I recently had a birthday and both of my parents contacted me on the actual anniversary of my birth. Sounds pretty normal, right? Except that this is the first time that has happened in about a dozen years. Normally I get an email or text message between a few days and a few weeks later letting me know that one or both of them lost track of time. They know the date I was born. They just didn’t realize that date had come so soon.
You would think I’d be pleased about this unexpected accuracy, but as it turns out, I’m pissed. Why? Because it is much easier for me to be angry at them for my current predicament/feelings if they continue to be the inconsiderate dirtbags I grew up with. They don’t suddenly get to be “good parents” and pretend the last 30 years didn’t happen. I feel like accepting gifts and appreciating phone calls would mean exactly that.
It would mean “it’s OK, we can have a good relationship, because you are trying now and that’s all that matters.” It would mean “it doesn’t still hurt me that you said you wanted to give me away when I was twelve, because you didn’t like me (and as a parent you are only required to love me, not to like me).” It would mean “my self worth is not still tied to my grades and career successes, because I was so desperate for your approval and nothing was ever good enough.”
It would mean “I don’t still replay your words from almost a decade ago, while I was rocking a 4.0 GPA in college, that my old teachers would be so surprised to see how well I am doing, because I was always such a mediocre student.”
Dear parents: I don’t want to have to feel like an ungrateful brat, because you are sending money, gifts or ‘love, Mom/Dad’ like it’s the most natural thing in the world. The only gift I have ever wanted from either one of you was some indication that I matter. That you cared when I left home and moved halfway around the world at 16. That you loved me, regardless of the size of my body. That you didn’t have me counting calories in first grade because I wasn’t good enough just the way I was.
I want to tell you how your signals made me feel. Give you the opportunity to acknowledge the pain you caused, or at least tell me that the harsh judgments were not intended the way I perceived them, but I’m afraid you will respond with the same indifference you have always shown and we will never be able to come back from that. Surely, knowing that you were aware of your cruelty would be a thousand times worse than believing you were merely ignorant of your effect.
I don’t know how to resolve these feelings. I desperately wish I could let go of the anger, but I’m afraid of the loss. I’m afraid of confirming that my greatest fears are true. At least I can take solace in the fact that I am finally feeling and processing the feelings and not pretending everything is OK; pretending I don’t have a long road of healing ahead.