On this date more years ago than I like to count I officially became a parent. I have been raising children since I was a child myself, a phenomenon that is called parentification in psychological circles, so I’m told. I helped raise children, even though I had no idea how to raise them and they weren’t mine to raise. Sometimes in life you get handed a job that you didn’t ask for and you do the best you can with it. I was the eldest in a pack of five for several years; and as the eldest child in a single parent household you spend a lot of time herding the younger ones.
Helping to raise your siblings isn’t really parenting in the true sense of the word. Since you are a child yourself you can always count on mom to get home at some point in the day and then you can quit pretending you know what you are doing and get back to being a child yourself. You can always blame your mom or dad for putting you in the position of having to raise their children for them.
Once you are the parent, things get a little more complex. The early experience helped though. I knew how to change diapers. I knew how to feed a baby, hold a baby, a thousand different things. But at 2 in the morning, when it’s your turn to rock the baby, you find that you miss the days when the real parents would come home and take over. Well, not really. But just for a minute there.
They grow so fast. It couldn’t have been as long as she says it’s been since she was born. There is no way that it has been thirty years. She still looks like a high school student. She’s a good bit taller than she was when I first saw her. Then, I could hold her in the crook of one arm, a little over 6 pounds, light as a feather. I can remember taking her to school for the first time. I remember when she learned to read and then talked me into reading books that she liked. Dozens of them. She got me hooked on anime, an artform that she has a passion for to this day, all of us discovering she has quite a talent for art through her anime sketches. Spending years after that discovery trying to encourage her to explore her talent, without smothering her with pressure to do something with it.
I fondly remember dropping her off at the high school she still looks like she attends, dropped her off for the first time. Sitting there wondering out loud if I “should walk her in…” I mean, I had walked her into every school before this one. Taken the time to meet her teachers before I allowed them to teach her anything. Not this time. The disgusted “DAD!” that I got in return was the first clue I had that she was growing up much faster than I was really ready for.
She’s already on an exclusive list of one in my book. She is my only daughter. That’s a good enough reason to celebrate this day all by itself, without needing costumes and candy, like her brother gets on his birthday. Wouldn’t you agree?
Happy Birthday, dearest one.
Parentification isn’t necessarily abuse, it’s simply requiring behavior from children that prevents them from living a normal childhood, whatever that animal looks like. I wouldn’t know, I’ve never seen it, but I hear it’s kinda nice to experience. I was given a couple of links on the subject. I put one of them in the text above. Here is the second one.