Children of Parents who Date

My Mum has been married twice. My Dad never has. Do the math. Yes, I was born out of wedlock. That’s not such a big deal now as it felt some of the time in my childhood. I don’t recall ever wanting them back together, though my parents assure me that three-year-old-Lauren was a one woman parent trapper. I do recall the men in my mother’s life. There wasn’t a steady string of them and I don’t have too many horror stories, but I never liked her dating. I can recall that for a fact. It was more than the selfish wish to stay the soul object of attention, an only child of single parents. It was a full hatred of watching my mother–the rival to Aphrodite and Wonder Woman at the same time–cry in bed over a dumb guy. It hurt me, and I never quite recovered. My Dad, on the other hand, didn’t allow his dates to meet me until they were full, move-in ready sorts of relationships. When they broke up, I never saw him upset by it. He didn’t show me. His protection kept my hero-worship intact. The awe never faded.

Now I’m older; 26. Somehow, unbeknownst to me, I’ve crossed some barrier between protected child to unguarded adult. Suddenly I know things about my parents I didn’t really want to know. I liked what little illusion I had left that they were special, almost supernatural beings and wells of wisdom that I couldn’t understand and never would. My Mum got married a second time, had two beautiful babies that give my life meaning with a title I never thought would be mine: big sister. My Dad is still dating. Recently a woman broke his heart, and it was as if I had witnessed Superman being shot with kryptonite bullets. I’m trying to be there for him. I understand heartbreak. I’ve been there. So why can’t I say anything? Why does it only make me angry watching him cry? Why do I wish he would stop telling me all about their relationship and just move on already? Why am I so callous?

I’m afraid. That’s all it is. Your parents are supposed to be your first real heroes, your first glimpse of something like a god. I worshiped my parents when I was three. No wonder I wanted them to stay together. More than twenty years later, I still just want them to be a model of success that I can follow. Their heartbreak echoes into the lonely caverns of my practically non-existent love life. Their weaknesses highlight the inevitability of my own failings, and I hate them for it.

I don’t know how to reconcile my feelings of anger and pity. I feel betrayed, but only by my unrealistic expectations. I feel I’ve read the Grimm Brother’s version of a favorite Disney movie. Still, there’s a part of me that feels sympathy for these two humans that accidentally became my parents. All they really want is to be loved, just like me.

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