No one is ever a perfect parent. There aren’t any and so we are all pretty much screwed in some way or another. Life is just like that. It’s unfair and at times downright catastrophic.

I’m the child of an alcoholic. That makes a difference. My relationship with alcohol has always been steeped in fear and loathing. I do take an occasional drink, but I rarely finish it. I’ve never been drunk. I know I have an addictive personality (I can’t really stop eating chocolate and I’m both physically and emotionally addicted to coffee). For these reasons, I’ve also never done any street drugs and I’m willing to put up with pain rather than risk getting used to pain pills.

I watched my dad’s life spiral out of control. I watched the outbursts of anger. I watched the diminishment of mental faculties. I watched his life become less because he drank more. It seemed like such a waste. And it was terrifying for a small child to see this hero adult behave so badly, so out of his own control, so scary.

I made an active choice to not subject my own children to even the possibility of this type of life. We didn’t visit Dad if he was drinking and there was a likelihood of some violent rage outburst. I tried to minimize their exposure. I tried to minimize my own responses.

Even at the time, I used to ask my husband/their dad what the hell we were doing to mess up our kids. I knew what I wasn’t doing, but I didn’t know which mistakes I was making and how they would play out in the future.

We are told now that alcoholism is a disease and the patients can’t help it. I might buy into that in some measure, but my dad could go months without drinking and then months of drunkenness. He knew that first drink was going to be a months long journey into despair. And yet, he took that first drink. Over and over again. Only to hit bottom, climb out of the pit he had made for himself and his family, and sober up for a while. Only to start the cycle over again. And again. And again.

I wish my response to this early life had somehow prepared me better for what was to come. Instead, I inflicted a different set of issues onto my own children’s lives. And they are inflicting their own issues onto their kids and we are off to the races. And this is why there are no perfect parents.

I did my best, but I know it wasn’t enough. I watch my sons struggle and wish I could have somehow made their lives better, less traumatic.

But (and that negates everything I’ve already said) I think they have turned out to be (relatively speaking) wonderful men. They are conscientious and caring and loving husband/fathers and working successfully in careers that make a difference.

I like where they stand now. I’m not sure how they feel about the matter, but I’m proud of them and all they have done. They have stepped up when the world tried to knock them down. They behave responsibly, heroically, humanely.

The only way any of us can get to where we are, exactly, right this instant, was to follow the bumpy, detour littered road to this exact spot. We, each of us, had to deal with the demons we saw, overcome them as best we could, and strive to make our tiny corner of the world just a teeny bit better. If we aren’t completely satisfied with our current hot mess of a life (and no one really is) then we just have to pick up the shattered pieces of our lives, get out the superglue and put it all back together, and boldly march into an unknown future.

It’s the best we can do. It isn’t enough. It never was.

I suppose we parents need to take a course in forgiveness. Not for all those others, but for ourselves. We were raised with issues and we either passed those on or made up new ones. It’s the only way. Because we are only human.

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