As parents, we unequivocally love our children. Even after 4am diaper blowouts, very public grocery meltdowns, and the multiple yet hopefully unintentional jabs and kicks to your soft spots, you still freaking love them. Parenthood has taught me a lot about myself and my own parents. I have learned to let go of a lot of my harbored resentment towards them, because in the end, we were all just trying our fucking best. Would I have come to this conclusion without having kids? Maybe, but it probably would have cost a couple of grand in therapy.
I have memories of a very happy childhood. I was loved, well-fed and safe. That's not true for a lot of kids in America. You want to know a crazy, mind-boggling statistic? 25% of households in large cities are food-insecure. That means a quarter of families, most likely where you're currently living, don't have enough to eat. The fact that my immigrant parents, who escaped a war with no money could sustain a home with 3 children is mind boggling. I used to resent the fact that they didn't pay for any of our educations, the fact that we had to take out student loans and hold multiple jobs to pay for the school that they insisted that we attended. Then it dawned on me, it's not because they didn't want to, it's because they couldn't. They weren't showing us tough love, they had already given us all they could. They fled their homeland for us. They never came to any of my school plays or my art shows. I realize now, that they weren't available for me because they were busy working to survive. They always thought my passions and interests were frivolous because they had to work their fingers to the bone so I could have the PRIVILEGE of pursuing a career in the arts. Somehow, the distance that I put between myself and my parents (I'm in California, they're in Texas) has brought me closer to them. It's allowed me to step back and look at all of their sacrifices, sacrifices of their own happiness in order for us to achieve the American Dream. Having Vivienne has given me the tremendous opportunity for forgiveness and ultimately, the opportunity for healing.
I've struggled with insecurities all my life. So has everyone, that's a part of this whole human existence thing. Outwardly I'm tough and unwavering, but inside, I'm just a sniveling baby. Crap, I am my mother! She tough as hell but is so so hard on herself. My mom was, and is a great beauty. She put a great emphasis on physical appearance. I realize now, that this was the only thing she had in her control. Her world was turned to shit when the war hit, but dammit, she was still beautiful. She doesn't realize that she survived and thrived on her wits and strength, not her beauty. But because of that, she has pushed a lot of her insecurities on to me. She didn't know how to raise an American daughter. Especially one that didn't mirror her body and her idea of beauty. I tower over my parents by at least 6 inches, I have broad shoulders, large breasts, thick legs. She didn't know how to deal with that body type. I was an alien extension of her. Essentially, her failure. Enter years of body and food issues. Wasn't puberty already hard enough?! I know she has never seen herself as the strong, capable woman that she is. It is the root of her problems, which became the root of my problems. Now I look at my own daughter, and I'm hyper aware to not pass on those insecurities to her. How do I guarantee that she won't grow up with the same guilt and shame? I look at her with all the love I can possibly have, and think, holy crap she is half of me. I love this kid with every fiber of my being and she is just a teeny tiny Tina. I used to be a teeny tiny Tina! How can I so adamantly love this person and not love myself just as much? Oh man, do I not love myself? BOOM- self therapied!
Something has finally clicked in my brain. It's taking that opportunity for forgiveness and healing and it's finally listening. I've committed myself to my personal health, in a way I've never have. I'm not on a diet, but I've overhauled my diet, my lifestyle. Maybe it's because I've let go of all that resentment, the guilt, maybe it's the 30 lbs I've already lost, but I feel lighter. My brain is clearer, and I feel stronger. I want to be strong for my daughter, my family, my community. I have to be strong for the inevitable future, whatever that might hold.
Ultimately forgive yourself and heal yourself. NO ONE IS PERFECT. Motherhood isn't the path to sainthood. Do your damn best! Are your kids loved, fed, and safe? You've done your job. Anything else beyond that is icing on the cake. Empower yourself with that knowledge.
I've been asking Viv everyday, "are you smart, are you kind, are you fearless?" She nods emphatically and adds "and happy." Let's do the same for ourselves.