I wish to be a kid instead of a parent to my parents

By Jennie Bentley, April 21, 2020

Read time: 4 Mins

I wish to be a kid instead of a parent to my parents Image

I never got to have my childhood.

My first memory of my parents fighting was when we were at the airport. We had about 5-6 bags of luggage which also included some boxes. There was an escalator and stairs. No elevator. My mom was screaming at my father to help find a way to get this luggage from point A to point B. My father in-turn pulling his classic silent act and throwing his hands in the air. The more she yelled, the less he said. Classic anxious and avoidant types. They wanted to get this luggage up to the next floor. So, I, as the only child of two parents who constantly fought in circles…I had to find a solution.

While my parents were still at each other’s throats I pushed each piece of luggage one by one onto the escalator step. Until my parents turned around and saw me at the top with all our luggage pushed together in a fashion from each of it pushing the other one out of the way.

My mom laughed the way she always does when I do something impressive. As if any achievement of mine must be a reflection of her and how great she is as a mom. My father was glad the fight was over and went up the escalator first to make sure I was okay.

When I was 16 my father and I moved out from my moms. He didn’t know how to cook anything besides the basics of eggs, spaghetti and tinned sauce, and anything that you could stick in the microwave. My mom made a point to never teach me how to cook. My second month living out of home I called her to ask how to cook tofu and she told me that the only way was to eat it raw. Then she said she will cook a container of it for me and I can come pick it up. She has a way of manipulating you to need her. I heard my mother and father fight on the phone one day shortly after. Her voice was loud and his phone was old so I could hear her saying he was incompetent and didn’t know how to cook or be a proper parent to a household.

I walked to the shops and bought tofu, vegetables, a pack of rice and some soy sauce. Needless to say I learnt how to cook for both of us, and now after all these years I can tell you that there’s more than one way to cook tofu – and I’ve tried and mastered all of them.

In the early years of my 20s my mom started to call me late at night. At first I would answer and deal with the criticisms she’d lay on me time and time again, the way she always knew just what to say to make my blood boil and I took the bait – and to be honest it took me many years until I finally stopped answering her calls. It was when she called me late at night crying asking why I had left her, how I made my father leave her, that all she ever did was love me and care for me, and that without a family she didn’t know why she was on this earth and that she was depressed and that it was my fault. I had already heard my father sobbing in the other room from a similar conversation with her just over an hour ago – the unbelievable pressure she laid on his shoulders then came to put on mine, only difference was with his conversation she blamed him. I tried to console her the best I could, telling her that there are other things in life she should be focusing on, threw a few positive it-will-get-better quotes at her, and assured her that she’s not a failure. I did the best I could with that call and I did what I always do… became a parent to my parents. I decided I wouldn’t be her fix anymore to boost her self-worth whilst at the same time be the punching bag for her anger and blame. Now I limit our interactions to emails only and I don’t reply unless it is urgent.

I was cultivated in an environment that forced me to grow up at a speed I was not ready for. I had to face the harsh reality that your parents are human beings with flaws – and I witnessed this way. too. soon. I became the daughter of two people who were barely making it, who didn’t love each other, who didn’t love themselves, and who were not right for each other. One was too disciplinarian and the other believed a child should roam free and do whatever they want.

It was me who had to find the solution of being the perfect in-between for both them and myself.

But fuck, I yearn for a childhood. 

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