Different Parents

My sister told me one time that she and Mom used to take walks together near Lake Babcock in our home town of Columbus. Though I was already in my 60s when she told me about these intimate little adventures she and Mom had together, I reacted like a 5-year-old. At least in my mind. I might have said out loud something like Well, isn’t that so nice through gritted teeth, but inside I was seething. I never went for a single walk alone with Mom. Not Lake Babcock (to which you had to drive); not around our block. No walks for us. None.

I come from a family of four kids, and I am the second oldest. There is five years between Bec and me; Jen and I are four years apart; Dave is the baby, being a mere two years younger than Jen. In case you aren’t familiar with the new Common Core math being taught in today’s schools, that’s 11 years between Bec and Dave.

What occurred to me is that we all had different parents. Oh, stop gasping. Marg and Reinie fathered and mothered all of us. But the truth is, each of us were in our formative years at a different time of Mom and Dad’s lives.

Bec was 5 years old when I was born. Frankly, she couldn’t have been too damn glad to welcome me into the home. She was Mom and Dad’s first-born. She was also the first-born paternal grandchild. She was adorable and smart as a whip. One time Dad and Mom dressed her up in bakery attire, and used the photo as Christmas card. Isn’t that sweet?

And then I came along. Not only did Mom and Dad have a 5-year-old, but the bakery business was going well. That also kept both of them busy. They had an inquisitive kindergartner to handle, and a baby who, though I surely was as cute as the Gerber baby, I still pooped and puked and woke them up in the middle of the night. Four years later, along came Jen, and the window of opportunity for me to go for walks with Mom closed amidst the cries of this premature baby.

And so it went. All of what I’m saying isn’t confined to our family alone. All families face these kinds of realities. Our family was different in that we were all spread so far apart in age.

By time Jen was at an age where it was reasonable to think that she and Mom could enjoy a walk together, Bec was off to college, and I was in high school. If Mom had asked me to go for a walk instead of, say, hang out with my boyfriend, I would have looked like the proverbial deer in the headlights.

Dave’s experience as Mom and Dad’s child was significantly different than that of the rest of his sibs. He started working in the bakery as a kid, as did we all. But his role was different. Dad was teaching him everything he knew about baking. He was passing along his knowledge which he undoubtedly hoped Dave would absorb. Dave did, in fact, absorb it, and went on to be the outstanding baker he is today. Mom was in her mid-30s when she had Dave, and was working full-time at the bakery. She also had a two-year-old toddler, who, frankly, wasn’t too happy to have a baby brother.

The truth is, we parent according to our abilities, but also according to our time constraints and, frankly, our age. We look lovingly into the eyes of our fourth-born a lot less than we did our first-born. We are more likely to be looking lovingly at our bed.

I’m happy to say that all of us survived and have become productive and loving adults.