I discredit pretty much every piece of advice that my parents give me. I discredit dad because his way of getting to Texas from Colorado is via Zanzibar. I discredit mom because she has feelings, many of them. After proving quite heartedly that my decision making goals and outcomes could use an audit, I’ve changed tactic. Now instead of ignoring my parents when I ask for advice, I sit with what they say and—ninety percent of the time—agree with their outcome. Then I get pissed. Because who wants to admit that their parents were right all along?
I go to my parents for different pieces of advice. Dad fields questions about business or finance. Usually, I listen until I comprehend the pointless of the conversation. I’m poor. Nothing he says short of you’ve won the lottery is of any value. I go to my mom when I need a shot of consciousness. Essentially, I hire her on contract when I know I’m about to make a shitty decision but don’t have the nerves to tell myself that.
First, I casually present my case. “Mom, do you think it would be a good idea…” this is my boilerplate just in case for a fraction of a second, mom considers that whatever I’m about to ask is of dubious moral quality. Mom’s response goes one of two ways. If she thinks that I already know doing the right thing consists of and feels confident that I have convinced myself to do that thing, she tilts her head and starts laughing. If she feels anything else, she pulls back into her neck and her face goes slack, like she’s had a stroke. This look always leads with the response, “Oh Ivy.” When the ideas are really bad, having children with a manipulative criminal would be one example, she even twitches. The way I am electrifies my mother. But she loves me and knows me well. In fact, we know each other well enough that we can have one of these moral compass conversations without directly talking about whatever the great moral question is. For example, I might say, “I’m thinking about going to grad school and the only school I want to go to is in Idaho.” While my dad starts in on the merits of the corn community, mom will twitch and say, “That’s a hell of a halfway point for you and Partner X.” Partner X and I currently drive about two hours each to meet halfway between our houses to exchange our twin two-year-old boys every two weeks. If you didn’t get it, what she’s saying there is that I can’t leave my babies. This way of responding is how mom crumples up the matter and throws it out the window. I hate this, but it’s also why I go to her when I’m conflicted.
And that’s it, really. I might make some shitty comment about how we women are a dime a dozen as mothers or lovers, but my heart always surrenders. Sometimes I feel like I go to my mom with these things not because I care so much about what she thinks, but because I know she’ll tell me if I can live with the decision or not. She’s sort of like the canary in my mine. That’s actually a brilliant analogy of my mother. She has a small frame so physically, she’s already a little bird-like, but she (sorry mom) has a very sparrow personality. Super twitchy, always worried about predators, making decisions that would lead her to a predator, or moving in any way that would draw attention from a predator. But goddamn if her instincts aren’t spot on. I either seek out her advice because I understand that she’s better at protecting my instincts than I or, I want her approval. It depends. Most of the time it takes perspective to understand which I’m seeking.
My dad feels a different responsibility for me than my mom. He thinks he’s the reason that I’m so fucked up. I say fucked up in the gentlest of tones. I know my brand of cracra and am pretty okay with it. I know I’m kind and good but also a royal fucking pain in the ass. I know why I would be hard to be in a relationship with and most of the things that make me difficult, I will never change. But he didn’t do anything to trip my wire. I am just a little bit funky, a little left of right and that’s cool. It’s something the people who truly love me get used to over time. I don’t want to presumptuous by saying they learn to love it. The better phrasing would be they learn to tolerate it. Some incredible people have stuck by my side through some really intense, brutal shit. I am luckier than most.
Which brings me to my point. My parents have painted one section of my future as they see it. I’m trying to follow that blueprint, but I am struggling. And, while that picture feels gentle and safe and routine and while I’ve tried to conform to it, I don’t see it. I’m talking about men. I do not think that what my parents want and, ultimately what I also want for myself, exist in a single person or maybe even in a single universe. But their advice is wisdom, not knowledge and in this, it’s correct. Cancer has taught me a level of acceptance that I’ve never experienced, which is why now when my parents advise, I pause, allow myself to accept their prognosis, sit and stew about it for a while and say something like, “I hate this conversation because I know you are right.”
But what’s right isn’t always what’s good, right?