“The literary equivalent of a summer night, a good friend and a gin-and-tonic: Shannon is a deft writer; a natural storyteller with a wicked turn of phrase and frighteningly specific memory...”

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What’s the Story Your Kids Tell About You?

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Punji Stick booby traps in The Nam!

I have daughters entering puberty while I simultaneously enter menopause. It’s an occasional Shitastrophy and I expect even more Punji Stick booby traps as their estrogen escalates and mine deteriorates.

It was during my pubescent years I began to shape the story I told about my parents to rein them in, make them smaller, more manageable, to quantify and diminish them so I could disempower their impact on who I became.

Before my adolescent cynicism kicked in I described my mom as the ravishing, raven-haired Beauty men could not resist.

Police officers pulled her over not to give her a ticket, but to get her phone number, even with my 7-year-old self riding shotgun giving them the stink eye.

My dad was larger than life. He’d pitched shut-outs in the Little League world series at age 12, winning the championship with his hurtling fast ball.

He’d won Handsomest Boy in high school and trod the boards as a thespian in college.

My unsuspecting, ravishing mom circa 1970

My unsuspecting, ravishing mom circa 1970

But as 13 approached, my perspective shifted.

My mom became the woman who chose to love difficult men. She cried too much, was unreliable, not solid.

My dad became the guy who talked, but didn’t listen. Who had to always be the center of attention. Who gave up pursuing baseball for a safe job at Hallmark cards.

By 20 they were no longer my heroes, but the characters in the uncharitable stories I told about them.

Life is giving me a taste of my own medicine, because I feel (or think I feel?) the story my children are just beginning to tell themselves about me.

At this adolescent crossroads, they still want to snuggle at night and be held, more or less, but I catch glimpses of that jaundiced, critical eye laser-focused in my direction.

Worst case scenario? I’m that wannabe actress who dated people who actually made it. The woman who retells the stories of her 20 Feet From Stardom when she’s had just a little too much red wine.

Dad, I'm still impressed you won the Little League World Series!

Dad, I’m still impressed you won the Little League World Series!

I’m the woman with the Big Personality who always has to be the center of attention by wearing shirts that show just a bit too much cleavage, inappropriately vertical high heels, long bushy blonde hair and a dollop of make-up every day.

I’m the mom who’s just a little bit scandalous. A marriage between Auntie Mame and Mae West. And, coming from my kids, that’s not a compliment.

As they enter puberty I find myself more self-conscious around them, not wanting them to label me, put me in a box and make me manageable the way I did my own parents.

I want them to really see me. To really know me. To understand my struggles and my victories. To feel proud of me.

As I write this, I realize these are the exact things they most likely want from me! But that’s for another post.

In the meantime, I’m trying to accept that it won’t be me who writes the narrative of my life story for them, rather they will edit and re-weave my story however they see fit.

I’ll have to accept whatever it is they must do to individuate from me and forge their own paths. defining their own lives.

And that self-definition will be only theirs … right up until they have children of their own.

Parenting Issues. What are the stories you tell about your parents? And the stories your children tell about you? How do you not take it personally and sell them to gypsies?

Clare's disapproval was a bit daunting even when she was two!

Clare’s disapproval was a bit daunting even when she was two!

And ... get out of my space mom!

And … get out of my space mom! I think you see what I’m dealing with here.



5 comments

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  1. Ice Scream Mama
    Ice Scream Mama 21 July, 2014, 09:57

    i so get this. it’s amazing how our perceptions change as we do. but i say have hope, when we’re in our 20’s and more mature or when we become mothers, i think we can appreciate our parents again for who they really are. not villains not heroes, just humans who love us.

    and i’m impressed with your dad’s Little league win. that rocks.

    Reply this comment
  2. Kyra Jane
    Kyra Jane 21 July, 2014, 12:59

    Ouch. This one hit a little too close to home. I say ouch because sometimes I deserve their judgment. But luckily they still seem to like me okay. It’s hard to always act your best for the people who love you most.

    Reply this comment
    • Shannon
      Shannon Author 21 July, 2014, 13:24

      Hi Kyra -I feel you. We’ve been joined at the hip the last three weeks and are starting to get relationship cabin fever.

      Reply this comment
  3. Sally
    Sally 21 July, 2014, 17:31

    It’s tough watching your babies change and grow into young adults. It isn’t just the judgement. There is the pain of watching them head toward the same mistakes you made as they ignore your advice. You go from being the one they trust to know everything, to some boob who probably couldn’t find their backside with both hands. I guess I put my own parents through something similar though. I’m sure they’re looking down and getting a giggle out of it, but I also think they’d tell me that it is all normal, and that this phase too shall pass. I guess we’ll find out.

    Reply this comment
    • Shannon
      Shannon Author 22 July, 2014, 09:56

      Hi Sally, I must steal your “boob who probably couldn’t find their backside with both hands.” I feel you mamacita. We need to touch base in about 10 years.

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