A while back I was visiting with a friend that I had been close with when I was younger. For many years, we were like sisters. Her father even referred to me as his “other” daughter and took me along on some of their family vacations. We were playing a game of “remember when” when she said, “Hey, I remember when we promised neither of would ever get married or have children.”
I shot her a look of disbelief, because at this time I had been married for six years and had two children. “What?”
“Yeah. You don’t remember?”
“No,” I replied honestly, unable to even fathom that I’d ever said that. I’d wanted a family as far back as I could remember.
Tonight I happened across an old journal of mine that is roughly twelve years old. And as it turns out, she is correct. Right there, in black ink in my own handwriting were the very words: I don’t want to ever get married or have children. The reason? Because when I was a kid all my parents ever seemed to do was fight. And when I say fight, I am misusing the term. They had blood baths that seemed to last for days where they would say anything that could think of to hurt one another. It often ended with us packing our bags and leaving with my mom for a few hours until she either calmed down or realized that my father wasn’t coming to get her.
In the wisdom of a fourteen year old I’d written that in order to avoid repeating this mistake I would never marry, and never have children in order to avoid causing others to suffer as I had as a child. I don’t think I could handle it, knowing that I’d put them through that when I remember how badly it hurt me growing up.
A lot of us have stories like this. A lot of us have things in our past we’d rather not remember and behaviors we’d rather our own children didn’t see. It’s why some grandparents aren’t allowed to see their grandchildren. After all, as the parents we have to protect our children in any way we can, and that often means sheltering them for certain situations.
In part, my worst fear has come true. I often pick fights and nag my poor husband, J. I used to do it in front of the children when they were younger (we’re talking two and under) until I realized that I was repeating the pattern. The truth is, I don’t want my daughters growing up thinking, “Gosh, I’d rather stay single than have a marriage like mom and dad’s!” What a horrible legacy to leave your children. Which is why, for them, we must fight against our upbringing, at times, to give them something better. That’s what parenting is all about, isn’t it? Giving them the best we possibly can.