So I go to church. In a bar. But I still refuse to call it church because church and religion and Christians have broken my heart. So when people ask me what I do on Monday nights I mumble something about going to a bar where this guy talks and stuff…
A few weeks back, the pastor asked us to talk in small groups about what kind of home we grew up in, what kind of love we experienced as children. Most of the people in my group were older than me, and a lot of their sentiments were similar. Their dads were brisque and distant, but when they said, “I love you,” or “I’m proud of you,” it really meant something. Most everyone’s mom was more verbal with her love and praise, but some people never even received that. During this conversation, I stayed pretty quiet. Not because I never received love from my parents or something; on the contrary. I didn’t think it was appropriate to brag in church, but I guess I can’t lie, either: My parents think I’m the shit.
My dad has never had a problem expressing himself; just ask anyone who has ever gotten into a real conversation with him. It makes me sad to think that I am in the minority of people whose dads told them every day that they are loved. My dad believes in me more than I believe in myself at times. He thinks I’m capable of being the best at whatever I decide to do. He pushes me to grow and improve and do things we both never believed would be possible.
And my dad really knows my heart. Every time we talk on the phone, he asks me to start painting again, not because he thinks I’m particularly gifted at painting (though I’m sure he thinks that, too…he is missing an eye, after all), but because he saw how much I loved doing it. I’ve been called a free spirit once or twice in my life, and if anyone is to blame for that particular trait, it’s my dad. He hated it when I started taking a lot of art classes because he didn’t want me to paint like anyone else. He wanted me to paint like me. He wants me to create art and ride my bike and go skydiving. And I hope he wants me to write.
If my dad actively encouraged my weirdness, my mom passively fostered it by treating me as perfectly normal. Trust me, some of the things I’ve done were not normal. Like the time I wore the head-to-toe lime green outfit–including shoes!–to school. Or the time I wore sandals over my tennis shoes. (What is it with me and fashion?) Or the time when I spoke primarily in a British accent. I don’t ever remember my mom speaking to me as a child, dumbing things down or reprimanding me for being who I am. She treated me as an adult, worthy of being taken seriously in all contexts.
When I told my kickball team my parents were coming to town, the boys teased me and said they would tell my dad we are dating. I told them my dad wouldn’t believe them. I don’t think my parents give much thought to my love life. I was never told by my mother to make myself more or less of something to catch a guy. I don’t think she has been dreaming about my wedding day since I was born. And I’m pretty sure my dad has never acknowledged that I’ve dated anyone. I don’t believe it’s my parents being in denial about me growing up and kissing boys; I believe they just assume that I’m too busy being awesome to have a guy take up any of my time.
I jokingly told my parents the other day that the reason my siblings and I have problems with other humans is because they always told us we were the smartest, prettiest, funniest, coolest, and nicest people and we finally believed them. I could go on about how my parents have shaped my self-esteem and prepared me for life, but I really just want to thank them. I didn’t realize how rare it is to be a girl with two parents who love me, tell me they love me, think I’m really great, and believe in me wholeheartedly. If I ever have kids, I want to remember to encourage them be their own weird little people and tell them I love them always, just like my momma and daddy did for me.