My mother used to make me promise her I’d never have children.
“They’ll only disappoint you,” she’d say.
Though I let her know I took her words more than a little bit personally, she insisted she was only trying to give me some sound advice – the kind of thing her mother never would have done for her.
I learned early on in life that the most offensive thing I could do to my mother was to suggest that she was anything like her own. But even through my turbulent teens, I used the insult sparingly – mostly to make sure it never lost its razor-sharp edge.
I asked my mom the other day just what was so bad about growing up with my grandma.
Most of her complaints seemed pretty typical.
She talked about how she was only allowed to buy clothes from the discount store, which was a source of embarrassment in school. And how despite my mother’s distaste for liver and onions, it frequently showed up as her only option on the dinner table. My grandma, my mother told me, was never sympathetic to her complaints about being bored.
“Go say the Rosary,” she’d tell her.
Hearing her gripes made it apparent how hard my mother tried not to repeat the same habits. Though I always chose comfort over style when it came to clothes, she would insist I update my wardrobe and take part in the latest trends. At dinner every night, there was always an array of options that took into account the particular tastes of my brothers and me. And I certainly couldn’t complain that I was bored as kid. From sports teams to music lessons to art classes, it seemed I was signed up for everything imaginable.
But when I think back to my childhood, those aren’t the memories that come to forefront. I think about the times I wasn’t allowed to go to sleepovers because my best friend’s parents had a woodstove and my mom thought the house would burn down. Or how I couldn’t go swimming in a lake because she was scared I might drown. Or when she told me not to have kids because they were only a disappointment.
The thought of having children of my own is not even close to being in the realm of my reality right now, but when I do think about it, I think about how I careful I would be not to let my own fears and insecurities interfere with my children’s lives, like my mother did.
But regardless of whether I don’t repeat her mistakes, I’m sure I’ll make a slew of my own. And that’s the one thing that makes me think maybe I shouldn’t have kids at all – not because they’d disappoint me, but because I know I would disappoint them.