Stupid Girls

Thursday, February 26, 2009

about family

You are reading


Sorry for the post script, but there was something else you said which I didn't address, as I was busy thinking about death in my last response.

You said,

i must tell you that being in a long-term partnership and raising children/grandchildren are not things that i think of as accomplishments; they seem to me more like accidents of fate.

I know, writing, even speaking, are primitive media. Things get left out or left to interpretation.You probably mean moe than a brief sentence conveys. I also know that the idea of defining a woman stricly by her ability to bear & raise young, and by her relationships with others, wouldnt be attractive or appropriate to you.

Please realize: I come from outside the dominant paradigm. Partnership and parenthood are beyond my capacity. I was never that cliche little girl who played with bride dolls & dreamed of wedding. Nor was I the girl who dragged around baby dolls and fussed over them, in anticipation of motherhood. I was, for the most part, afraid of my dolls. If I got them dirty, messed up their hair, etc., it was cause for a beating. I didn't particularly like them, anyway. I prefered puzzle toys, building toys, vehicles I cuuld use to transport myself. I liked learning and I liked independence.

It wasn't 'til the last pregnancy, at age 40, that I chose to mother. Before that, I was pretty sure I'd screw up a kid at least as badly as mom screwed me up. I didn't want to inflict that on an innocent.

I was officially pronounced pregnant on the same day I was told the pregnancy was in jeopardy. I got to have some very serious conversations with myself about committing to breaking the abuse cycle, forming networks of support, devoting my mind and body to caring for a dependent, etc. I didn't just put together a nursery & start reading baby books; I became consciious of every self destructive impulse I had and how it would impact a little, emotional sponge that depended on my every gesture. It really changed me, and has served me well in subsequent years, as I applied those principles to my own life.

One thing about lifetime trauma: it certainly can be good teacher, if one can step beyond the acute drama of it and use it to learn something. That's not usually possible in the midst of survival mode, but is very healing in the aftermath, and can be used to learn self protection inn case of another occurrance. It beats self medicating into addicition, acting out in self destructive ways, etc.

What you've said points me to what I see as a fallacy in our culture. Pardon me, but I've always been honest with you. We don't, as a culture, acknowledge, support or lift up parenting or partnership. We pay lip service; we pull an Opra and say parenthood is the hardest and most important job in the world, but we don't have in depth conversations about that. We don't teach each other and support each other, share skills, etc. as we ought to. You're just supposed to read some book and do it on your own, leaving it up to a supposed "expert," with whom one can't dialogue. We segregate family from career.

Barack Obama is married and has two kids, we say. Now, to me, that's very interesting. Hw did he do that? How did Michelle do that, have a career and assist in an arduous presidential campaign? That's very interesting to me, much more than that she wears j crew clothes, whatever those are.

I've watched the Obama girls intensely over the last, 2 years or so. They're really nice people. They're not brats. They're not out of control attention seekers. They're not shy or resentful of the attention.

I have 3 momentos of the Obama campaign: he shook my hand when he was campaigning in Albuquerque, I have the "hope' poster, and I bought a hoodie sweatshirt on eBay a week or so before the election with this on it (minus the "mission accomplished" graphic on top):

Paranthetically, here's the "hope" poster; you've probably seen it:

I bought the sweat shirt because of the girls. How did a mixed race dude with no father and a girl from the South Side raise such interesting kids? They, both, could have made a lot of excuses NOT to be successful, what ever that means, and live half lives of no particular accomplishment. That story really fascinates me, way more than the platform on which Obama ran (which I researched, along with Clinton's, which made me decide to choose to support him over her).

I think a blog or diary of Sasha's and Malia's experiences would make fascinating reading.

But we describe Obama as married, with two kids. Like, he has brown eyes and wears a size something shoe. It's mentioned in passing, not like it's integral to who the person is.

I wonder if others like me, who can't commit to partnership or parentig, are as respectful as I am of what an accompishment that is.

Your family is not an accident of fate. You've made a committed series of conscious choices over the years that have greatly impacted those in your household. In your case, most of these have been POSITIVE choices.

Because I'm poor, I've been way too close to my neighbors all my life. Affluent people can more easily shut a door and not bear witness to the lives around them. I'm not saying rich people are less dysfunctional than poor people, believe me. But, as a poor person, I've borne witnss to the sickness of my neighbors.

Parents drink, smoke, use drugs, commit violence, expose their kids to all kinds of toxic and lethal stuff. It's a choice, based on the refusal to acknowledge the personhood of the kids in their lives.

You chose differently. That's a big deal. You chose over a lifetime.That's a very big deal.

To me, raising a kid badly would be a major accomplishment. Staying with soeoe for a lifetime, even if we fought like tigers, is unfathomable. Getting up every day, getting dressed and going to a job of 40 hrs. a week or so is incomprehensible. I just don't know how people DO that!

I remember a story about Jenny, throwing a tantrum, because you'd made her a sandwich but didn't cut off the crusts, or cut it in half diagonally instead of across, or something equally inconsequential. She told me the story. She told me she quicky learned about unacceptable behavior, about petty behavior, about maintaining one's cool, even though a child. You never raised your voice. You didn't threaten her. You certainly didn't put your hands on her. As she told me the story, she clearly let me know she appreciated that. That small interaction had a lastiing impact on her personality development

A lot of people would just yell at the kid, or worse.I might have done.

Nope, Kate, your family is no accident of fate. It speaks volumes about your commitment to your values. You've done more than four, full tiime jobs: you raised the kids, you loved & supported a partner, you taught, you contributed to your community. I wonder if I could have done TWO of those things.

You raised little people as a way of paying it forward. That's big.

You kept Bettina focused. That's big. Not that Bettina can't focus without you, don't get me wrong, but you know darn well you've contributed to her accomplishments, too.

And your impact on the culture is immense. I know what you've contributed to my own life. If you had no influence on anybody besideds me, you still accomplished a lot!

I'll never replicate your standards. It's not my path. It's not my capacity. It's not my choice.

But the modeling you've done for me about core values we share, the validation of that to me, those are precious experiences in my life. I'm lucky to have known you.

Bettina's lucky, too, and so are those kids.

It's not just that I don't believe in fate, which I don't, but I'm not smart enough to understand the oppertions of the universe, so I don't dismiss it out of hand.

It's that fate doesn't explain the quality of life around you. Your choices explain that.

And it's not easy to do, in this nuclear family, evey woman for herself, sink or swim culture we live in. You've been very resourceful at networking support.

Next time you see those boys you're grand parenting (and it sounds more like lion taming,to me), you look into their eyes and see the grand kids I'd have loved to have helped raise. See what a miracle it is to have that privilege. Appreciate them for me and the rest of us who will never have the satisfaction of intimately impacting a little person's life in a positive way.

To me, every family is the first family, and deserves the respect and praise of the nation. It's the least we can do.

Rogi Riverstone