I often times wonder how different it is to be a dad as opposed to being a mom. What kind of a link do dads feel toward their children? How much of the link that mothers feel toward their children is just a product of socialization–the way we were raised to believe we should in turn raise our children? And how do those expectations of motherhood and fatherhood affect our level of sanity more than the actual work that we put into raising our children in the right way or as best we know how?
Thanks to one of my relatives who shall remain unnamed, I just finished browsing the book: “Crazy for God.” The book perfectly and not so politically correctly describes in great depth the psyche of the author’s parents who were major proponents of the Fundamentalist movement. Having myself grown up in a home formed at the peak of some of those great fundamentalist revivals of which my parents were loyal participants, I inevitably relate to the some of satire eloquently penned by Frank Schaeffer, so much so that it seems we might have been best of friends
or worst of enemies should we have grown up together in the same neighborhood.
I’ve often wondered, especially most recently since my children started using a more sophisticated part of their brain, putting two and two together to formulate their blaring judgment of me into sentences–how they might describe me should they grow up to be a writer and need to use my personality as fodder on paper–going into painful detail about my dedication or lack of dedication as a mom and ultimately my sanity as a person.
Then I came across the book by Schaeffer and resentfully revisited the dread that I might feel should my children ever see me for who I truly am. The “crazy” light in which Schaeffer shed his mom included the following quote and reminded me of the glorified version of myself:
“Mom lived her life in tension between her unrealized ambition to be recognized for something important, refined, and cultured and her belief that God had called her to do Christian work that required her to sacrifice herself, not least her image of who she really felt she was when the cultural elites admired, or at least envied, mocked fundamentalism.”
The parts that stick out to me here are “unrealized ambition” and “belief that God had called her to do a Christian work.” And everything in-between is enough indeed to inspire a child to call into question the sanity of his parents.
I’m not sure what Schaeffer’s conclusion was since I haven’t finished the book but forget the schizophrenic Christian part of being a fundamentalist on the fence, my days as a mom are definitely filled with regret over “unrealized ambition.” I don’t think any parent-to-be truly understands the risk of living ocean front–that the view, the time spent walking on the beach, and the easy access to beautiful moments also make us vulnerable to floods that could rush in and exchange all of our belongings for debris once we’ve settled on having children.
Yes old things are washed away and everything is forced to become new but having children is like nothing you’ve ever experienced before. It’s an emotional tsunami. All of the unspoken dreams, those things that you’d held quietly in your heart because you still felt like life was slow pace, slow enough that you could catch up to it–All of the ideals that were never challenged by real life circumstances so you could just carelessly hold onto them without the fear of cynicism snatching them away–I’d be a liar if I didn’t say that having children is like an ugly forceps rebirth of self.
And the rebuilding of the thoughts, ambitions and dreams that twist and turn in God forsaken fashion as an initiation into a life of letting go of everything you’d been becoming up to the point that it was your children’s turn to become-could indeed drive one to insanity.
I’m not even sure if I’m in the rebuilding phase. I’m still wandering around picking up the pieces of what I used to think was important–seeing what I can put back together from the past–trying to determine if there’s any intrinsic value in who I was before I realized what it’s like to be a parent.
And all that to say, “Thank you mom and dad for all you did to maintain some level of sanity in our household growing up, even though I’m sure you must have felt quite the crazy yourself at times. Thank you for believing through the doubt and holding onto the pieces of everything that perhaps you’re still trying to put together. Regardless of how your children gauge your level of sanity, as sure as there’s a God in heaven above, He’d reward you with an A for effort. And fundamentalist or not, there is surely nothing that will keep my boat afloat if human frailty is not factored into the grading curve.”
Happy crazy parenting!!