Monday, January 3, 2011


Parenting with both parents around much of the time is harder than you’d think. I would say it’s harder than I thought it would be, but what did I know, in those blissfully ignorant days before I had a child? Lots of theory was flying around back then. Some of it has been borne out in a way that makes me feel disturbingly self-satisfied. For example, I could never have done this thing surrounded by the exigencies of US culture. The objects, the expectations, the advice. Being in a foreign country where I could barely speak the language and had little idea of what was next, not having a car, not having the view remain consistent have, in fact, suited me. And I was committed to the idea that Adam and I would be in it together—he would be on site, an equal, a colleague. Which meant in practice that neither of us would have a job for awhile. And we worked it out, with help from our incredibly supportive families. The funny thing is, though, in some ways it’s actually much easier when it’s just me. (Or him.) Tallulah and I get in sync, we cooperate. With Adam and I present together, it’s essential that we be in utter harmony. Tallulah sees and seizes upon the most minor fissures in our relationship, in our mundane interactions, things we might be barely aware of, or believe that we’d successfully suppressed. She plays one off the other in a benign or malignant fashion, defending or, lately, peacekeeping, acting out, performing. Those average moments, teasing or cloaking some real grievance in joking terms—all duly noted. And they become the stuff of shame. And reason for punishment. Adam and I live now in such a way that we need to trust the other with our lives. This is the literal truth. But how insidious those small persistent failures become—the deep currents of the psyche, formed by my own parents/early experiences, now played again. It’s this complex, stratified space that I notice myself navigating—again, this is literal—on a daily basis when we’re both together. There’s no other room, no room to go to and shut the door. The space is fluid—I really have no need of metaphors—and the scudding clouds of the others’ moods are close enough to feel the vapor. By now we’ve gotten nearly as good at this as acrobats, but not yet perfect, and perfection is, in fact, required of us.

5 comments:

Kathleen said...

my dear friend I disagree that perfection is required. Sure, you want to avoid total failure, but learning that relationships are complex and sometimes conflict-ridden, and seeing one's parents struggle some and survive, I think is a valuable life lesson for T. That and how to roast her own coffee! Love you!!

CLANK said...

Thanks, Lean!

Barrett said...

Barrett in San Diego,

Okay I can't resist---I apologize for any spelling errors to a fellow English scholar who searches for "Perfection" but I am limited for time and do not have my pocket dictionary near me. I gave up on it many years ago when they came out with Spell Checker; wait No SPELL CHECKER on this blog??? I follow the Blog and dream often of the choices you and Adam have made and the journeys "T" can have in her life. Amy and I are nearing a milestone in our relationship almost 20 years and I can say that Brett would not be who he is at 7 without the current parental setting he was placed in without his consent. Much like his full immersion in Spanish language education he has adapted better than his parents did. My unique occupation of teaching children for over thirteen years now has provided many glimpses into the teenage psyche and I can say with confidence in many discussions it is shared to me that more pain and damage is caused by parents unwilling to sacrifice their own needs in a spousal relationships than any physical injury ever caused in their haphazard physical world. Thoughts around who is more capable as a parent are only natural and based on my own selfish dream of living a lifestyle much like yours I can confess quite often I harbor many deep thoughts about chucking it all and doing it "On my Own". Better yet, since I am dreaming now, perhaps only seeing Brett on "My Terms and Rules" or perhaps "My Location" would work. Back to reality, I know now warts and dirty laundry found in relationships are not often aired in public displays by parents (fear of harming the child) ah, the hypocrisy of those beliefs. Reality tells us that unkind cutting outbursts or secretly harbored thoughts are like keeping fruit or a candied dessert in the limited space you had on the boat--some things can't be hidden in small vessels without clever minds finding the treasure; those that manage to stay hidden only do so because the person hiding it only remembers where they hid it when the stench lingers, teases them and follows them until they tear things apart to find it. Place a fear or thought away in some dark corner of the boat and even the mind of a child can find your best hiding place in time. Try as you may to trick, twist or disguise where you hide it and it will still be discovered. Clever word play only adds to your child’s intelligence until you soon realize they are more intelligent than you and have none of the cynicisms we all often cling to. Fear of Adam's ability to parent and not drown your only birthed soul must have something to do with a women's ability to release the cord after birth. Amy exhibits these fits of panic often as well about my parenting skills. Now, after twenty years of knowing my single greatest dream and desire (SELL IT "ALL" AND LEAVE) to anywhere but here has not happened; should I blame her or praise her? When reading your thoughts placed on the page I often think I share deeply some of your feelings; would it be easier to chuck it all and go to the Islands? Many times I have lived that dream, (My Dream) then I realize it is only (My Dream) not a shared thought. Conflict attached to guilt must be seen and shared with your child or it is only fiction being shared. Fiction is such a small part of life, a drifting often unreachable part of life and often can cause more harm than reality ever will if used in the wrong context. Children live and play in a world of Fiction and we need to share all and treasure all; including reality. "T" is much wiser than you can imagine; yet I think you know that already and you have already answered some of your own questions about “Need”. I can only imagine as she grows and questions you about your writings will your response reflect your past thoughts or a new found belief that came from perseverance.

