I have been spending a lot of time with my child. Not my children (though I love my time with them!) The child I am talking about is “me.” My mother in law, a Psychologist, and I have been spending a lot of time together lately as she goes through her “stuff” trying to minimize things ( at exactly the time I am doing a show called Remnants so it’s a win-win for both of us!) And while she has shared her memories of the items she is getting rid of, we have begun talking about life, and family dynamics and it has helped clarify a lot of who I am.
One thing that has come up is how our buttons get pushed and her philosophy is that whatever is triggering a negative reaction is based on something in our childhood, so we need to go back and find that child and figure it out now for them so that they can become unstuck at the place you left them. That has been unusually painful for me. My childhood was pretty great. My mom stayed at home and was always artful, whether it was ceramics or painting, sewing or crocheting , I know I got my artfulness from her. My dad worked at Mattel most of my younger years and give me a break, how could I not have lucked out more than that? I never worried about money, and never really heard my parents fight.
I remember trips to the Mattel Outlet in Hawthorn where their offices were and getting to pick out different things. I grew up in a house overlooking Marineland and the ocean and came home to freshly baked cookies. I know my parents loved me to the moon and back. My dad was the one who took me school clothes shopping at the beginning of every year and who I spent many Saturdays with just hanging out, going to the Barber shop and hardware store and car wash and talking about his childhood and life. And every Sunday my mom taking us to church without my dad most Sundays but faithfully making sure we went to Sunday school.
My childhood was pretty “Leave it To Beaverish.” Except because my dad was up and coming in his career, he had to wine and dine clients and in turn he drank. I am not sure when I really understood it but I remember when I was nine and my mom woke me up in the middle of the night and said she had to go get my dad out of jail for a DUI. She wanted me to know in case I woke up. I was told to babysit my little sister. It happened again when I was eleven. And as far as I know never again. But that was enough. The damage had been done. My mom shared with me that once they were driving and my dad had been drinking and swerved off the freeway from the left lane to make his off ramp. As an adult, I wonder… Why did I need to know that? Once after a company picnic my dad drove us home drunk and then started talking about wanting to go to a restaurant called Latitude 20. My mom panicked and asked me to try to talk him out of it. I did and he got mad at me but ended up falling asleep. Once again, it was all on me.
My dad used to tell me that if he ever died there were important papers beneath the master bathroom’s drawer, later he’d tell me they were on his computer. I used to get upset. Nobody wants to think that about their parents dying. Especially when you are still in Junior High. But my dad didn’t feel my mom could handle it. My dad did die early. He may have known something was up with his health. Though because he traveled for his job a lot I think that he thought he was going to die in an accident. He had a lot of life insurance but more accident. He did end up dying at 51 of a heart attack. I was married by that time with a 3-year-old son. He was jogging around the block.
My mom just died last year at 83. She was an amazing mom. And a memory making grandma. But also made her share of mistakes. I have realized just recently that I never really got to be a kid. I had so much responsibility heaped on me at a pretty early young age. I didn’t need to know the adult things that were happening in my parent’s life. I think I am angry at both of them. My dad for his alcohol issues and my mom for telling me about them.
I remember asking my dad every single morning when he’d be home that night, and my mom getting annoyed with me for asking her every single night, if she was worried if my dad wasn’t home when he said he’d be. I remember feeling sad and confused and angry that she was annoyed but feeling that it was my fault and I was just a weird kid that worried too much. I wish I could have understood enough then, to realize it wasn’t my fault and to tell her that she was the reason I was worried. Actually they both were!
Now, I hate the knowing that anyone is annoyed with me, I hate feeling worried and guilty, and today I know exactly what and why I have those buttons and I am working on them. I know that I react more quickly to certain triggers that someone else might just let go.
I wish I could go back to find that little girl and make it okay. I think just by giving myself a break and realizing some of those things have made me really melancholy lately. I wish I’d figured everything out sooner. But better late than never. Right? I guess I could have turned out a lot worse. I guess the message I want to share here is… If you have worries, and we all do. Share them with another adult. Not your kids. Spare your kids. Let them have their childhood.