You could lure me into the back of a white van with tinted windows by promising that at the end of the ride (which may or may not be terror filled and overflowing with torture) you'd be leading a writing workshop where we'd journal letters to our childhood selves. My eyes would well up as I contemplated the torrents of pity I'd rain down on the five year old me as I hoisted myself into the metal prison on wheels. There were going to many tears shed over that piece as I wrote in a whisper, "you're doing a good job and you're loved."
That's to say that I am hopelessly stuck in my childhood and completely incapable of embracing the life that sits in front of me. I want to comb through my childhood with a lice comb and pick apart all the ways in which I was wronged, which makes me very resentful of my current state of being responsible for two, small lives. (Three if you count the dog that pees all over everything if he isn't wearing a diaper and growls at every kid on a scooter while I walk Darla to school in the morning). I'm the poor baby, God damnit. I don't have time to deal with their big emotions in little bodies. I have to focus on ME.
The situation isn't helped since I'm the youngest in a family of twelve and was allowed to stay an infant for far longer than anyone else did. I may still be referred to as Baby Liz (finally, it's no longer to my face, so that's positive). I was coddled well into adulthood, treated as if I was my oldest siblings' child, and barred from any responsibility. Even today, it seems that my ability to hold down a steady job is met with such gleeful enthusiasm that it makes me often question whether I deserve the modicum of success I experience. I wonder if I'm secretly terrible at everything I do, but my family has shielded me from the reality that I'm a dimwit with little to offer the world. I assume that everything I have achieved in life has been either through pity or some sort of bribe from my family. I'm the only one not in on this joke.
My family was so busy watching the sun shine out of my ass and holding me with kids gloves, that I never had any training before the moment the doctor laid a screaming, naked Darla on my chest. All I did to prepare myself for parenthood was watch Teen Mom and cry. I felt like I was watching my life unfold on the screen through the lives of those knocked up teenagers. We were caught off guard and unaware of how to even change a diaper. Their excuse, however, was that they were still children. Mine was that I still acted like one.
I didn't even have a single babysitting gig on my resume. Well, that's not totally true. I did watch my niece Mila one time, which shouldn't count because all I did was put her in her crib and listen to her babble. When her parents came home, she immediately screamed and pointed an accusatory finger at me, which made me wonder if I had inadvertantly done something terribly wrong to her. My sister Joanne assured me that was Mila's MO, which I believed was just an additional part of the lifelong charade my family had been performing in which I was presented to be a fully functioning member of society with no serious problems. I'm sure Mila didn't accuse anyone else of monstrosities.
Prior to holding Darla, I had been the center of my own universe and my family was just there to cheerlead me on. Now, the focus was taken sharply off me and put onto this tiny baby with jaundice. It felt alien. It felt like they were putting far too much trust in me. Didn't they know that the only reason I graduated college was because my family had convinced the college to pump up my ego by giving me A's, otherwise I would be too devastated to even go on? I didn't know how I was going to be able to take care of a baby.
Day after day, I did it. I always felt, however, that I was missing that bit of DNA that makes you celebrate every waking moment of your child's life. I see these Instagram feeds where the mothers are laughing and tossing their kids in the air or they complain about a "mess" that is actually just a pile of pristine pastel stuffed animals in the center of their spotless living room. I don't see anyone with a living room covered in spilled foundation and a white, plastic garbage bag overflowing with recycling that she's been meaning to take out for the past month. Those pictures aren't appealing or pretty, but they're the reality of my life as a mom.
So, I have come to the conclusion that, as the youngest sibling, I was always setup to be a terrible parent. How am I supposed to effortlessly adjust and put my child at the center of my world when all I've known is that I need to be held with extreme care? It happened, whether I wanted it to or not, but I have to wonder if I might have let go of my kid-free life more easily if I were given more tools.
As you can see, this piece devolved into a well-orchestrated pity party for myself so I am still not 100% evolved as a mom. I can't even stay focused on the topic of being a mom! I'm going to go climb into this white van and get to writing that letter of apology to my childhood self I've been really wanting to get to while my kids bang on my bedroom door, desperate to get my attention. I'll tell them to be quiet, knowing that I'm just giving them fodder for their own self-indulgent letters to their childhood selves when they're older.