My parents were good parents, and they were bad parents. Even at this distance I'm a little mixed up on how to deal with it all. They were human. They made mistakes. They did their best, and some of that best was very very good. And some of the bad was very very bad. You don't get to unmix all of the salt in the ocean.
There are the lessons that parents teach, some of them intentional and some of them unintentional. Sometimes the unintentional lessons overwhelm the ones we mean to teach. You cannot get me to believe that my parents wanted me to feel worthless and powerless and ashamed, unlovable unless I changed into something I couldn't change into - how do you get it into your head that you should be able to change into something your parents want so desperately, except that you just can't, and there's rage that anybody would want you to be something you aren't in order to earn their affection, and the despair that your parents, your parents, love you because they have to but really, really deserved somebody better, and all of it, all of it, is all your fault. How do you get all of that into your head, and how do you get it out again? These are the thought patterns of a confused little girl who only knows that she is bad. Wrong. Unworthy. I am an adult and I should know better, but that wounded little girl never went away. Never healed. Not fully.
I learned how to fail. I am very, very good at failing. I don't know how to succeed and view almost any of my successes with suspicion and doubt, as if they were accidental. And I know that all of the bad things that happen to me are all my fault, and all of the good things were because of other people. Not me. I'm not good at things. I'm too needy, too awful, too messed up in the head, too damaged, and my only really true talent is failure.
There's a stage I go through with every friendship where I wonder if I'm imposing, if I would be able to see the signs that I am no longer welcome, that I'm just too loud and overwhelming and needy and self-deprecating, and why would anybody with half a brain want me around anyway?
Here, as they say, be dragons. And these are big bad nasty types with teeth the length of your leg and dispositions worse than a United States Congressman.
It's a good thing they have tender noses and that I know how to whop them where it hurts. Because the good part about being a nominal grown-up is that you learn a few coping skills along the way. Sometimes that means arming yourself against the monsters that live in your own skull. And baby, I bristle with spikes and well-sharpened words. That little girl has a protector, it's me, and I'm big and battle scarred and I know I'm going to survive the hurt if it's coming, and that it isn't always going to be coming. I know that those paltry few accomplishments aren't that paltry and aren't that few and that there are more and bigger and better things coming - and I'm going to be the one doing battle and learning skills and laughing at it all.
Failing hurts. Being a failure hurts worse. I will have succeeded at the biggest goal of all if none of my children carry these ghosts into their adulthood. If what they hear at the heart of their world is that they are worthy, that they are just right just the way they are, if they know that they are delighted in and loved just as they are, O Gods of the Internet hear ye and be ye kind, let this be at the heart of their world, forever and always, and the ghost of my childhood will be laid to rest, content.