It took parenthood for me to understand the struggles my parents went through to raise my siblings and me. For too long, I mythized my dad and ran from the memories of my mom; I put the former on a pedestal and the latter I observed from a distance unable to understand her pains and incapable of making her smile once her mom passed. I never questioned their love, in fact, I thought they gave too much and neglected themselves in the process.
When I was a child, I used to beg my parents to go out on date nights and to have a life of their own apart from being caregivers to four kids. They never took my advice; my dad was too busy working all the time and my mom was trying her hardest to tend to us while battling crippling depression. Two souls united by love eventually became co-dependent, instead of healing apart, they echoed each others wounds only to let traumas reverberate into their hearts.
I was too young to discern their struggles, I wanted them to be like other parents who took time to find joys in the midst of raising children. So busy making them superheroes and being disappointed each time they did not meet those lofty standards, I let disappointment lead me to countless bouts of depression. It’s only now, 20 years after my dad passed away from lung cancer and almost a year after my mom took her last breath alone in the ICU as she succumbed to the ravages of Covid-19, that I understand their stories through nuance instead of distilling their narratives as a disenchanted son.
It took having my first son to I realize parents are mere mortals no matter how much we try to put capes on their backs. Far from Iron Man and Wonder Woman that I fancied my dad and mom to be, they were flawed human beings trying to overcome their inherited predisposition and the demons that haunted many generations to ensure that my siblings and I don’t fall into the same crevices that kept them from realizing their full potential. Alas the irony of life struck; that which we try to protect our children from ends up becoming anvils around their necks.
My parents were both raised in broken homes; my mom reared by a single mother in a country that treats children born out of wedlock like Lepers during the time of Yeshua and my dad was scattered to Harar, Ethiopia because his mom feared burying yet another son before he could celebrate his first birthday. One felt unwanted and the other felt unloved; when they wed and had children, they were determined to make sure that their offspring would never be touched by the hands of unbelonging and indifference.
What they did to compensate let to my own tribulations; I grew up in a cocoon in Ethiopia only to be marooned in loneliness when I arrived in America. Try as hard as I did, I could not fit in like a square trying to wedge itself into a circle. It was not until I shed the weight I picked up as an eight year old—thanks to McDonald’s and medicating on TV—that I came into my own. But I learned the wrong lessons, instead of finding love within myself, I sought acceptance from others. This habit of validation seeking has haunted me for close to four decades.
Here I stand at the age of 46 with a one year old son and I finally face myself as I try my hardest to be a good father to the one who is light of my world. I observe him pushing boundaries and my first reaction is to protect him; the dispositions of my parents all the sudden imbuing my spirits with anxieties that he might hurt himself. Quick to shield him from pain, I wonder if I am stifling his personality and teaching him to fear instead of letting him explore his boundaries.
— Teodrose Fikremariam (@Teodrose_Fikre) April 1, 2021
There is no training manual when it comes to raising children; parenthood requires learning on the job. It’s with this newly gained insight that I look back at my parents and forgive them for making mistakes and for being human. It is said that with wisdom comes woe, but with woe also comes a profound understanding. We learn, at long last, to shed the past and to embrace the moment. A friend told me a few days ago to forgive everyone who disappointed me if I am going to reach my full potential. I shall embark on that journey of absolution but first I must give grace to myself. I am my parents the sum of my parents' hopes and propensities, instead of berating myself for not doing better, I am going to teach my son to be kind to himself by being kind to Teodrose. #2MOMandDAD Click To Tweet
As a mother gives birth to a child the child likewise rebirths both parents, such is the cycle of life::
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