Monday, October 31, 2011

Jealous of the Normal Folk

This morning, Cindy, over at Big Mama Hollers wrote:

I'm flat out jealous of all the happy families I observed yesterday at our church annual fall festival, those that don't get attacked, robbed, massively criticized, or emotionally destroyed on a routine basis. Those that don't get slung into walls and punched for trying to protect others, yeah, sometimes I wish I were more normal.

The other day, I was looking at Facebook, and I noticed that a friend of mine had posted a status update about his daughter. She's bright, beautiful, and has an amazingly good heart.

My friend's status update made me jealous.

I sent a text message to my friend's wife congratulating her on her child's brains, character and beauty.  She thanked me, and shot me back a comment regarding her other children, who were both adopted from the foster care system.  They aren't doing nearly as well as her one biological child.

"I wish I could transfer some [brains, character and beauty] to the other two," she replied.

I understand.

I have another friend who regularly posts about how much fun she has with her biological children.  She recently posted about her family's Halloween plans, and it sounds like there are times when she really enjoys her kids.

Again, I'm left feeling envious.  When I think of my kid, fun and enjoyment aren't usually words that come to mind.  I find myself thinking of all the times when we tried to have fun and the kid made us regret our decision.  I remember temper tantrums, name-calling, and even violence that was triggered by the anticipation, or aftermath, of fun. I recall times where we had to cancel planned events as a consequence for dreadful behavior, or because we knew it was going to trigger a massive explosion that would only serve to make everyone miserable.

I often find myself going through the motions of doing stuff that is supposed to create fun with my kid, but it is usually an epic fail.  We threw a birthday party for Danielle, and gave her a nice birthday gift, only to be repaid by criticism and complaining because she didn't get exactly what she wanted.  Even if we had the budget to throw the huge party she wanted, it wasn't really possible, as it's hard to throw an enormous party if you don't know enough people to invite.  Even if we had been willing to buy Danielle the technological toy she wanted, it would have been broken within days, so we bought her something close to what she wanted that would be more durable.

We tried to do something nice, and found ourselves on the receiving end of complaints and criticism.

Sometimes, I ask myself, "Why bother?  Why should we try to do something nice or something fun for our kid, when she won't enjoy it, and she'll complain about it later?"

I know that some advocate that parents should do these things anyway, so that children can look back on all the fun with adult eyes.  I don't know how that's possible, since my child will likely not remember that we threw her a party.  Instead, she'll remember it as yet another birthday where we failed to meet her impossible expectations.

I realize that birthdays and holidays are difficult.  Still, I am profoundly jealous of families who can celebrate a birthday, a family get-together, or a gift-giving holiday without all the misery.  I'm envious of families who actually enjoy their children.  I feel pangs of jealousy when I hear my friends' children say "I love you," because I know their kids really mean it, and aren't simply trying to wheedle something out of good old Mom and Dad.

And now the December holidays are just ahead.

I dread them.

I dread looking into my child's disappointed eyes knowing that, whatever gifts we give won't be enough to satisfy.  I dread the meltdowns, the name-calling and the criticism that makes us wish we could simply push the fast-forward button on the VCR of life to skip past this time of year.

But what I hate most is the feeling as if we haven't made a real difference in our child's life.

Yes, it's true that her life circumstances are much different than they would be if we hadn't taken her into our home, but I'm not sure that anything we've done will have a lasting impact.  Our child still suffers from all the problems that ail her, and most of those problems aren't really fixable.  We can't erase the years of abuse and neglect, nor can we fix the probable brain damage she's suffered as a result of her mother's substance abuse.

When I look at my friend's child, the bright, beautiful, responsible, achiever I mentioned above, I can see how good parenting, education and a middle class lifestyle have made this kid who she is.  I expect that she will do well in life, and that her parents have given her every opportunity to succeed.

I am jealous, because I can't fix my kid.  I can't wave a magic wand and turn her into a bright, beautiful, responsible, achiever.  I can't transform her into an intelligent young woman with character.  She is, for better or worse, the sum of the biological, emotional and physical legacy left her by her biological mother.

I have come into this game far too late to make much of a difference.  While most of my friends will be able to sit back and enjoy the successes of their biological children as they grow and mature, I will watch my own child struggle.  While my friends watch their kids create bright, happy children for the next generation, I know that mine will likely recreate the ugly circumstances of her birth family.

I am jealous of the "normal folk," not only because they can enjoy their children, but also because they know they made a positive difference in forming the next generation.

1 comment:

  1. I find myself in that "jealous of normal folk" situation myself.


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