I hadn't realized how many novels have characters who casually or seriously evaluate/criticize their parents until I found myself getting worn out with all the mental arguing I do with them: "Well, you know your parents were HUMAN, right? I mean, they absolutely HAD to have SOME flaws, and these were the ones they happened to have. Would you have preferred DIFFERENT flaws? No you WOULDN'T have, because if they'd had THOSE flaws you would have criticized those TOO. It's not as if your parents COULD have been perfect if only they'd TRIED. What is it you expect them to DO with their flaws, anyway? You think that just because it would have been better for YOU, the child, if your dad didn't have a short temper, that he could have easily and completely pulverized that part of his personality? 'Oh, it's better not to struggle with temper! I'll just STOP DOING IT, THEN!' And what about your criticisms of things that aren't even flaws? You think that just because you would have preferred the kind of mom would would RUN and LAUGH and PLAY just like a golden retriever, that she could have changed herself from the quiet, bookish, indoorsy type she was? And you think that she SHOULD have? Why shouldn't YOU transform YOUR active, social, outgoing personality into a quiet, bookish one? Does THAT make any sense to you? NO? You see how ridiculous that line of thought is, then! Why not focus on what your parents did RIGHT, instead of what they did WRONG? Or on the ways they were a GOOD fit for you, rather than the ways they were a BAD fit for you? Why not see if you can bring yourself to realize that your parents had the same limitations as any other human being, and were not required/able to be custom-made to your rigid specifications? Why not meditate on the idea that they didn't choose your temperament any more than you chose theirs, and that ALL parent/child relationships are a total crapshoot and we're lucky any of us get along AT ALL beyond the biological instincts to love each other? GEEZ."
Ahem. I may be a little touchy on that topic recently, with a teenager in the house.
It's been hard having that kind of light turned onto ME so fiercely. Every book I read reminds me of how he seems to see me at times: as someone who at every turn should have made a different decision; as someone who is willfully unfair; as someone who willfully fails to control her flaws and is not sorry about them and doesn't even TRY to change; as someone who COULD be perfect if I'd bother to TRY. It seems like so often he chooses to see me in the worst possible light.
I've gradually realized the only way to escape that variety of critical stare (their eyes! like gimlets!) is to die relatively young so they instead idolize me and pine for me and speak only of my virtues and how much they miss me and wish they could talk to me. Which reminds me of those things older people say when you ask how they're doing: "Better above ground than below it!" "Welllll, can't complain---it's better than the alternative har har!" "The only way to get my kids to remember me in a glowing light is to die young, so I guess this is better than that har har!" Har.
Life-improving products, part 4 - (Continued from part 1, part 2, and part 3.) Stearns Youth Life Vest (photo from Amazon.com). I’d been too scared to take the kids to any body of water oth...