Her Perfect Tree
by Chris de Serres
She was trying to draw a tree. I could see papers discarded to the side. Her past attempts. Tears welled up in her eyes. Her cheeks turned a bright red. She told me she was trying but they were horrible.
I could see her mother quite clearly in her eyes. The drive for perfection. The frustration and angst because perfection doesn’t exist.
It is a hard thing to hear my 6-year old child call her art work horrible. Yet, this is what we do. We bring ourselves into parenthood. We bring everything. A child sees how mommy and daddy treats others, treats themselves.
It’s like a story. Growing up my parents told me a story about how to live and I just accepted it. I didn’t know whether it was good or bad. Young children only absorb. There’s no differentiating. No filtering.
So we do fuck up our kids. We traumatize them. Childhood is an unavoidable trauma.
I look back over my own upbringing and I think how could they do that? Why did they subject me to that? It’s why I get migraine headaches when I visit my folks. They are old and frail but I am still angry with them. Only it’s hard to be angry.
They were only doing their best. As a parent myself I see that we are all human beings. Yet, the child that exists inside isn’t swayed by arguments. It feels that it can never find happiness with itself. It is always trying to live up to unachievable things.
We’ve internalized our parents. They are there telling us what we can’t do. Always doubting.
My father never played catch with me. Never went to any of my games. Never showed the slightest bit of interest in something I really wanted to be. This is not completely true, but when I write these words they feel true.
It is true enough. I have a vast inner world of things I love and passions I feel. It stays inside because if I tell someone about it they will murder it much the way my father always did. Murder it with indifference. Apathy. Invalidation.
He failed to recognize the things that were meaningful to me. So I hid them. Some things I buried alive.
So it kills me to see myself in my daughter.
This journey of fatherhood is like a beautiful and melancholic poem. It is so many things that are difficult to convey. It overtakes you. Surprises you. It mirrors you even when it’s hard to look at your own reflection.
Fatherhood is harmony and dissonance melded together. Inseparable.