Archive for the ‘I Won't Be Like My Parents’ Category

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Memoirs of an 11-Year Old

October 25, 2009

When I was 11 I was a trouble-maker. I stole. I stole food. I stole postcards. I stole coins.

In my memory, I stole the food because there was only enough food made at supper for my dad to have seconds, and for my step-brother and I to share a second helping. I was still hungry, so I’d come upstairs at night and make myself a peanut butter sandwich.

I stole postcards in my desire to get my Collector’s badge in Girl Guides. Needless to say my dad pulled me out of Guides because I obviously couldn’t live up to the ideology they were trying to teach little girls.

I stole coins from my dad’s change jar and bought massive amounts of candy with it. And I stole coins from my step-mom’s collection of coins from around the world – because they were cool.

We had just moved in with my step-mom, step-brother and step-sister the year before when my dad and step-mom got married. I didn’t get along with my SM (step-mom for short – gonna get sick of typing it). It wasn’t an issue of her replacing my mom as my mom and dad had been divorced for years, I hadn’t lived with my mom for years, and she had just passed away the year before. It was probably something like I just didn’t want to share my dad, since I’d had him to myself for so long.

I started Grade 7 on a Thursday. A new school, since I was in Junior High now. New school, new people, a whole new routine. I honestly don’t remember what I did that weekend that got me in trouble. Whatever it was, my dad had had enough. He didn’t know how to deal with me anymore. He packed up my stuff, packed me in the car and drove me 3 hours away to my grandma’s house. I lived with her for the next 15 years. It was explained once upon a time that in a few years I would move out and live my own life. My dad would be with my SM forever. He made his choice to be with her and save their relationship by not having me there.

17 years later, I’m still facing the actions of a lost kid and her frustrated parents. When I see my parents now, I still feel like I did when I was 11 and on my way to my grandma’s. I feel like no matter what I do, it’s wrong. I feel like I can never to anything to please my dad, and I can never live up to his expectations. I still feel like a disappointment to him now.

It doesn’t help that my dad and SM are very critical. They have very high expectations of their children. They have sharp tongues and a pressing need to make us learn through their experience. They have done better than most people in life, and they wish that for us kids too.

Combine my 11-year old mentality, and the whip-fast lash of their tongues, and I leave their presence almost every time upset and wondering why I let them get to me. They like to share their advice with us, about absolutely everything we could face in life. But their advice comes across as demands, and ‘this is the way it must be.’

I have been told not to let Penny play with pots and pans, or she they will always be toys to her. I’ve been told not to let her play with her food or it will always be a toy. She’s not allowed to play with phones or remotes either. I’ve been told (before Penny was even born mind you) that I should wean her by 9 months. And I got eye-rolling tonight when I was talking about co-sleeping.

Their advice isn’t limited to my parenting either. We walked through our new house today and received quite a few comments there as well. I commented that it didn’t look like there was alot left to do, that it shouldn’t take the builders another month to finish. My parents started listing off all the stuff left, and how long it takes to install individual pot lights. They act like we should know this information, and you can hear the unspoken question in their tone of ‘are you stupid?’.

Last summer, when I was still pregnant, the conversations with them revolved around Court getting his drivers license so he could drive me to the hospital. Every time we talked to them, every time we saw them, it was brought up and hashed over yet again. My dad would look at me and ask me when Court was getting his license – with him standing right beside me. It was a major point of contention, and the way they hounded us about it upset me every time. Eventually during one visit with them, as soon as they asked about his license I explained that it was a subject that greatly upset me and I’d prefer we didn’t discuss it. You see, I thought I was doing the mature, adult-like thing by saying this. And let me tell you it took ALOT of guts to be able to say it. And needless to say I stormed out in tears because they brought it up again a while later and wouldn’t drop it. In the end, Court never got his license because as soon as he does, our insurance doubles and we can’t afford that.

