Me, a Pseudo-Parent, on Being a Parent

I am writing this blog post via talk to text on my cellular device as I walk through the woods. Not that you care. I just wasn’t sure how else to start this out. My mind just went wandering and I realized there is probably nothing more terrifying than becoming a parent, and look at all these people, doing it anyway.

If you can raise a child you can do anything, at all, ever. You can also do anything at all ever even if you haven’t raised a child. It’s just that if you are raising a child, you’ve already done one of the top ten Fucking Things ever to exist so it makes no sense to be afraid of anything ever. Like, a child is the last thing you want to fuck up, but if you had one knowing that you might fuck it up and did it anyway and are doing your best to raise your kid to be a cool, loving, intelligent member of society, then you’re already living in the world of doing whatever the fuck you want. Which is super great. (Also, is there really a list of top ten Fucking Things? No. But now that I wrote that I’m going to make one. It will most likely be useless, as is the rest of our existence, which ironically kind of makes it worth doing because it’s worth just as much as anything else.)

Anyway. I feel like I should first explain that I personally do not want to give birth to a child. That is a choice I made for myself many moons ago. Well, maybe not that many moons. Or possibly a lot. I have no fucking clue how to count moons, really. But I’m pretty old now. I turned thirty a couple months back, so whatever that means, and also, now that I have reached this milestone age symbolizing adulthood, you can rest assured that this post and all future posts will be written with the air of reverence for a life well-lived that comes with the ancient wisdom I now possess here on the other side of my twenties. I have been told by many that this choice to leave my womb barren will change at some point. And now that I have all this wisdom as a real life grown up, I realize that everyone who told me I would change my mind about having a child ARE STILL WRONG. Seriously. Please don’t tell people what they are going to want in the future. Their future isn’t yours to decide.

Also, I can change my mind if I want and have 9 children and name each one after a planet and your opinion still wouldn’t matter.

Also, #Pluto4lyfe.

So, despite not having the desire to give birth to a child, I do have what I refer to as pseudo-children AKA children that I got to hang out with a lot as they were growing up but did not push out of my vagina. Like step-children, except I never legally married their father, but we were together for approximately nine years, so I now refer to them as my pseudo-children.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what it feels like to be a pseudo-parent or any kind of parent and if I can even call myself a parent. But what I do know is that my pseudo-children still love me and call me and tell me about their lives. I also know that one of my girls recently slept with someone on the Forbes list, and if there is anything I would like to take responsibility for in their growing up- it’s that. (Way to go, girl. Proud pseudo-mommy moment.)

But I’m going to speak specifically about two of the oldest children- in part because they have given me permission and in part because they are now adults figuring out their own way and that feels really scary because I’ve barely figured out mine.

I didn’t really have any plans for the kind of parent I wanted to be, especially considering I was 17 at the time I met them.

But I know now that even if I had, it wouldn’t have mattered.

We never end up being the kind of parents we thought we would become, largely because our children don’t end up being the kind of kids we thought they’d be. We learn to adjust to their temperaments and their needs and do our best to understand the world from their vantage points. And often times, we come to find we are less patient, less forgiving and way less cool than we thought we were going to be. And that’s okay. The important thing is to stay flexible, to keep learning, and to do the best you can even if sometimes you suck at everything.

I am proud of my girls for being smart, funny and kind when it’s not expected. For being able to remove themselves from unhealthy relationships. For being sexually liberated. For being aware of their strengths, or else just being open to the fact that they are not perfect but good enough at some things and willing to figure it out along the way.

My 21 year old pseudo-daughter once told me that she had never really been out in nature until her dad and I started dating. Which was surprising because here in the Black Hills I’ve been made fun of for being a city girl, but back home I’m basically a goddamn mountaineer. I suppose if the only thing I have taught them is that it is important to be connected to the world around you, I’ve done whatever I though my job was as a pseudo-mom. And by world I don’t mean the buildings or the nearest Starbucks- I mean touching the ground beneath your feet, knowing how cold Lake Michigan is even in the dog days of summer, to be able to fall asleep in a crappy tent from K-Mart with nothing to lull you into dreamland but the wind and the excitement of waking up in the morning to catch fish. (Which I never participated in because I hate fishing. But children love it. Damn’t those little bastards just couldn’t get enough of it.)

Maybe I didn’t teach them anything at all. I don’t know. Maybe I just opened the door for them to figure it out themselves. Which is really the goal, right? To give them the space and confidence to go out into the world and figure the fuck out who they are before other people have the opportunity to tell them.

Maybe I have no business calling myself any kind of a parent.

Certainly their mother wouldn’t appreciate it.

There’s some bad blood there.

Although, in retrospect, there shouldn’t have been. Between her and I anyway. It was just pride, insecurity and a plethora of other character defects that so often blind us to what’s really happening, in any relationship. Because in truth, while she is a person I would probably never hang out with even under different circumstances, what I can say about her is that we left the same man for the same reasons and did our fucking best to pick up the pieces afterward.  And the difference in the decisions we made are scathing reminders of how humans deal with trauma so differently even when given similar experiences. And no one is right. And no one is wrong. I’m not saying that. I’m just saying that it’s really hard to be a human and even harder to be a human when you’re trying to raise other humans. And we need to be conscious of the judgment we place on others.

I worked for Child Protection for a few years and I have seen a lot of shit go down that many would classify as prime examples of “bad parenting”. And I have learned to really, really dislike that term. It implies that someone out there is actually doing a good job at raising other humans. That there is some kind of rightness we are to be aspiring to as parents. But here’s the fucking thing about parenting you guys:

We are all doing it wrong. We are all failing miserably. And lucky for us, kids are stupid enough to love us anyway.

What a beautiful, beautiful gift.

As for me, well, like I said, I’m not sure that I can call myself a parent. But I do know that they still call. Which is enough for me.

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