During the few times I allowed myself to think of a future as a parent, I never imagined that imparting wisdom derived from my experiences would include how to survive abuse. Nor did I picture myself and my future child having discussions about psychiatric medications.
My mother taught me how to sew intricate Vogue patterns, and then accessorize my outfits with the right shoes and jewelry. She instilled in me the importance of a Chanel black dress, and the need for it to be worn on the perfect body. In addition to an appreciation of the fine arts, I learned the appreciation of fine dining. But all her wisdom was not superficial, I went with her to meetings of the League of Women Voters and Another Mother for Peace.
Not once did we discuss how to cope with mental illness, either my own or that of others. She did not tell me that I was entitled to be treated with respect, nor did she instill in my psyche the importance of “No.” We talked about medicines for birth control, acne, and cramps. Frightening side effects of psychotropics were never brought up, I don’t even think there was a need for this sort of discussion at that time.
I had no idea parenting could be both heartbreaking and heart-enriching. Visiting my child in a psychiatric ward or talking about how to deal with a narcissist were not in any book on parenting. Yet here I am, about thirty years into this adventure, finding myself grateful that none of that came up during my upbringing. Would I have been scared off? Might I have chosen not to have children? I’d like to think that I would have been brave and willing to take on the challenge; but even though I wouldn’t give back my daughters, I’m not really sure I would have been strong enough to say “Yes, that’s something I’m sure I could handle.”