Home. Family. What does that mean to you?
To me, it’s always meant complete safety – physical, emotional, mental security. The place and the people who will always be there for you no matter what. It doesn’t matter what that family looks like – one parent or two (or 3 or 4), male, female, any combination of the above. All children, no children, brothers, sisters. What-the-heck-ever.
It’s the people who will distract you with nonsense babbling when you’ve just had your tooth pulled, even when you’re 32 years old, as my mom did for me last week.
The people who will never hurt you on purpose, even though they’ll do it by mistake a million times, because they’re only human. The ones you’ll forgive, and who will forgive you when you screw up.
The ones who will never say “Why should I be the one?” – to do the right thing, to pick up the phone, to offer a hug. The ones that you can be honest with and not have it ruin everything. The ones you can fight with and know that tomorrow, they will still be there. Because you would do the same.
Why would you not? How would you not? That is what family does.
Growing up, I thought all families were like this. Strong, unshakeable. Us against the world. When faced with any looming childhood-nasty – My mother always used to tell me “Don’t worry, you’ll get through it, tonight you’ll be sleeping in your own bed again, just hold on to that.”
It was why I COULD go to my parents and admit I was pregnant at 14. Even though I was terrified. Even though I knew they would be angrier than I could ever imagine and that it would take a long, long time to get things right again. I knew that it would change how we lived. I also knew it would not change how we LOVED.
Through Young Mom Support, and just in general among my friends & acquaintances – I’ve realised in sadness and bewilderment that not everybody has this, and not every parent provides it, as “nice/together/well-educated” as they might seem. It’s got nothing to do with money, education or culture. It’s something else, I’m not sure what – but you either get it, or you don’t. I want to say I’m lucky to have the family I do – but that’s misleading. It’s not good luck or a privilege to have a family who loves you, no matter what. It’s a right. A right of every child, every human, of every age.
So. To all the parents I know, I’ll ask this:
Are you providing a home like this for your children, whether toddlers or teens? No really, think about it. How much of your “brave, honest venting” about parenthood is thinly disguised bitching? Would you be happy to have your children read / hear everything you say about them now, or when they’re older? Do you THINK about how they’d feel if they heard you? Is your “I love my kids” often followed by a “… but…”
There are no buts. Sure, they can be tiring, annoying, scary, expensive, frustrating. They can sometimes do terrible things; things you didn’t think you raised them to do, mistakes both honest and not that can never be taken back. So could you. So have you.
But those are all completely separate from the I LOVE YOU. Don’t ever use the word BUT in that sentence, please. The BUT is all they’ll remember.
If you think that unconditional love means unconditional acceptance of all behaviour and endless indulgence, well, I’m afraid, you’re a bit dof and I’m not speaking to you because I’d be wasting my time. It’s not the same thing at all.
Some people come from families that suck. Abusive, dysfunctional and yuck. Most often, I guess, there’s not much to be done to fix that and that’s not your fault.
To those young moms I know who DON’T have the strong, sensible, unrelenting safety net of people who love them – I’m sorry. I wish I could change that. It is much, much harder to navigate the world without knowing that somebody will be there whether you fly or fall. Hard, but not impossible. And you have all the motivation, in the face of your child. YOU might not have the family you need. But you can BE the family that your child needs. It has to start somewhere. It can start with you.
As The Pretenders say:
“When the night falls on you
You don’t know what to do
Nothing you confess, could make me love you less/
When you’re standing at the crossroads
And don’t know which path to choose
Let me come along
‘Cause even if you’re wrong
I’ll stand by you”
Your sons and daughters will grow up to know that GOOD is normal, that LOVE is normal. Pettiness, cruelty and jealousy will feel strange and foreign – there’ll be no place in their homes or hearts for bad. They will give nothing less to their own one-day families, and expect nothing less from those they choose to share their lives with. Isn’t that what we want for them?