Tuesday, January 21, 2014

A crusty heart

I’ve been a parent for 3 years and a couple of months.  I have no sage advice.  I am far from an expert. 

I struggle everyday in my parenting.

Some small thing becomes large.  Some large thing takes a backseat to an even  larger dilemma.  There is always junk to deal with—simple junk and complex junk. There are passing moments of happiness and joy and surreal delight.  And, then there is more junk.  The junk passes too. 

It fizzles to ash.
Sometimes it rises.
And then again.

Being totally responsible for a little being is heavy work and being an older parent has added so many layers to this journey.  Helpful layers and not-so-helpful layers.

K and I are older parents.  As I have reflected on in the past, we waited and then persisted through trials a long time to get to willa.

On the other end of the spectrum, my mother and father had me when they were really, really young.  My ma was 19 when I was born and my dad was 21.  They are young parents and grandparents. 

That youngness added struggles to their parenting that are different than my struggles.  They lacked in maturity and experience, but they were overflowing with energy and creativity and a kind of naiveté that made their mistakes more acceptable. 

Whereas, K and I have had a lot of experiences and are pretty darn mature (though I still get busted about every 6 months for talking about bodily functions at a dinner party).  We also get tired more readily and I am sometimes ultra stuck in my habits and ways.

Having more experience is not always a plus.  My layers of junk and roughage are much thicker, for the most part, than some younger parent’s roughage might be (in some senses simply because there is less deep shit lived through for many younger people).  At 37, I have witnessed at least 10,000 more images and stories of human suffering and direct experiences of discrimination, injustice, and grief than many 19 year olds have seen.  My ma had a hard growing up, but in her 19 year old life she still had remnants of innocence and freshness that surpass my dense, self imposed defenses. 

All in all, I have a crusty heart.

A heart that has witnessed and directly experienced profound sadness and trauma. 

Of course, and sadly and unfortunately and wrongly, there are millions of younger people in america who have lived through insane trauma over and over again in their short lives.  I do not intend to minimize or erase these brutal facts.  Poverty and incest and racism and sexism and misogyny and living in a police state and cycles of thick family violence and homo and trans phobia and heterosexism and other human made tragedies have left, in both singular and intersectional ways, devastating impacts on too many young people’s lives. 

With that being said, I have been thinking a lot about being an older parent and my personal tendency to have a difficult time letting go of junk, sadness, and suffering and not always working through primary and secondary trauma all that well.
So, what this leads me to realize is that I am not the most present parent.  I withdraw into a self-protective shell even in my safest place—my home surrounded by family.  As I stated at the beginning of this post, I have no sage advice about parenting, just this personal reflection on how I know I am failing, at times, at being present because of not processing appropriately or effectively the sadness that surrounds me. 

And, maybe if we had had a kid back when we were younger, I would not be holding so much grief.  Or, maybe I would have it still.  Maybe age has nothing to do with it.  Or, maybe it has everything to do with it. 

I also have been obsessing with my own memories of witnessing my mother grow up as she parented.  See, I remember when my mom turned 30.  I was 11 and I thought she was so very, very old and that she would be dying in the near future due to her ancient status.  Then, I remember when she turned 40; I was 21 and I met K just two short years later.  At 40 my mother’s children were 21, 19, and 16.  At 40 my child will be 5 (and if we happen to have another kid soon that child will be 1 or 0).  I was an adult—18 years old—when my mom turned the age I am today, 37. 

Even if there is no profound anything connected to these fleeting images and thoughts, the thoughts still come and the emotions connected to my complete ability to disconnect still emerge.


eeny meeny said...

As an introvert, and someone who has been through trauma, I know where you're coming from with regard to needing time to process in order to be present. My brain seems easily tired and I imagine this gets worse as he becomes more verbal. Oh, and he's 2 and I'm 43. My parents were young, like yours, and that was definitely a negative thing for me.

I've had to make my peace with needing more processing time. I don't like it, but once my brain has had enough, it shuts down. Do you have any tricks for staying present even when you're not feeling up to it?

the injector said...

eeny meeny, thank you for sharing your stuff and thanks for the great question:) When I really feel like checking out and not being present with willa, but I have to be present. I do something really, really active with willa. Like wrestle or crazy painting or walking/running really fast. When it is not a polar vortex the best way for me to both quiet my mind from the secondary trauma of work and be present with my little is to take a bicycle ride to the river and eat olives together.

eeny meeny said...

You're right! I do that, too, without thinking--more the wrestling stuff--because otherwise his bombardment just makes me want to drink cocktails to help cope with the irritation. Thanks for the ideas!