Expectations & perceptions: the parent conundrum

07/02/2008

As parents, we all have expectations of our children, whether about their achievements in school, the career that they will have as adults, the people that they will date, the families that they may build. From a very young age, unwittingly, we inflict these expectations on our offspring. It's a natural thing.

But the past days had me reflecting on my child's expectations of me, as a result of the sequence of playdates that we have been subjected to over the past week due to spring break. Our first little friend knows us well, comes over to play all the time, as she lives just a few doors down the road. She knows V. has two mommies, has questioned her parents about it, but simply accepts it as a natural given fact. The same applies to the children in V.'s class, who are mostly aware that V. may be picked up by any of her two mommies. And this lunchtime saw my munchkin proudly telling her friend's mum that she had two mummies.

I gather from the last remark, and the fact that she points us out at school, screeching - look, there's ??? - that she is largely happy with the state of affairs. We are routinely cuddled, kissed and told that she loves us. But let's face it, she's 3. At this point, she simply accepts us without bias.

As parents, though, we look at other parents and we reserve judgments. So and so's mother feeds her 3-year old crisps and diet Coke for an afternoon snack. There's the welfare mum smoking her butt. The mother who never picks up her child, sending the nanny instead. The fashion model who styles her daughter to match her outfits. The dykey looking mum who is straight. The single mum, who is desperately in search of a new man in her life, and who flirts with every dad on the parent committee, whether single or committed. The lesbian.

I wish I could have a camera to look at myself at the schoolgate. What would I see? Most days I wear Puma sneakers or boots with 2.5-inch heels, jeans, a 3/4 length green or black double-breasted coat, scarf, large purse on arm or banana slung across my chest. Depending on the day (and the workload) my hair is up in a bun, or hanging loose over my shoulders. If I remember before I dash out to catch the tram, I'll wear some lipstick. I think I look pretty run of the mill.

But how will my daughter look at me in 3, 7, 10 years even? What will she see? Will she see her mother, just another woman, a big lesbo? Who am I? Who will I be for her?

On her birth certificate I am listed as her mother.

On application forms, I find myself referred to as one of two parents, but I have to scratch out the word father and having to replace it with mother 2. I always do this with a sigh of irritation. The city's software has been adapted to accommodate newly composed families, but not yet same-sex families.

At school and in our neighbourhood, I am one of V's two mommies.

So how will she explain us to the world as time goes by?

Will she always look at us with love in her eyes?

Will I always be her mother?

And if so, how can I protect her easily bruised feelings?

They don't organize self-defence courses for young hearts yet.

4 messages:

callmesig said...

"As parents, though, we look at other parents and we reserve judgments. So and so's mother feeds her 3-year old crisps and diet Coke for an afternoon snack. There's the welfare mum smoking her butt. The mother who never picks up her child, sending the nanny instead. The fashion model who styles her daughter to match her outfits. The dykey looking mum who is straight. The single mum, who is desperately in search of a new man in her life, and who flirts with every dad on the parent committee, whether single or committed. The lesbian."

You are part of life's rich tapestry and society gets more used to gay lifestyles as each year goes by which is good. Just imagine if V had been born 20 or even 10 years ago? Would have been nigh on impossible!

Is natural to worry about your children though, as that's a parent's job!! :P

Fresco said...

I think you worry too much.
I think a child will always love the person who brought him/her up.
Whether it’s a person labelled mum, dad, aunt, grand mother, gay uncle, whatever.
It’s the person who counts.
Trust me, she will love you, her mummy, even if she calls you Lula de Montes, for ever.

Piglet said...

You know, no matter what happens, kids are always loyal to their parents. We have no other option, we're all born that way. And throughout our lives we try to repay the "debt" we owe to our parents, because they gave us life and a home and everything... there's no way anyone can ever repay that. But we try anyway. As an adult and a teenager you might hate (or think you hate) your parents, but a tiny bit of you will always be loyal to them and love them. That's why it hurts so much when people try to break with their families.

But even despite all that... despite the theory and the generalisms, reading your blog and this post, the love you feel for your daughter and your girlfriend/wife practically jumps from the pages. And parents who worry if they're doing the right thing... they're not the parents who screw up.

Lula de Montes said...

Thanks for your comments. It is an uphill road though, quite a breathtaking challenge, some days. But no regrets at all. We love our little munchkin so much. I was looking at photos of the day she was born yesterday, and looked up to see a healthy 3-year old come running towards me. The feelings of warmth that engulf you are indescribable.

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