This is a harder topic for me to post about, but it's been swirling through my brain and I feel the need to get it out on "paper" to make some sense of it. Please understand that this is not a blame game or a "why didn't you" directed towards my parents. It's more of a reflection of the actions I've taken to change (there's that word again) my situation.
It's about my childhood, and the childhood of my mom. To start, I was not neglected, abused or beaten so it's not that I'm saying that my childhood was horrible in that sense. I was loved, protected and cared for by my parents actions and I know that I am so lucky to have had that foundation. What I've been thinking about is my experience within my family unit and how that shaped the adult I am today, in both good and bad ways. For those that don't know, my family moved-a lot. If you can follow this one, we moved from Albany, NY to Los Angeles, CA when I was three. Back to Albany, NY when I was 10. Albany to Farmington Hills, MI when I was 16 (middle of junior year). And, then finally-MI to MA 4 days after my high school graduation. Army brat, you ask? No, all of the moves were direct results of my dad's advancement within his company. As an adult, I get it and am quite proud of him and his accomplishments. As a kid...not so much. What was almost more challenging than the moves themselves was the way that it almost always seemed like it was 4 separate people moving and living these very different experiences and I can remember very few situations where I felt like we were a cohesive unit going through these moves together. We were not a family who did things together, created lots of happy memories based on shared experiences or generally did more than live in the same space. Writing that makes me so very sad. My parents did their best for us. I know this in my heart.
I suppose in some ways, my parents were doing what their parents had done so I don't have to look very hard to see where this started. From what I understand, while my dad had a fairly normal upbringing in the 50's, my mom had a situation that surely was difficult for her to cope with. Living with her parents in Rochester, she had to contend with moving back and forth between Rochester and Death Valley, CA every 6 months for a number of years. Talk about never being able to find your place with friends and/or with yourself! To split the time between the two environments is 10 times worse than moving in my junior year of high school. I can only imagine how damaging that might have been for a girl, in a time in your life when friends and your "social standing" almost defined who you were. Needless to say, moving, getting settled and then reestablishing yourself every few months left little time for meaningful family interactions.
And so, now that I have my own family, I have set out to "reverse" the past and create a wonderful childhood that they will hopefully remember filled with family memories, fun and laughter. To J, I am constantly saying that I want family time so that we can be a unit. We need to challenge ourselves together so we can grow from the experience together and individually. I want family game night and date nights with my kids. I want them to know that mom and dad have a special relationship and that fostering this relationship is important to a happy family life. I will do all in my power to keep us here in Rochester so they can have a stable upbringing while showing them that there is a larger world that they can be a part of. I want them to feel that when all else is wrong in their world outside, home is a place for acceptance, strong bonds and love.
This blog post came into my head on Tuesday. We took the girls to Cobbs Hill and went for a hike in the woods. We were spending time as a family doing something outside, but this is not the moment that stands out for me. At one point, we went down a steep hill into a valley. M and S required some help to avoid slipping. At the bottom of the hill, we all looked up and realized that to get back onto the path back to the car, we had to climb UP an even steeper hill. So, we started to climb. Some of us (okay, me) slipped and had to restart a few times. But, with lots of dirty knees and hands, we all made it to the top...with M making the last part by herself and shouting "I DID IT, I DID IT". Beyond the singular accomplishments of the girls climbing the "mountain" themselves, I think that the experience of all of us struggling together brought us one step closer to being the kind of family that I see in my mind. So many good things come from the generations before me, but to change this one thing would make our lives together so much richer.
Can one woman reverse the trends of the generations that came before? Not sure...but trying sure is fun!