In the shower this morning, I had an epiphany about why I am who I am. It stems from a moment when I was just on the cusp of the precarious childhood-adolescent line, maybe 12 tops. I was arguing with my mother about the unfairness of life and how if only she had done this differently and done that differently, I could be a genius and my artistic talents would be masterful. I was ranting and launching pointed accusations about the perceived failures of my upbringing. I remember my mother staying very still and quiet through it all. When I was done and looked to her for justification of my imperfect life, she gently shook her head and with slightly misty eyes said six words that have never left me.
We did the best we could.
I’m not sure that she knew just what an impact that phrase had on me. Through these simple words, I suddenly became aware that my parents were not mythical beings who had all the answers and resources I ever dreamed of. They didn’t make choices based on whether to torture me or hold me back or deprive me, they made them out of love and need. They were just humans. Humans who were doing the best they could with what they had. It’s weird, but it changed my entire outlook on life.
For me, the teenage years were an egocentric time; One where you were supposed to live without any concern of how your actions had an impact on others. In that horribly judgemental and materialistic age, it was all about us and our lives. Every thing that happened to those around us should only be important because of how it could impact our lives. Screw your parents, they were only there to f*ck you over and make your life unbearable.
I saw this attitude in many of my peers and was often pulled to adopt the same mentality. But I couldn’t. Because I’d seen the other side. I knew…
They did the best they could.
I think this was the secret of how I avoided those horrible, selfish, over-dramatic teen years. No, I wasn’t an angel and yes, I gave my parents their fair share of heartache and panic. But overall I was a good kid who, deep-down, always kept my family’s best interests at heart. Like most of my cohorts, I came from a good, loving family. But unlike most of them, I didn’t blame my parents for my shortfalls or see them as the ones who ruined my life. (And don’t get me wrong, these were not unusually horrible kids. They were just the quintessential teenagers.)
A lot of kids never have this “Ah ha” moment. And the sad thing is, you can’t force this knowledge on your kids. You can’t make them see that your very point in living and being is to make their lives as wondrous and fulfilling as humanly possible. That you bust your ass every day at a job you hate so that they can go to art classes and drama camp, play soccer, have a safe home and clean clothes. Children can’t see it. We need to keep this information from them to keep them innocent through their childhood. And then in the blink of an eye, they’re surly and self-centred and don’t want to see it.
But I did. Thanks to my mum and her six words and her perfect timing. I saw it. And I never forgot it. And now that I’m a mum, I know that in about ten years I’ll be desperately looking for that brief window of opportunity so that I can let Hayden in on this nugget of knowledge. Wishing and praying that I find that perfect moment for his “Ah ha” revelation and that he too becomes a better person for it.