While I'm away, readers give the advice.
Choosing to break free and end cycle of abuse, dysfunction
On so many topics we discuss here that it transcends categorization: Both of my parents were alcoholics. My father was physically and sexually abusive to me — couldn't take it out on Mom! — and my mother was mentally abusive to me. Her life sucked, so mine would, too.
I did learn a great lesson about marriage and children from my parents: Break the cycle.
I let others abuse me, even as an adult, because I was taught that was what I deserved. It took a long time before I realized this is now my life, not the one I was born into, and that I could decide.
And I decided to raise my children the complete opposite of how I was raised.
I have been married for 27 years (after three tries) to a wonderful, patient man who is my best friend and understands when I say I will not budge on certain things.
And we have raised two beautiful, happy children who may never know the whole story.
I know I made mistakes along the way, every parent does, but my kids learned through observation and word that they have choices, too.
It's okay for a parent not to be ecstatic at every stage
L: On becoming a parent despite reservations about the baby years: I would never encourage anyone to have kids they don't want, but, to would-be parents, I say don't buy the hype that everyone finds every stage super enjoyable and there's something mega-wrong with you if you don't immediately bond with unspeakable passion to your child. Some people have that experience, but the dirty little secret of parenthood is just as many don't.
I viewed the first year as an endurance test, which it was. But by giving myself permission not to feel guilt over not feeling ecstatic 24/7, I also wasn't a cranky put-upon nightmare for that year — it just was what it was.
I had primed myself that I might not really like anything up until age 5 or so, and it turns out I was wrong, and I find toddlers really neat. It turned out to be such a hoot to watch my son develop from a big pile of need into a little person. We're going from 2 to 3 now, which is a little less fun (hello, terrible twos), but he's still a funny little person.
One of the other mothers in my son's day care class just had her second child and she looked at me and said, "Here we go again — grow baby grow!" because she readily admits she's not fond of the newborn stage, which I find healthier than pretending she's over the moon. Not being thrilled doesn't automatically make you a grudging parent, nor does it necessarily spill over to the child. Sometimes I may be screaming inside my head when I have to make the Elmo puppet sing for the 1,000th time, but sing we do, and my son is happy.
I knew about myself that I was fundamentally responsible, had good coping skills, and work from the fundamental assumption that I can handle what I have to, and you just keep taking things one step at a time. It never occurred to me that I couldn't be a parent, just that I might not like every stage.