Parental Bons Mots

Last week, when my parents were over for dinner, they witnessed my daily skirmish with Chickadee over piano practice. She loves her lessons but, as with most kids, being forced to practice daily is the worst form of torture. I'm completely unreasonable, hard-hearted, and lacking in even the tiniest smidgeon of compassion or empathy (she hasn't said as much, but I remember how I felt about being 'made' to practice my clarinet).

So the bons mots in question came about when my mother, in what I think was an attempt to be supportive, said it was important to keep after Chickadee with the practicing, to teach her responsibility, etc. Then she said "I'm really sorry we didn't push you harder when you were growing up."

Meaning what, exactly? My insecure, paranoid mind immediately wonders "Am I a disappointment to them? Have I failed to measure up to some unspecified expectations? What is it about me that makes them regret how I was raised?"

Not pleasant things to contemplate, and I've been mulling them over, off and on, for almost a week now. Part of the problem is that I have a More Successful Younger Sibling, and I always feel that I fare poorly in comparison. Conventional family wisdom, repeated at regular intervals by my mother, is that I'm smarter but my sister works harder. And she married a very bright overachiever. They have a fabulous house in the city, a huge circle of friends (as an introvert, I'd find that overwhelming, but my mother, a devout extrovert, thinks it's very desirable), and have spent the last year and a half living in Europe. I have a townhouse in distant suburbia, a small circle of friends, and children.

But I have wonderful children, a man I absolutely adore, and no real desire for more. Aside from an occasional bout of maternally-induced insecurity, I'm quite content with my life. While living in Europe would be a great experience, I wouldn't trade it for a single day with my kids. More money would be nice, but it wouldn't significantly change my life. I would still do the same things with the same people.

I love my sister, and count her as one of my best friends. But I don't want her life. I want my life, the one I'm living right now.

And, once I've fought off the fear that I've somehow disappointed my parents, I remember another thing my mother said to me, several years ago: "We think you're one of the nicest people your father and I know."

And that, to me, is worth more than she'll ever know.