderful dad – not just father, but daddy. And there is a difference, at least to me. I think the fact that you are worried about what kind of parent you will be and that fact that you are taking steps to be the best mommy you can means that you will be a smashing success.

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    • Thanks, it’s good to hear about a guy like your dad who figured it out and has a good relationship with his adult child. I think taking the space to make a conscious choice is probably important if the knee-jerk is dysfunctional.

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