I catch myself thinking about, oh I don't know, everything - all the time! My mind, unfortunately, seems to be always turned "on". I believe they call this continual self-awareness. Let me tell you, this is a very exhausting state of mind. For those who don't know what I'm talking about, let me share my burden.
Basically, I'm always looking at people, wondering how they're looking back at me. I know, it sounds pretty silly or selfish or something, but what can I do; my mind goes where it goes? Believe me, I have tried to "turn it off", but I just don't quite have the mental discipline yet. So the other day I was getting all reflective and thinking about my new life and how different it is from other families and how it's even different than my own childhood. Again, I know this seems like a pointless mental exercise and really, that is what makes it so exhausting and so frustrating. It's like my mind just takes off on this tangent headed toward infinity and there's nothing I can do about it, except look out the window and wonder when I'll be coming back.
For some reason, my thoughts always seem to come back to how difficult it must be for single parents. I've always had the utmost respect for single parents because of all the challenges they have to overcome. Imagine all the decisions they have to make, now add in the laundry list of mundane responsibilities they have to fight through day in and day out. It would literally drive me insane. I sit here and imagine them thinking to themselves, "Okay, what battles do I feel like fighting today?" I really do think the world of folks who are in that situation, because you know, they're just doing the best they can. How different my life would be if I didn't have both parents there, especially my dad.
I've said this before, but I had a fairly normal childhood and what I like to think of as a normal adulthood. For example, I had a job just like my dad. I bought a house just like my dad. I got married and had kids like my dad. I even had a dog like my dad. I guess you could say, I grew up only knowing that I would like to have the kind of life my dad had, that is, when he was an adult.
You see, when he was just 16 years old, he was kicked out of his house by his dad - a card carrying alcoholic. If I remember the story correctly, he left Wichita, KS and went to Texas with a buddy of his. This was back before cell phones and credit cards. So here you have this kid traveling a couple of states away from his house, with no real means or idea of what to do! He just took life for what it was and made the best of it. Through a set of circumstances, he wound up going back to Wichita and later joined the Army. His childhood sounded pretty unstable to me. I can see why he didn't want to grow up to be like his dad. But with me, that wasn't the case at all.
I admired my dad for all he had overcome and accomplished. He was truly a self-made man. Not a man of means, but a man of conviction and purpose. When he made up his mind, there was none of this, "well, maybe we shouldn't do this", or "lets wait until we know everything there is to know". He never suffered from analysis paralysis. In that regard, I wish I was more like him.
Up until a few months ago, I had carved out a life similar to my dad's. Now, that I'm staying at home, I've often wondered what he would think. Would he be disappointed that I'm not bringing home the bacon or would he find a certain degree of pride in our decisions? I'd like to think he'd find the joy in what we've done. Because he wasn't only a self-made man, he was a man that understood his children's lives were not his and that we had to make our own path in this world. He used to tell us that we can't live our lives for him. Whatever decisions we made, had to be made based on what was in our own best interest. We were not to think about the consequences in time or distance that it would have in relation to seeing them.
Having been given that freedom has in turn, made me terribly loyal to this man. It has made me want to be there for him and Mom no matter what. I would gladly put my life on hold, if it meant helping my parents. My dad died about four years ago, leaving our mom to our care. She is on the downhill slide of Alzheimer's which she has had for about twenty years now. As I've blogged earlier, my two sisters and I have gladly and without reservation, decided to care for her. We share in the joys of her smile and the tears of her forgetful stares. It's not that easy, I'll be honest with you.
I wonder if my kids will be as fiercely loyal to us when we get old? I guess, only time will tell. But one thing I do know is that loyalty doesn't come from giving them a Wii or taking them to a Jonas Brothers concert. It comes from knowing that, as a parent, you've done all you can to love and support your kids. Your children need to know the decisions you make are in the family's best interest and not theirs alone; that sacrifice is something everyone does, including them. I believe that is a great recipe for raising kids. I know it's not the only recipe, but it does seem to be one that works.