I has a lovely unscheduled conversation this morning. My friend and I were meant to be going to yoga, but somehow got the schedule wrong and ended up going for tea and snacks and sunshine instead. Not a bad trade, if you ask me. In the course of the conversation we started talking about parenting ... for both of us what works - or not - about our parents, and for me what I know - or not - as a parent. When I heard her talking about wanting something more with her dad, and their struggle moving from both wanting that to actually figuring out what 'that' would be, a few things really clicked for me.
You see, I've met this friend's dad and seen them interact. And for anyone to think that her dad is anything less than enthralled with my friend just isn't consistent with how much he adores her. So I wondered, what's really missing. Clearly love is present. Clearly they have fun and have at least some common interests. I certainly don't mean to diminish my friend's experience in any way, and there are some things that need work with her dad, but focusing on that diminishes the good and suddenly love, fun, and connection aren't enough. But can't all children say that of their parents?
Which of course got me thinking - and talking - about my parents. To many people, said friend included, my family looks like something of an ideal. I've always had both parents in my life, and actively, unitedly so. We speak and visit pretty regularly. There are no major unspoken issues, no big hidden secrets. A few habits that may not lead to openness (we're not overly big on talking about what's wrong, for instance, until it's REALLY wrong), but generally we are the picture perfect family. And yet, for much of my life, interacting with my family has left me wondering if I wasn't switched at birth. And sometimes the look on my parents' faces makes me think maybe they think the same thing. As much as my parents love me. As much as they are the epitome of support for both me and my BBs ... sometimes I want something ... well ... not more but somehow different. It's ungrateful, to be sure, but it's sometimes true.
My BBs look far too much like me for anyone to ever believe they were switched at birth, but I don't imagine that's kept them from wondering/wishing/thiking they were at times. Their experience of being parented is clearly different than mine. They have not always had two loving, present parents - and I'm not pointing fingers at their father here. I've sometimes been so wrapped up in my struggle and my dreams that they've settled for leftovers of energy and attention. As their struggles have become more serious, I've blamed myself more, which also basically just takes energy away from supporting them. I fall down slippery slopes - I didn't love them enough. I didn't protect them enough. I was too laissez faire to set boundaries that would keep them safe. I trusted them before they were ready to stand on their own. And on and on.
But I'm reminded, frequently lately, of a story my counselor told me the first day I went to see him ... I'll share the rest of it in another post but the punch line was that every day I've done my best. Whether some days that best was chipped, or fractured, or the wrong colour - every day I did my best. And I'm doing it still.
I like to believe, since hearing the story, that the every day best is true of all parents. Some parents are undeserving of the term - neglectful, and even dangerous to their children, yes. But, for the most part, they are all doing their everyday best. And isn't that all we can ask of anyone ... even ourselves?