When I was a kid it meant everything to me that my sisters would feel loved. I played out every perfect-mother-cliché that I saw in a movie or read in a book, said every right word, did every right thing, well, the young adult interpretation of the right thing at least.
Overbearing father, busy mother, blah blah blah, and my perfect baby sisters, two little dolls to dress up, and brush their hair, and cook for, and help out with homework, and teach them how to tell time, and build up my ego knowing that I was necessary to them, to make up for my feeling unnecessary where I should have felt paramount.
This post is not supposed to be a parent-rant, although I can see that’s where it’s heading. I just suddenly remembered today, strongly, vividly, how much I loved my sisters when we were little. And I love them truly today, as an adult. But when we were younger it was different. It was like I was their mother. Parents usually say that until you have kids, you don’t know how much love you’re capable of feeling, how protective you’ll be of your little ones. But that wasn’t true in my case. I knew, because that’s how I felt about my sisters. I wanted to protect them. I wanted to teach them. I would have done anything in the world for them and they knew it. And it made all the difference to me knowing that they had someone in their lives that they knew would do anything in the world for them. Not just in a life and death situation, but even if they just had a cold and needed to be spoiled.
So I got a lot out of our childhood relationship, for sure. They helped me fill a void that slowly grew in me, to shut up that voice that always told me that I was unworthy. I proved myself worthy to them. And then they grew up, and I needed to take care of someone more helpless than they were, so I got all these male friends at school that had issues and I mothered them, secretly falling for most of them, embracing the pain of unrequited love as if it were a trophy.
When I met BD, one of the first things I loved about him was how he took care of me. He was the first person in my life to do that in the totality that I had fantasized about my whole life. I’m sure you’re imagining me as this neglected kid with overgrown fingernails, but I was really well taken care of. And I knew that I was loved, too. And if something really horrible had happened, my parents would be there without any doubt, I’m sure of that. It’s just that totality that I was craving. The worrying about whether I would be cold without a jacket, or what time I would get back home. Whose house I was sleeping over at, if I had a sandwich for school, or it I woke up on time in the morning. It’s not that they didn’t care, they had their hands full and I was very self-contained.
The first time I ever got sick and BD took care of me, I was elated. In pain, but elated. He was all over the place, making me tea and soup, and getting me those extra soft tissues with the aloe in them, and bringing me the remote and checking in with me every twenty minutes. And there were other things too, like he hated it if I wore shear clothes, because he didn’t want anyone else having a look at what belonged to him. And he’d threaten to beat up anyone who messed with me, and though he was the geeky type and didn’t mean it seriously, it was romantic and his intentions were what counted.
Now I understand, BD showed me what it was to be loved in totality, to be taken care of, the way I had only taken care of others in the past but had rarely been on the receiving end. It was OK to cry with him, crying didn’t make me a wuss, and he never expected me to ‘just get over it’. He’d just hug me and tell me it would be OK. Sometimes that’s all a girl needs.
Even this week, as I told him I didn’t want to live together anymore, through tears, he still found it in him to console me. And I thought to myself – am I making a huge mistake? What am I giving this up for? I have a man who loves me incredibly, who wants to spend his whole life making up for his mistakes.
But the thing is, that I don’t need BD in order to be on the receiving end anymore. I am already on the receiving end of so much love and care and warmth. My gorgeous son, who blows me a kiss in the morning when I say goodbye to him at daycare, and hugs my legs when I come back to pick him up. I mother him, and I’m supposed to mother him! Isn’t that awesome? I have my friends whom I can tell things about my life, pretty or not, and they’ll accept anything without a hint of judgment. I have two beautiful sisters whose future kids will one day be my Boy’s baby cousins, and whom I fantasize about us raising together, with the ideals of parenthood that we all share.
I tend to get emotional and needy when I’m sick. I start thinking about how I can’t really handle things on my own. Thank god, after I stop throwing up, and I did eventually yesterday, I sober up and remember what’s real. Sitting on a park bench with my friend R and telling him about my aspirations, and hearing that he loves me and receiving his embrace. He believes that I’ll get there, and so do I, and if my son could speak, he’d tell me that he believes in me too.