Love and looking forward to more reading of you and your family's journey.

Barrett said...

Barrett in San Diego,

Okay I can't resist---I apologize for any spelling errors to a fellow English scholar who searches for "Perfection" but I am limited for time and do not have my pocket dictionary near me. I gave up on it many years ago when they came out with Spell Checker; wait No SPELL CHECKER on this blog??? I follow the Blog and dream often of the choices you and Adam have made and the journeys "T" can have in her life. Amy and I are nearing a milestone in our relationship almost 20 years and I can say that Brett would not be who he is at 7 without the current parental setting he was placed in without his consent. Much like his full immersion in Spanish language education he has adapted better than his parents did. My unique occupation of teaching children for over thirteen years now has provided many glimpses into the teenage psyche and I can say with confidence in many discussions it is shared to me that more pain and damage is caused by parents unwilling to sacrifice their own needs in a spousal relationships than any physical injury ever caused in their haphazard physical world. Thoughts around who is more capable as a parent are only natural and based on my own selfish dream of living a lifestyle much like yours I can confess quite often I harbor many deep thoughts about chucking it all and doing it "On my Own". Better yet, since I am dreaming now, perhaps only seeing Brett on "My Terms and Rules" or perhaps "My Location" would work. Back to reality, I know now warts and dirty laundry found in relationships are not often aired in public displays by parents (fear of harming the child) ah, the hypocrisy of those beliefs. Reality tells us that unkind cutting outbursts or secretly harbored thoughts are like keeping fruit or a candied dessert in the limited space you had on the boat--some things can't be hidden in small vessels without clever minds finding the treasure; those that manage to stay hidden only do so because the person hiding it only remembers where they hid it when the stench lingers, teases them and follows them until they tear things apart to find it. Place a fear or thought away in some dark corner of the boat and even the mind of a child can find your best hiding place in time. Try as you may to trick, twist or disguise where you hide it and it will still be discovered. Clever word play only adds to your child’s intelligence until you soon realize they are more intelligent than you and have none of the cynicisms we all often cling to. Fear of Adam's ability to parent and not drown your only birthed soul must have something to do with a women's ability to release the cord after birth. Amy exhibits these fits of panic often as well about my parenting skills. Now, after twenty years of knowing my single greatest dream and desire (SELL IT "ALL" AND LEAVE) to anywhere but here has not happened; should I blame her or praise her? When reading your thoughts placed on the page I often think I share deeply some of your feelings; would it be easier to chuck it all and go to the Islands? Many times I have lived that dream, (My Dream) then I realize it is only (My Dream) not a shared thought. Conflict attached to guilt must be seen and shared with your child or it is only fiction being shared. Fiction is such a small part of life, a drifting often unreachable part of life and often can cause more harm than reality ever will if used in the wrong context. Children live and play in a world of Fiction and we need to share all and treasure all; including reality. "T" is much wiser than you can imagine; yet I think you know that already and you have already answered some of your own questions about “Need”. I can only imagine as she grows and questions you about your writings will your response reflect your past thoughts or a new found belief that came from perseverance.

Love and looking forward to more reading of you and your family's journey.

ria.malloy said...

Perfection...required? Not so! You'd only be setting unrealistic expectations for T (and yourselves) and setting her up for disappointment. Always strive to do your best and impress upon her how important that is. But also give her the tools in her tool belt to accept imperfection from life and make adjustments so she can move forward.

I love reading your posts. Enjoyed visiting with you while we were visiting John & Robin.