If my thoughts are scattered today, it's because...well I feel scattered today. I've returned home today from spending the better part of three days with my parents and my children. It was a difficult weekend for a lot of reasons, and I returned home with a sigh of relief. Add to the feeling of being scattered to my current reading list which includes a healthy dose of feminist writings, and I become even more disjointed.
I went to the Lake thinking I would have a somewhat relaxing, laid back weekend of sun and boating. I planned some times to take the kids on my own, because I knew I would need the getaway time too. As it turned out, it really wasn't enough.
As the years pass, my parents age more drastically. And with that aging comes a more and more difficult relationship for them. They have fought often over the years, but now they live in a constant state of tension. The cross words and bickering have reached a feverish pitch. And unfortunately any one who gets caught in the crossfire becomes a target. This weekend that extended to my children. Nothing they did was appropriate. And unfortunately for me, they reacted to this constant state of tension by fighting continually and acting out.
As I tried to keep the peace all around, I just grew tired. And perhaps it forced me to face some of my own unresolved stuff from when I lived in the tension more often. In the still of a night, in my bed, my daughter asked me if her grandparents loved her. I answered that of course they do. She then asked me why she couldn't tell that they do? It broke my heart. I recall wondering the same thing as a child. I tried to explain to her that some people have trouble showing their affection. But, when you're 6 that doesn't make a lot of sense to you. So, all I knew to do was to reassure her that I loved her, and that even though it didn't seem so, so do my parents.
The other chief source of conflict this weekend was the contradiction between my parenting of my 2 children and my parents' ideas about what is appropriate parenting. We have had some minor skirmishes in this area since my kids were born, but none so obvious as this weekend. And while I respect my parents, I choose a very different way of raising my own children. It's a way of love and joy. Not of fear and domination. I have to believe that I am doing my best for my kids. And I do believe that, despite my parents' warnings of how my children will end up screwed up because of my permissiveness.
All of this ran headlong into the feminist thinking I have been reading about regularly. I see my job as a mother somewhat like a gatekeeper. I still feel disjointed, but I know that most of this will work itself out in time. I do understand more than ever that I have to protect my children from the influences of people who are toxic to them...even if those people are family members and even if it causes me some conflict. As I have tried to create communities for my children of people who care for them and love them, I have to make sure that those efforts aren't thwarted by the other people they come into contact with on a regular basis.
The bright spot for me this weekend came when my daughter, in the same conversation in the dark, told me by name other people in her life that she knows for sure love her. I knew in that moment, that I am succeeding in my job as her mother by building a community for her. And she fell asleep before she had named all of the people who love her...I thanked God for the people I have found, stumbled upon or who have found me and who love my child. If I have ever doubted divine providence, I believe in it now.