Family of Me

by Daphne
Updates Mondays and Fridays

Scene 135: Identity And Entitlement

(Twyla sits alone in our home’s garden, aimlessly staring out at the various flowers. I approach from elsewhere and join her, though she doesn’t appear to notice me arrive.)

Mom (Me): Good morning Twyla.

Twyla (The Parent): Hm? Oh, good morning Daphne.

Mom (concerned): Are you alright? You seem a little… Absent today.

Twyla: Yeah, I guess I am. I’m just… I’m not sure what to do with myself.

Mom: Whatever you want, of course.

Twyla (frustrated): Okay but that’s just it. That wasn’t an option during my time, you know? I was our child’s parent all the time. The only time I got away from them was at work or at night… At work I was busy working, and at night I was exhausted. It was all I could do to rest up enough for the next day.

Mom: I remember… We kept going like that for a long time.

Twyla: It’s ironic in retrospect. I spent so much effort trying to make time for myself, to detach from the people around me long enough to be my own person. Now I have nothing but time, and I don’t know what to do.

Mom: Why don’t we talk about that for a bit? I remember those days and I can say with certainty things are different now. Finding time for myself can still be a struggle, but I’ve clearly seen some success… I’ve been writing this series on and off for a year and a half, after all.

Twyla (impressed): This series seems so surreal to me. I took the time to read through it… Early on you were talking with Lark about how amazed you needed two digits to number all the scenes. It’s kind of remarkable how far it’s come.

Mom (smiling): Hah, those were the days. I could write freely without a care in the world, and every new scene felt like a miracle. Now they number in the triple digits and writing them feels almost routine.

Twyla: That’s remarkable too. I remember wanting so badly to be able to engage with a project that I could stick with for more than a couple of weeks.

Mom: Aura’s desire from back in our 20s really stuck with us, huh?

Twyla (sad): I guess it did… But I certainly never achieved it. Like I said, I tried my hardest to make time for myself, and any time I did have was marred by exhaustion. I could never do anything but play video games back then, and I’d get annoyed that I was never able to get any of my projects off the ground.

Mom: Yeah, I’m not proud of those days, in retrospect. I’m pretty happy to leave them behind, honestly.

Twyla: Sure, you’ve actually succeeded in making space for yourself now.

Mom: It’s not that. Back in your day I would get so angry and I’d end up taking that anger out on my family. You remember, don’t you? We’d get upset with our partner so often.

Twyla (defensive): Is it wrong to expect some kind of support from your partner?!

Mom (firm): Our partner was supportive, whereas we weren’t very supportive. I mean sure, we could go through the motions for tasks we were familiar with or when our partner gave us precise instructions. To be honest, that kind of parenting worked pretty well for a while. Taking care of a baby is pretty straightforward; while it is a 24/7 job, babies can’t do very much and their needs are relatively simple. It isn’t until our child got older and more complicated that the cracks in our approach really started to show.

Twyla (upset): I was doing my best! Our child’s needs were getting too complicated for me to accurately anticipate… And if I’m honest, my partner’s needs have always been too complicated for me to anticipate. I couldn’t keep up and I always felt inadequate.

Mom: That’s exactly the problem. You don’t have to anticipate your partner’s needs or your child’s. You aren’t a failure just because you aren’t exactly what they need all of the time.

Twyla (defiant): Our child can’t communicate their needs, so we have to figure it out. There’s no other way.

Mom: When they’re really young, maybe. But it only takes a couple of years before they’re old enough to communicate concepts to you. With regards to our partner, she’s always been able to tell us what she needs, and she isn’t shy about doing it… At least when we weren’t making her feel horrible for trying.

Twyla (grumbling): Her expectations aren’t always realistic.

Mom: I don’t think that’s fair. Again, you aren’t expected to solve all of her problems.

Twyla: Really? Why would she tell me about a problem if she isn’t expecting us to find a solution?

Mom: Because she needs to vent, or she wants to connect with us emotionally. I feel like I’ve talked through this with Ivy already.

Twyla (stubborn): I still think it’s too much to deal with! We’re spending all of our time trying to keep up with all of the issues that we can’t find a way to solve, always falling further and further behind despite doing our genuine best, and we’re always being asked to do more!

Mom: We’re being asked to do things differently for sure, but don’t you want to be a more equitable partner? I know you do because I remember having that goal.

Twyla: Is that even achievable!? I hold so much guilt over being an inadequate parent, I could never imagine myself as a mother…

Mom (annoyed): This again, hm? I’ll reiterate that transition unlocked a well of emotional capacity that allowed me to tackle more than I ever could before, but it’s vital to understand that my framework for thinking about these issues changed too.

Twyla (anger): Changed how!?

Mom (cold): When the world became too complex and you felt like a failure for not living up, you got angry at your family for not making the world simpler for you.

(Twyla stares at me in shock, as if I’d just slapped her.)

Twyla: That’s…

Mom: That wasn’t exactly fair to your family, was it? They’re struggling with the same complicated world that you are; you aren’t entitled to an existence where you only engage with systems that you’re comfortable interacting with.

Twyla (stunned): How did… How did I not understand that before?

Mom: Honestly? Male entitlement. Obviously you were never a guy, but you presented as one, and in your attempt to make sense of that you still absorbed a lot of harmful messages about how you were entitled to act. Unfortunately, that included the idea that the world should be tailored to your experience, and if that isn’t the case, it’s someone else’s fault.

Twyla: You used a “should” in there.

Mom: Yes I did. And once I transitioned and didn’t feel like I was upholding some “man’s burden” I was able to see that expectation for the harmful idea it is.

(Twyla lets my statement hang in the air for a moment before continuing.)

Twyla: Is that… Is that how you found the time to be yourself again?

Mom: Letting go of harmful expectations was a big part of it, yeah.

Twyla: And those just melted away naturally with transition?

Mom: Well… No. It’s a little more complicated than that.

Twyla (pensive): Hm. I want to understand this better, but… I think I need to sit with some of the things we talked about first.

Mom: Let’s pick this up another time then. Talk to you later?

Twyla: Yes please. Later Daphne.