Out-Parenting A Parent
“To buy or not to buy, that is the question.”
My husband and I have been through this a lot. Is upgrading worth it? Is a newer home needed just so my son can attend a better high school or does it bolster our ego? How can a tiny home cramp three people, most of whom are away during most part of the day? We wage wars over tea cups on this, go back and forth and back again and hash out arguments over the loud noise of a dishwasher that has seen better days.
We justify neglecting a garden over this, mutter while we fork over repairs that comes with an old home, point out how much money goes down the drain in not upgrading and then bicker some more.
What we don’t bicker, argue or even talk about – is – how I need to upgrade my career. Yes, my son needs to attend a good school, yes, our old house needs repairs of every sort, (one day I found the ceiling fan literally hanging by the electrical cord from the ceiling three feet from the newly replaced floor: reducing me to a noise pitched between a scream and a squeak), and we need space for guests.
And to pay for all that, we need more money.
My husband is more than a bread winner, he keeps the ceiling fan running, the waters flowing and the washer running. Me, not so much. While his career has gone from strength to strength, mine has gone from dwindling to worse. There is a whole movie between quitting your job to surrendering self esteem and counting artistic income that is better not screened. I need a job desperately. The would be new house hinges on it, the new expenses hinge on it, my mid life crisis hinges on it. And I will never admit it to my closest family how much I need it.
It came to a close last week over dinner. We had done the rounds of back and forth once again till the impending doom of submitting a resume tipped me over the edge. Hell will part before I admit how scared I am of starting over a new career, so I launched into a tirade. Rule number one – find a weakest victim.
I turned to my 13 year old son, “ You know we need to buy a house just so you can get to a good high school, don’t you? If only you had prepared well for the entrance exam and gotten to Thomas Jefferson, we would not be having this problem. Do you know how hard it is to pay mortgage for house in a good school zone? You have any idea how hard it is to find a job in this market? Only if you had tried a bit harder for TJ!”
My husband freezes over his mashed potatoes, fork in midair. Stares aghast in my direction. I realize that plates don’t scrape themselves or spoons don’t clink by themselves and my anger rises. Final tempo, “ What will you do with your life without trying?”
My son puts down the spoon and takes a calm drink of water. Kid you not; he looks at me with the calm of a surgeon over a ruptured kidney and then utters the quiet rebuttal.
“What have you done about yourself, mom? You quit a job to start a business, then what? Do soaps and creams sell themselves? Do sales grow on trees? Have you ever tried to market your products more, take out ads, do fundraising, make youtube videos like I told you? You wanted to be an artist and follow your dreams, not end up a clerk? What job market are you talking about? The one you left because you hated it so much? Don’t get a job mom, make your business real. If you love what you do, then sell what you do. We don’t need a house, we need you to be happy!”
Ok, maybe not in that sequence. Maybe not even in perfect diction. But what he said seared me like a fillet and flipped me over like a fish on a hot pan. Judgement has been delivered. The same scrawny kid who encouraged me to open a business and be artistic the last 3 years, has given his verdict and I had failed in his estimation. Maybe I had failed as an artist. More importantly, I had failed as a mom.
Like a superb chef, he had mixed in guilt with asparagus, forked it over mashed potatoes, and fed me shame for dinner. I eat it piece by piece and swallow my pride whole. I raised a kid for 13 years.
I had been out-parented. And it cost way more than money.