Sometimes I hear myself and others complaining, kvetching, and wonder if we’re all in a competition of suffering. As if the inconveniences and discomfort experienced as a parent are badges of honor and the more we suffer the better parent we are to our children, more dedicated than the next person, yet what does that teach our children? Is that how we want to be perceived? Martyrs pitted in a battle of martyrdom and the trophy is feeling justified in expecting gratitude from our children someday for all of our sacrifices as a mother? Are there any winners in such a competition? What if our children are ungrateful, which most likely they will be, what then?
I don’t want, or expect, my children to be grateful. They had no choice in being born or the parents they were entrusted to. For them to be grateful they would need a frame of reference to be able to make a comparison that I fear, hope, and strive for them not to be able to make. For them to know how good their lives are they would need to know how bad they could be and that’s a lesson that can wait.
For now, I console myself with the truth that for every sacrifice I make (offending someone, losing a friendship, alienating a neighbor, etc.) I’m solidifying my promise to my children I made before they were born. I will be a bitch for you every day. Mean kid isn’t leaving you alone? I’ll confront the parent. Neighborhood dog insists on charging at you? We’ll put up a fence and turn a hose on them, gladly. You need me to be able to chase away the nightmares and want a bedtime kiss? I’m here. But if you poop in your pants in protest of going to bed one more time, so help me, I’m giving that goddamn Elmo doll to Goodwill.
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