An interesting life

But why?

What exactly is a "good" parent? I told my friend Wally the other night, "Don't worry, you're going to be a great dad." But why? Because he's a good person? Because he's mature? Because he knows right from wrong?

My mother, in jest, told my brother, the Christmas before he and Stef adopted the , after she and my father had given them a hefty chunk of change towards the adoption costs, "I own part of this now. Which means I get a say in how he will be raised." My brother responded, "What makes you think I wouldn't raise him the same way you raised us?"

Of course he would. Well, my BROTHER would, because my mother raised us well. Certainly well enough to be used as a model for my brother.

She was a good mother. She is still a good mother. She is, admittedly, a better mother now than she was, but some of that is due to practice, some of it's due to the maturity of her ren--she's not responsible for us in the same way she was before.

I cannot say the same thing for my father. For one reason or another--I've mentioned some of them before--he wasn't around very much back then, physically or emotionally. He never really "parented." That's what my mother did.

She wasn't very nurturing. In fact, she's a lot more maternal now than she was when we were growing up. Her parenting revolved around order and control. I understand this: she didn't have a lot of control over some other areas of our lives. So, growing up, I thought she was a Nazi. (In the euphemistic, slangy way). No EVER had a room that was to be kept as spotless as ours were. (Even now she thinks the house in a mess, where other people wonder if anyone even LIVES in it).

I was the oldest. I didn't have a curfew until one night, at 15, I didn't come home until 2:30 in the morning. My biggest sins growing up: getting caught making a prank phone call in junior high and subsequently "running away," bringing home less than a B in anything, breaking curfew, and once I got caught with a beer. Oh, and once, I stayed out all night and didn't tell her. These were the things she knew about. The list doesn't really get more heinous than that: R-rated movies, drinking, smoking a little weed, keg parties, heavy petting and in college I had a very bad habit of running up library fines. Nothing particularly unusual unless you're Amish or something.

Did I feel guilty? About some things, not all. A lot of my friends' parents were far more indulgent and lenient: about most things I felt as if I were just keeping up. I was given limits--I rebelled against them, sure, but I was always thankful that I had them to rebel against. It's trite, I know, but those limits really made me feel loved. I can remember feeling a little sorry for those I knew who were allowed to do whatever, whenever. I couldn't put my finger on why, but I knew I was happy for the limits I had, even if I didn't already like them. And I was right. I look now at some of those people with limitless parents and I see how they are living, or how they've lived. I'm glad I didn't have everything they had, because now I have so much more.

I wasn't into drugs or violence or, for that matter, sex. I was president of my CYO, for christ's sake. But, as a good parent, she did let me make my own mistakes--I suffered the consequences, but she didn't sneak around and follow me, call the numbers I left, listen to my phone calls. As a result, I was able to get away with more than she would have liked, but she knew I wouldn't get into too much trouble. Frankly, in Belleville, IL in the mid-80s there wasn't much trouble to be found. And I didn't.

Those people who know me, who knew me, who knew my mother would argue that she was a great parent. One of the best, really.