Parental baggage

Most of us inherit some psychological “baggage” from our parents.  The stuff we carry around for a lifetime which makes us who we are; the stuff we try to unload or understand at some point if we’re lucky.

When we become parents, we continue the cycle, loading baggage onto our own kids, the stuff that will someday cause them to unload or understand.

As a parent, I have felt a huge amount of guilt for the baggage I loaded onto my kids.  The stuff I did, didn’t do, should have done, could have done, wish I had done.  I had a long, long list.

Now that my kids are grown they don’t complain about the stuff on my list.  Although I’m sure they have their own lists–whether or not they will ever tell me.  And I sometimes wonder what’s on their lists–what will send them onto the shrink’s couch someday?  What have I done that has taken root deep down in their psyches, and  affected the lives of my children, and could prevent them from moving forward with their lives?

I got at least part of the answer when Alli came for a wedding this past weekend.  Actually I got the answer before she even left Texas.  She called from her apartment a few hours before they were about to leave and said:  “Mom, you have really failed me.”

I’m thinking to myself, “So here it is.  I’ve been waiting 24 years for this.”

If you read my blog about how obsessed I was over my cat, you can imagine the kind of neurotic mother I’ve been.  And immediately I start thinking of all the ways I’ve failed my daughter.  Does she mean the time I turned my back and she burned her hand on the car muffler?  Does she mean that I created emotional instability by getting divorced and moving her away from her dad?  Does she mean how I traumatized her educational development by enrolling her in 15 different playgroups and preschools before she was 3 years old?  Does she mean the spiritual confusion I created by sending her to a Catholic middle school at the same time she was going to Hebrew school to study for her Bat Mitzvah?

I steel myself for the answer. Is she getting divorced?  Is she joining a cult?  Whatever it is, I’ll handle it.

“Mom, you’ve really failed me by not teaching me how to pack a suitcase.  I can’t decide what to take.”

I got a kick out of that.  This is Alli, who managed a UPS store for years and can instantly size up a pile of assorted items and tell you what size carton it will require.  Alli, who twice packed up a U-Haul trailer on her own while her husband was in Iraq, and moved it back and forth between states.  I’m laughing to myself, thinking someone this capable can handle the challenge of a 3-day trip.

20 hours later, they pull up to the house. And now I’m thinking, maybe she was right about the lapse in my parenting; apparently I did fail to teach her how to pack a suitcase.


Oh, there are suitcases under there.

Plus 5 blankets and 3 pillows (one a body pillow).    Plus complete outfits for the two wedding events.    Plus a computer, keyboard and a hard drive.   Plus all the stuff her husband brings, including 3 army uniforms and combat boots.

And inside Alli’s suitcase, in addition to wedding outfits,  lingerie, socks, and personal items, are :   7 pairs of pants, 7 jackets, 3 sweatshirts, 12 pairs of shoes, and 36  T-shirts.  For 3 days.

So go figure.  Some of the baggage Alli got from me, really IS baggage.

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  1. rachel says

    There is no doubt this girl is your daughter.. I can just remember one of the last times you were here in MD and YOUR suitcase. I think I need to come out there and give the whole family a seminar on organized packing..

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