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My obligated phone call to my dad on Father’s Day went better than expected. It was probably due to him being distracted by trying to find a restaurant to have breakfast but finding they were all very busy due to the holiday. He made a point to tell me what a good mother I am, mentioning that it wasn’t surprising. “You were such a good helper!” he said, “You were very protective of your middle brother and by the time your youngest brother was born, you were practically raising them. You were changing diapers as early as age 4.”

I’m sure he meant this as some kind of compliment, but it made me kind of irritated. Was I a good helper or was that just the expectation because my parents were far too self involved to care for my brothers? Changing diapers at 4 seems awfully young to me. I also taught myself how to read at that age as well, and was as self sufficient as any child could be.

I feel frustrated that at such a young age (there’s only two years between me and my middle brother), I became so self aware that if anyone was going to care for the boys, it had to be me. Where were my parents? Why was I changing diapers? Why should a toddler be so concerned with anyone but themselves at that age? I mean, isn’t that the point of being a toddler? It’s like the one time in your life you can get away with focusing on yourself.

Thinking more on the subject, it’s no wonder that I have such difficulty caring for myself, or recognizing my own needs. During the very formative years where I should have been establishing identity, I was more concerned with the baby’s well-being.

Now that I’m a parent, I couldn’t imagine letting someone so tiny care for my baby. Even if we would have another baby, I wouldn’t dream of expecting my son to be responsible for the baby’s needs. Not that I would forbid him from helping if he wanted, but I don’t think I could allow him to even feel obligated for the baby’s care.

Every day of parenthood is an eye-opening experience. Sometimes, I see the way my life is altered forever by having my son. Sometimes, I feel appreciation for the healthy, supportive people in my life. But with this one, I feel a sadness that my own upbringing was so bizarrely dysfunctional, but grateful that I have enough awareness to never expose my son to the same.