I don’t know how to deal with this problem. I don’t know how to say to them that we do value their advice. They have more experience than us, they’ve been through things that we’re just starting to experience. They have valuable information to pass along to us. But advice is meant to be taken or ignored, depending on the receivee’s viewpoint. I want the freedom to ignore the advice if that’s what we choose to do. I know we’d be more receptive to what they have to say if they’d just word it differently, if they’d use a less critical tone of voice, if they weren’t oozing condescension. I don’t know how to approach them about this and not have it taken as an attack on them. I don’t know how to diplomatically tell them to *@&% off. Sometimes I feel like telling them if they want to raise a kid so bad, go have their own. And today my grandma said to tell them when we get to be their age we’ll have that much knowledge too. I don’t know how to say what I want to say, and be treated like a mature adult while doing it.

I just know I’m hurt and upset after almost every encounter with my dad or my step-mom. I dread going to see them, but know that I can’t avoid it. It feels poisonous. I don’t want Penny to pick up on those feelings from Court and I, and I’m not sure what to do.

Advice is welcome and solicited, but may be ignored.

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Penny’s Not Allowed To Be An Avid Reader

August 26, 2009

And I’m sure every parent is looking at me in horror with that statement out in the open. Don’t get me wrong, I want Penny to read. I want her to share my love of books and enjoy reading just about anything.

For the record, I have only put down 3 books in my life: Interview with a Vampire – apparently written at a grade 12 level and I’m too stupid for that; Lord of the Rings – tried to start on the 2nd book after watching the 1st movie, should have known better; and Princess of Burundi – ridiculously slow crime novel from Scandinavia or somewhere like that. If I crack it open, I read it.

In grade 5 I had to answer a survey for my new teacher so she could find out more about me. One of the questions was how many books I read in a year, with the options of 0, 1-2, 3-4 or 5+. At that time, I scoffed at the survey. I was reading 5+ in a month! Fortunately for me, my dad works at a book and magazine distribution company and I had pretty much unlimited access to books. I still read alot, spending probably $400-$500 a year at Chapters (I’ve reformed – I have a library card now). Since Penny’s been born though, my book stack is growing and I’m not getting much reading done. I’ve actually only finished one book, and am about 3/4 through a second.

But back to the purpose of this post. I read alot. I read alot now, as an adult, and just as avidly as a teen and as a child. This was not a good thing! I read to the detriment of my social life. I remember my dad throwing me outside and telling me not to come back for X number of hours. I would ride my bike aimlessly around the neighbourhood, maybe go sit on a swing for a few minutes, and go home again. Now all of 32 minutes have passed since I was tossed out, yet I start begging to come inside again. All I wanted to do was read! I would read past my bedtime – aka after I was sent to bed and having a light on would get me caught.

I would read until there was no longer enough light coming in my window to see the words on the pages. Hence the reason I wear glasses now. Oh yeah, and I read for so long that I go cross-eyed and put strain on my eyes. The doctor has told me I need to look up every 15 minutes or so to refocus my eyes.

I remember doing a group book report project in grade 6, where we needed to read the book as a group in class, then do some sort of big report project after. We weren’t supposed to read any of the book at home. I took my book home the first night and read the whole thing. I got in alot of trouble for that. I ended up doing a project on my own, on the book “Where the Red Fern Grows” which, to be honest, was exactly what I wanted.

Are you seeing the trend here? Nicole sits in the corner with her book, and avoids all contact with other human beings, cringing away if one passes too closely. I have trouble making friends now. I am completely comfortable with kids and usually teens. I’m great with older people. But I can’t carry on a conversation with people my age. I can’t walk up to them and say hi and introduce myself. Well, I can’t do any of this in person. Put a computer screen in between, and presto-chango I’m a whole new person!

I can look back now and see that the number of books I read isn’t a good thing. I chose to spend my time with my nose in a book, exploring worlds that aren’t my own. I could get lost for days in worlds of fantasy, particularly on Pern with dragons filling the skies. I could back then, and I still can now, albeit with books that are 3 times as thick and cost much more. Reading that much is not healthy, and needs to be balanced with other equally important parts of life. I didn’t learn this before, and I pay for it now with a few friends instead of many (and not all of them quality friends yet), shyness around my contemporaries, and ultimately that all contributes to low self esteem and depression.

In the last few years I have realized how much my reading affected who I am, and because of that, I don’t want Penny to be an avid reader. I want her to love reading, to be able to lose herself in another world. But I want her to be able to pull herself back and enjoy the world she’s in too.