We’ve lived here in Hoquiam (or HQX, in the Hogaboom-originated parlance) since March 2007. When we first got here my mother could barely spend time with my children without the presence of Ralph or I. I remember her hand-wringing over the few hours of a movie and dinner date. It wasn’t that she didn’t love the children – they stole her heart at each birth – but that, I suppose when you come down to it, she has always been a rather nervous and borderline inept parent and parent-figure. I say this not with regard to any particular complaint or series of complaints from my own childhood, but for the many clues the last few years have offered me. One of the most telling of these is the many, many times I’ve been waxing rapturous over some delight in getting to know my children and my mom has said, “Yes, I remember at age __ they just got so much easier.” The age she has cited has invariably been the age my children are at the moment she says this. Taken at her word, parenting has been a series of anxieties only eased when the child and the parents emerged only minimally scarred after each age’s passing.
My mom grew into seeing more of my children without Ralph or my help, ramping up rather suddenly after my father died. While my father lived, he was a seeming obstacle to having my children in the house I grew up in unless I was there as well. Whether he really required limited exposure, or my mother scapegoated her own difficulties by hinting that he did, I may never know. In truth, I was surprised to find how little my parents seemed to want my children. My mom always took what little initiative there was in having them over; yet how many times did she return the kids early, or say no to our rare requests for childcare, because of David’s doctor appointment or his dinner to be got or what-have-you (and let’s not get into the times she said she would, then canceled – because it makes my blood boil, but perhaps for the purposes of this discussion it might be more helpfully pointed out that last-minute cancellations betray a reluctance on the part of the offererer in the first place).
Luckily I was not raised with high hopes of child-help from my parents, should I start my own family; although in contrast, I should point out that in Grays Harbor there are many families where the grandparents are raising the grandkids outright. Despite not knowing what I could expect I have always experienced a small sense of forlorn panic, disappointment, and a wee bit of anger at the many minor rebuttals of my family. Maybe it’s that I often feel overwhelmed yet unable to ask for help; add a seeming reluctance and flakiness of the small group of people who live nearby that I’d feel most comfortable having my children (in other words, my parents and my siblings) and I’m put in a rather stifling situation, feelings easily hurt, anger at the lack of help while recognizing I don’t have the right to require my family live up to my expectations, formed as they were of what appears to be a misunderstanding at the depth of their love for me and my own. I’ve thought – if they knew how hard it was for me at times to raise these kids would they want to help me at all?
My father died August 23rd of last year. My mom has a new David now; a man she met just over a month ago and within a few days called “boyfriend”. A few days after that she announced her intention to move in with him and her desire we temporarily move into her house (a story that shall soon unfold). Immediately after she met this man her days grew busy – having him for lunch, visiting his property a few miles out of town, helping him work on his place. The very regular contact the kids and I had come to enjoy was abruptly yanked from under our feet.
Maybe because I know my mother and her nature, I have not found myself as offended or hurt as I might have been to be thrown over for a new beau. I have always felt deep revulsion towards those who, upon finding a new paramour, immediately throw off their loyal and regular friendships and activities and hurl themselves into “Love Jail” as a friend of mine coined it. Of the “sins” I am least forgiving of I count flakiness, inconsistency, disloyalty. These are defects (if you can call them that) I have thrown over friendships, written letters of breakup, or simply pulled back my love and gifts in response to. I am aware even as I type this that I have no doubt been guilty of the same sins, and hurt ones I love in my heedless behaviors. I try to extend compassion to those who let me down, and in equal measure look deep into myself to ask where the sense of hurt comes from, and ask myself when and where I’m the perpetrator in this regard.
I feel grateful for the handful of months I received help from my mother and comradery in the raising of my children; certainly no one can take this wonderful gift for granted. I have also been fortunate in that from the beginning my parents have not only granted me full and complete autonomy in how I raise my kids, but both of them have expressed, however indirectly, their approval of the job I’m doing (my mom, somewhat insultingly, for the first few years went on and on about how she “didn’t think [I’d] be able to do it”, a very telling underselling of my loyalty, hard work, and selflessness).
My parents and brother have never been as active, loving, participatory or helpful as I’d like when it comes to my children – and I feel a deep pain in my chest and sting in my eyes as I realize how much this has hurt me, as cheerfully as I’ve gone about my family life. But whatever they’ve been, they have been respectful and encouraging, and left me to do it on my own in my own way. I am definitely blessed in those regards, and tonight I try to offer a spirt of thankfulness for what I have had.