Monday, January 16, 2012


The holiday season was busy for us, with lots of time with friends.  On New Years day, we went to a friends house for a traditional southern lucky new years day potluck.  There was a piano in the living room, and after a couple glasses of wine, I decided to flip through the music stash.  I haven't sat at a keyboard in over a year, and haven't played in front of others in about 8 times that.  The call of a Tori Amos anthology was too much to resist, I opened to the song "Winter", and sat down at the bench.

I only played through the first verse, and did not have the nerve to burst into song in a room full of people, so just the piano part. I've always loved playing the piano accompaniment to that song, 6 flats not-withstanding, but I can't sing it for others, it makes me cry.

I've been thinking a lot about my Dad lately, and after some soul searching this weekend, I think I've discovered some things. I have very clear memories of being a little kid and wanting to be like my dad. There was never any secret in our house, he wanted a boy, and he got me instead. I would study how he walked and try to swagger just like him, I'd watch how he was never really still - tapping fingers, jingling keys - and I'd imitate it. I remember the day that the post man commented on me in the yard - he looked at me, looked at my dad and said "well, you can't deny that one" and it made me proud. I remember having a snowball fight with him the Christmas that I turned 16, I remember a warm hand on my shoulder and a comment that I "did good" when I started self-teaching myself programming, but I don't remember really TALKING to him, and I don't remember him really LISTENING to me.


The first verse of "Winter" tells the story of a young girl, spending time with her dad, and knowing he is there, looking out for her:

Snow can wait
I forgot my mittens
Wipe my nose
Get my new boots on
I get a little warm in my heart
When I think of winter
I put my hand in my father's glove

I run off
Where the drifts get deeper
Sleeping beauty trips me with a frown
I hear a voice
"You must learn to stand up for yourself
Cause I can't always be around"

He says
When you gonna make up your mind
When you gonna love you as much as I do
When you gonna make up your mind
Cause things are gonna change so fast
All the white horses are still in bed
I tell you that I'll always want you near
You say that things change my dear
I wish I could say that was the relationship we had. I know that if I can think rationally about our way of interacting, he is expressing care in the only way he can. But it's hurtful and dismissive and it always has been.

Hair is grey
And the fires are burning
So many dreams
On the shelf
You say I wanted you to be proud of me
I always wanted that myself

It truly is all I've wanted - for him to be proud of me and love me for who I am, instead of reminding me of who I'm not. But the hard realization is I don't accept him for who he is, either. He was who he is before I even existed. Who am I to demand that he change and to be disappointed in him that he can't? Perhaps if I can accept him, I can find some peace in his understanding of me.

Last night, I called to talk to see how he's been. He spent the first 15 minutes asking me to troubleshoot his computer issues, while I tried to walk him through accessing gmail via web browser. He finally got around to asking about how the baby is, and I gave him an update, and added that we'd gone for a walk in the "snow" to the local mexican restaurant, where the baby ate half a kids quesadilla and some guacamole.

He said "You better watch what he's eating and not feed him junk so he gets fat. You don't want him to be like you."

There are many, many things I can think of that would be a worse fate than for my son to grow up and be like me. Several sarcastic responses flew through my mind in the heartbeats it took me to answer. I simply said "He's not eating junk." My husband heard the dead tone of my voice and turned to stage-whisper "what's going on?"

I listened to my dad talk for about 10 more minutes with tears rolling down my cheeks, he never bothered to ask how I am or how my husband is, he spent the time talking about my sister, her kids, and their grandkids and how neat they all are. Finally I interupted and said it was getting near bed time and I needed to go take care of the baby.

I closed with, "I love you, Dad, I'll talk to you soon."

"Ok, you too, bye."

When I hung up, I just put my head in my hands for a moment and hubby came over to ask what that was all about. I told him about the comment my Dad made, and hubby asked "Why didn't you tell him to go fuck himself?"

"Because, it's not that simple. He's my Dad and I can't do that." I tried to explain, knowing it makes no sense to anyone, myself included.

"Well, if my dad talked to me like that, I'd tell him to go fuck himself." he responded.

"Then you owe your parents a big thank you for teaching you to have more self esteem than I do, and for being secure in their love." I started crying harder. "He doesn't give a shit about me, he just wants me to fix his stupid computer."

Hubby put his arms around me and BabyBoy put his arms around my neck, too. We all leaned together while I cried, and hubby kissed my forehead. "I'm sorry, baby."

Later, after BabyBoy was asleep, I started crying again. How can I possibly raise him to be confident and secure when I am so fundamentally broken? I don't want to hurt him like this, and I'm so afraid that my shit is just going to fuck him up. I want him to always know how much I love him, support him, and believe in him. Hubby held me and let me talk through it and reminded me that I am a good mother, that I take amazing care of BabyBoy, and that we'll help each other when things get hard. That we'll make mistakes, but we'll have our own family, and our own way of communicating that doesn't have to repeat the past.

I have to believe in that, I have to believe in us. And I have to believe in me. It's time for me to love myself as much as I love my son. For someone posting on a blog titled "still an adult", I've spent an awful lot of time feeling like a scared, confused child over the past 24 hours.


  1. I love the vulnerability of this post, Tanya. (And, as a side note, I also love Tori Amos! Thanks for the reminder to break out Little Earthquakes later...). In any case, this is always difficult terrain; navigating relationships with parents is wrought with so many different emotions, some of which are tremendously painful. You're staying in the honesty of the felt experience, though, and that is the crux of the work!

    1. Thanks, Ashley. It is so tough to separate heart and head in the heat of the moment. sometimes I just have to let the heart take the lead and hope my head can sort it out later.

  2. This is Ashley, by the way. Not sure why my name isn't showing up... ;)

  3. I have a lot of those discussions with Chris. I don't understand what was wrong with me that my parents couldn't treat me like a valuable human being. The problem wasn't with me though. It was with them. Its been very hard to place the distances that I have on my family because it has created many many unhappy and uncomfortable discussions, many sleepless nights and various other repercussions. But my children are my focus and I need to do for them the very best I can just like you're doing for your family. I'm willing to bet Zac will grow up knowing he's loved just fine and that his mom's a person who overcame a lot to give him that growing up time. We're always our own worst critics - just don't let that inner critic crush you.

    1. Thanks, Kathy. That is certainly the trick, not letting the inner critic hold too much power. There is nothing anyone can say to me that is harsher than the conversations I have with myself. I've been trying to visualize what would happen if someone talked to me like I talk to myself in front of my best friend. First off, I'd be looking for an exit, cause fur's gonna fly, and secondly, she would put them in their place, without breaking a sweat, and with no room for argument. I have an awesome example in her, now I just need to be my OWN best friend, too.

  4. Dear Tanya,
    I love the way you tell this story, starting with the dinner party and the piano. And I never listened to the words of that song before! Wow! Now I like it even more.
    I agree with Kathy--your father's bad manners and inadequacies are his own, not yours. You are already giving Zac what he needs in terms of self esteem. And you only have to do it a day at a time.
    Love, Nerissa

    1. Thanks, Nerissa. The true test will be the first time my Dad says something typical to Zac. Will I bow my head, internalize it and cry? Or will I rip him a new one? For our relationship, it might be good practice for me to stop accepting his hurtful comments myself and to prepare him for the wrath of a full-on-force-of-nature-mama-bear if he EVER says stuff like that to Z. I like that image in my head. I need to work on that. ;-)