Only So Much You Can Do

I was talking with a new mom the other day who is all anxious about doing exactly the right things so that her baby grows up to be a happy and healthy person, not too selfish, not too wishy-washy, not a quitter, but not trapped into doing things he doesn’t like because he doesn’t want to disappoint others.

And, since I have known this new mom her whole live, which is practically all of mine, we talked for a long time about our family.

She’s upset because the son of our dead cousin isn’t that interested in staying connected with his dad’s side of the family. And I’m upset because of my brother’s ways. So, we talked about that for a long time. She wanted to know if I thought my brother should have been brought up differently. And I said yes, but I also said that I’m not sure how much of a difference it would have made to the fundamental nature of him.  It would have been easier on him, I know. And lord knows, he deserved easier.

But sometimes crap happens and I get so pissed and the Butcher will look at me and say, “What’s your problem? He’s always been like that.” And the truth is that he has.

So, she and I talked about that, too, about how you want to think, especially in our family, where the narrative of us all being “The Phillipses” is so strong, that we are all alike in some core way and in it together. But your kid can be different than you, very different.  And your efforts to make yourself understand him as like you lead to some heartbreaking situations.

She, I think, wanted assurances that, if she played her cards right, her kid would end up like the non-fucked up members of the family and not like the fucked up ones.  But she’s pretty sure that there’s only so much you can do. At some point, a kid is an individual and going to make his own choices.

I didn’t tell her that the thing that has finally brought me peace is to realize that we are all fucked up. Being fucked up is being like us.

It’s hard to explain. And maybe I’d be more stressed out if I had kids.

But it’s like, first there is a family, then there is no family, then there is. It’s a cheesy song, but god damn it, it’s also profound.

Eh, I don’t know where I was going with this. And the baby’s not a boy; that just made it easier to write this post.