Monday, April 23, 2012

Over parenting.

When I was the same age as James, now 6, I lived in a row home squeezed between many other homes on a typical Baltimore City street. Marbled steps and all. Yes, it's a Baltimore thing. I always remember one step, out of the 5, being really wobbly. As kids, we didn't really sit on our "stoop". We weren't allowed. Were my parents being overprotective? Eh, not really. Protective, absolutely. Smart? definitely. But we lived in a neighborhood ravaged by street thugs, gang violence, and drugs. It was worse once the 90s were around.
I spent the age of 6 in 1985 and even then, we never sat outside in the front. But what us siblings did was kind of sneaky. We would go outside in small, cramped, concrete-patched backyard and find ways to sneak out into the alley ways. We would get by with at least a half an hour unsupervised before my mom was yelling for (and then at) us. You see, the alley way was very very narrow but it had 3 sides to it: the long area in front of our yard and then the 2 sides forming sort of a U shape. By the time I could ever remember anything as a child, people threw garbage out into the alley like you wouldn't believe- clogging up both sides of the alley. Both sides were filled with old mattresses, needles, layer after layer of trash bags and glass, just...JUNK. It was so bad that trash trucks would skip our street entirely, because even they gave up. Mattresses were frequently burned in those sections, too. Why I'll never understand. Except that someone in our area loved fire.
I remember one time, I found a dead cat in a pizza box by one of the sides where my mom couldn't see me. Scared the living shit out of me. And sometimes, I would even run around without shoes on. Please know, my mom never approved of that.
How I survived childhood without contracting a serious infection and/or disease is beyond me.

 (These photos are courtesy of Google and my awesome street view navigating skillz)
(also, the red door is where I used to live.. but it surely wasn't red back then)
 (going to the ride side of my block..this is the right-sided part of the alley)
 (and this is the left side but from a view of the next street behind us).. and HEY THERE'S TRASH whaddaya know.. but that's small time compared to back then.
(right side again, view from the next street behind us)
The rats must be starving now. Not as much trash. 

Let's fast forward to my children and their childhood. Yes, we live in what some would probably call a "ghetto". I sort of joke around calling it that but it's still not the same as where I grew up. It's getting there though. But it's definitely not there..yet. Only time will tell.
And that brings us to where I am today with my parenting. I know that I over parent James and Natalie. I hate admitting it but just like any addict,  you have to admit that you are powerless. I am powerless. But that doesn't mean I can't change. This also doesn't mean that I'm a horrible parent. But if I keep it up, the kids are going to feel suffocated and entirely angry with me as adults. I have this terrible fear of calling James up.. probably on some cell phone that has no screen, just something that he blinks his eyes with and  it pops up in front of his face or something.. well, anyway.. I can see me calling him to say goodnight and want to read him a bedtime story and make sure that he's not thirsty. All while his 14 year old self is trying to steer clear of me while staying the night at a friend's house.

God I can see it now.

I have to quit feeling like I can control their happiness at the flip of a switch or with some magic word. Sometimes, they need space and they need to feel better all on their own.

I have to stop intervening with every little tiny fight the kids have and let them hash it out. They're 5 and 6. Not little 1 and 2 year cave people.

I have to stop feeling like I can predict every bump, scrape, and scratch. That they're going to get hurt RIGHT NOW OH NOOO.

I have to stop picking up their messes. Of course they're going to keep being messy because here I am trailing behind them picking their crap up. STOP IT DAWN JUST STOP. (you hear that Dawn?)

I have to quit feeling like Natalie is this gentle and delicate flower that can't ever do anything physical when we go outside to play. Yes yes she has a heart condition but as long as she's not running around playing with broken glass, heroin needles, and rusty nails then she should be okay.

I have got to stop asking them "are you okay? are you okay? are you okay? a zillionquadrillion times when they're sick. One time I subjected James to that torture and he goes "geez mom I'M FINE GAH".

And I really have to stop and take a deep breath.

I have these reoccurring dreams that involve me, Rick, and the kids living in my childhood home. The neighborhood is even worse and here I am, raising my children in my childhood home. Even in my dreams I feel like a failure. I wake up, snap back into reality and feel better knowing that it's not real. We all want the best for our children and I guess I can say that so far, I haven't screwed up too badly...

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