When you were child, your mother or father were Gods and Goddess. Heroes.
Nothing could hurt you, as long as they existed.
They held up the heavens with their hands. They could dip their fingers into the tar of the night sky and swirl it around and startle the stars into a refracted flurry, rippling the firmament. If the moon fell on your head and squashed you like a tombstone, well, no matter! Your mother or father could pluck it off your back and slot it back into place, where it would shine and delight and watch you, like a round, white eye.
How easy it was. How safe it was. Your mother and father were smarter than books and braver than lions, and you were their little mortal ward, their little special Eve or Adam, born in a dark wash of amniotic fluid from their celestial wombs.
I tell you this: there is no greater happiness under the sun than the joy of feeling like a safe little bird in the nest of your parent’s arms. Those moments were good. Those moments were good. Those moments are the ones that make you weep with nostalgia when you look back upon them.
But darkness comes. Growing up happens. Days end, and death awaits.
As you grew, they shrunk, shrunk so small it was astonishing, and you saw them for the mortal beings they were. The ugly, broken, fallible beings.
You realised they never did hold up the sky; only the sky squashed down upon them so they had no choice.
And it was like the carpet had been pulled from underneath your feet. Do you remember the first time you realized everyone is a child, in their hearts? The world is a mad nursery, and we wail and throw toys. No-one knows anything, and being a grown-up is just a prissy little costume people put on to hide the sniveling baby inside.
When my parents were in the process of getting a divorce, and screaming and contorting their hearts into ugly shapes that showed on their faces, and my siblings and I looked on, a hot confused rage in our hearts, my universe tore apart. That’s what happens when deities die. They die, and it upsets the balance, tilts the groove of orbits, make the stars wobble and hearts to lose their gravitational pull to the rest of the body and plummet.
Sometimes, there is no viler creature than a man. Of course, not all women are angelic little cherubs, and there are countless wonderful, good men (or, at least, I hope there are), but there is something to be said about the terrible fathers that exist, and have existed, in this world.
Perhaps it’s biological, and the male is meant to lose interest once he has passed on his genes, and only the woman is truly infused with the instincts to protect and nurture and love and….care.
But I’ve always had this sneaking suspicion that men are less stronger than women. This may seem sexist, and you’re free to hate me for it, but the little boys inside some men are much more scared than the tight-lipped girls inside women. You can see this fear sometimes flash in their eyes, as they bow their head or scuff their shoe at something. Do voice your opinion, if you disagree with me on this. I won’t mind at all.
Then again, it might just be my own experiences with my father clouding my judgment.
Did you have a good father? The kind that hugged you and pushed you on swings and loved your soul? You are so lucky, you know that?
My heart bleeds for the love I never received. I still dream of a father with a warm, strong chest and a rumbling voice, a father who loved his wife and his daughters. A father who cared. A father who loved. Sometimes, all you want people to do is care.
People who haven’t had children yet often proclaim of the wonderful parents they will be, and how much kinder and better they will be than their own parents. But I think the reality of parenting is simply older children looking after younger children. The latter may be cocky, and strut about, with their knowledge and life experience, and the younger doe-like and innocent and sweet, but in the end, they’re both scared to death.
But, that’s okay. We’re all scared, every one of us. When we close the light and lie down in our beds and think the thoughts we only think in the darkness, we’re all afraid and alone.
And despite that, my childhood had its moments of joy. It wasn’t all thunderclouds. Walking home in the dark after eating at a restaurant, holding my brother’s hand and giggling up at the stars. Running into my mother’s arms and having her kiss my nightmares away. My father buying me a teddy bear from a shop, though that was tainted by my mother gushing at his generosity and enthusing what a wonderful father we had, as if to make herself believe it. Sunlit days at the park, the trees dappling the grass. Icy poles in the summer, and Christmas presents. Tottering with my mother down to the library every weekend and drinking in the words like water.
My father left my mother and his children in poverty, forbid his wife to work and gain independence throughout their marriage, abused her, cheated on her, lied to my siblings and I, but he still gave me a childhood. He still loved, in his own, weak, twisted way, at least in the early days, when he had more idealistic notions of marriage and children. He still gave me the gift of life; I wouldn’t exist right now, I wouldn’t be writing this right now, without him. When I was a baby, I only wanted to fall asleep in his arms, and he would hold me through the night until his muscles ached and stiffened. He cut me oranges into perfect, delicate slices when I was sick.
Sometimes, you have to look at your parents and realise they’re not just figures who exist to support you, and for you to leech off of, but people with their own souls and hearts and feelings and universes between the lobes of their ears. That they’re a person, just like you, no matter how despicable. And, like when you meet other horrible people in life who fondle with your guts and mess them up, the best thing is to move on rather than stagnate and writhe with hate.
You should hug your parents as equals, as organisms existing in this reality together, if you can. I don’t know. That’s the closest I can get to reconciling myself to my parents shrinkage, of them turning from heroes into men and women who hid from the dragons and lied when the townspeople asked.
That dragon is there still, and it can’t be killed. Not by me, not by you. And when we have children of our own and feel its sooty breath down our necks, we’ll smile into their faces and tell them what heroes we are.