Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Parenting before children

I became a parent before I had children.

It's my responsibility to make my father be his better self. So he will show up, to face the reality of the situation. It's a responsibility born of love, because I deeply love my flawed father, and he deeply loves his flawed daughter. And yet, it weighs at my psyche, so I eat.

I recently told my stepmom how excited I was for my upcoming 30th birthday. She laughed and said, "You were 30 when I met you [at age 14]. You always have been." It's true that I have always been responsible, carefully weighing my choices against potential consequences, a skill developed from our family dynamics, from having to cope with the realities of life from an early age.

It's not just my father to whom I have a responsibility. I collect lost things. My porch is full of beautiful chairs discarded from our neighbor decluttering his home. Inside, my home has too many animals, full of rescues who are sweet and wonderful and shed fur all over the damn house. My children are adopted from foster care, "older youth" because their memories of their biological parents make them unwanted by all the adoptive parents who want to pretend that it was their baby all along. My children sat in foster care for years as a consequence of their ages when they entered care, 5 and 6, already "older youth" in an unfair system.

My collections bring me incredible joy. I love having chairs for people to sit on, animals to pet and purr, and children to share my life with. I sought these lost things out for their joy, but always they show their past lives. The chairs are nicked, the animals scared or aggressive, and the children heavy with emotion.

As my grandfather lies sick in his hospital bed, I am trying to manage my father. "You should visit. You should call." I'm trying to convince him to leave his toxic environment and join me in my new city.

At the same time, I am dealing with so much else. I move quickly, never stalling too long on a decision before I jump in head first. I multi-task, not just juggling my work and children, but trying to build community and be my best self too.

Right now, I am also managing depressed friends, calling and visiting to ensure that at least today won't be the day they commit suicide.

I am unpacking and renovating a home and trying fiercely to feel settled in this new place.

I am trying madly to make friends in this place, going out and finding new people and places and community.

I am preparing to teach a subject I have never taught, still a brand new teacher beginning Year 2.

I am trying to manage my own sadness about my grandfather's sickness, about how I have rarely been in touch with a family that cared for me in my childhood.

I am helping my children settle into their new home. I have promised them it will be their last childhood home, and I intend to keep that promise by making it so incredible I never want to leave.

I am celebrating and preparing for children's birthdays, the start of classes, and the approaching High Holy Days.

I love my full life. Every week people come to our place to celebrate Shabbat, and we eat good food in a home filled with love and half-packed boxes. Food is central to our lives. It's how my parents showed they loved me, and how I show up for my family and friends. In the midst of this chaos, we always have Shabbat.

I live in a beautiful community, full of incredible people. I want to show up for them, but it's hard sometimes to show up for myself. I rarely prioritize myself, and I don't know how to prioritize eating healthy and gym over my children's needs, my wife's needs, and my own stress. Since I found my scale, I have not gained weight, but this month I have not lost weight either. We have gone out to eat too much, and I haven't utilized my beautiful kitchen for healthy choices. I worry that as the summer comes to a close and the stressors of life do not diminish, that it will feel impossible to manage my health and responsibilities.

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