I learned something interesting this weekend. My parents really never liked me.
This is a depressing thing to learn. When I was pregnant with Wildling, Will and I had a lot of discussions as to what kind of parents we wanted to be, and what kind of childhoods we wanted our child(ren) to have. He grew up in a family without much money, and he never wanted our kids to have to worry and stress over the family finances – but he never doubted that his parents loved him and his brother. Me, I grew up in a comfortably middle class family that always managed to make it ok financially, but I always felt that there wasn’t enough love. My parents were too busy, and I always believed that they had more children than they could emotionally care for. It’s like they had a finite amount of love to give, and they weren’t able to spread it around enough. Now I’ve learned that it isn’t that they didn’t have enough love, I just wasn’t eligible to receive it.
Funny how I always thought my father was too busy for me. I can recall very few father/daughter activities, and none that took place between a father/daughter girl scout dance when I was about eight, and the time he drove me out to college for a preview weekend. That’s it. No special bonding. We didn’t share anything, and now I know it wasn’t that he didn’t have enough time for it, he just didn’t want to spend his limited availability on me.
Growing up, I never fit in with my family. I always felt like I was born into the wrong one, and I’m pretty sure my parents wondered what kind of quirk of fate gave them a child like me. And it’s not that I was a bad kid, or a weird kid, or that I had something fundamentally wrong with me. I just wasn’t the child they wanted.
This past weekend, Will and I changed our plans and rescheduled several things so that we could go to my Aunt Shirley’s funeral. It was only a two hour drive for us; my parents and older brother Ricky flew out for it. My father was pretty unhappy the entire time, and not just because one big sister had died and his other big sister was too ill to attend the funeral. He was also upset because his two younger sisters and his older brother didn’t go out of their way to see him. In fact, other than at the memorial service, they didn’t see him at all. They didn’t go to the grave, they didn’t go to my cousin’s house afterward, nothing. In the three nights my parents were there, nobody invited them out to eat, or came by to drink with them at the the hotel bar, or made any attempt to socialize at all. He was bitter about that, and I understand that because I used to feel the same way whenever I would visit my family – nobody wanted to see me either (and now I know why).
So I guess my father was feeling rather self-pitying and morose, and that’s why he told me that he had never liked me until I finally became a grown-up. I’m not sure exactly when that was, if it was after college, or after I got married, or what marker he used for my grown-up status. I know it wasn’t my eighteenth birthday, because he still never had time for me on my trips home from college, and he didn’t actually speak to me on the phone for years after college. Until now, I never thought it was because he was avoiding me, I just thought he was busy, and he got all his info about my life from my mother. I never realized that he just didn’t want to communicate with me at all. I never realized it was dislike rather than apathy.
I always knew my mother thought of me as a burden. When I was a child, I knew she never really liked me and I knew she thought I was more trouble than I was worth (and I was the good kid!). So I guess it shouldn’t have surprised me to find out that my father didn’t like me either. But I was surprised, and hurt.
But I have to move on and heal. I’ve spent a lot of mental energy over the years to move past my childhood, to let go of the anger and resentment that built up for so long. So I know I need to let go of the hurt that my father’s admission caused.
And I need to make sure I do better for my children. I love my children, and I will make sure they are always secure in that knowledge.