Gosh dern, my parents were clueless.

Okay, I’m not going to whine about how I was mistreated as a child. Well, not that much, anyway. I just think about some of the things my parents did – or, in most cases, didn’t do – when I was a kid, and I have to shake my head.

I’m writing this because I have a baby now and would give my appendages for her. I think about my parents, and they weren’t so willing to sacrifice for their kids.


-Dad went to the bar and drank every single weekend. He spent money on boozing it up with his pals. Meanwhile, us kids very rarely were treated to special family events. My Dad and I went to St. Louis Cardinal baseball games every once in awhile, but it usually was because I earned free tickets through a special A-student program. We did some other family things together that didn’t cost much, but it wasn’t nearly often enough.

-Dad often drove drunk with me in the car. And, we never buckled up back then. I could have easily been killed.

-Mom didn’t try (very hard) to stop the aforementioned behavior.

-The steps at our back door literally fell apart. We never had them fixed. This was a tripping hazard that we just grew accustomed to.

-At about the time my Dad got sick from leukemia (I was 15, in 1985), the roof over our bathroom in our turn-of-the-century, shitty house began to fail. When it rained, time in our bath was spent trying to avoid the water and pieces of wood coming out of our ceiling. Our family never had money, but I would have went into debt to fix the roof if I was a parent. Eventually, after Dad died in 1987, the entire roof was failing. The Great Flood of 1993 eventually did in the house, and the entire town. Homeowners were bought out by FEMA. I moved out by then, but I was happy that I never would have to take a bath/shower in that house again.

Looking back at those things, I would have worked extra hard, taken extra jobs, moved to a different home, found ways to make things better for my family. Geesh, why the fork didn’t my parents?

I didn’t mean this to be such a rant. For discussion’s sake, does anybody else feel their parents were clueless? Am I the only one whose family was totally screwed in the head?

I can’t second-guess my folks, and thankfully things weren’t as bad as what you describe, but I do things differently with my kid. They rarely made it to school events - I try to make them all. They took us on had few vacations - we try to get away frequently. They never seemed to be interested in my school stuff beyond “Why didn’t you get all A’s?” - I make an effort to meet the teachers and keep track of the school’s web site.

Granted, they had 5 kids and I just have one, but it was pretty obvious what the priorities were…


I try to be philosophical about it - I can’t change it and I think I came out OK, so I don’t dwell on it. Life goes on…

Your dad was sick and you were 15. Old enough to swing a hammer and repairing a roof is not rocket science. Did you give it a try? How about the back steps?

Granted, Dad doesn’t sound like much of a prize…

Thanks for the comment, smartass. One other thing, Dad didn’t teach me much about fixing things. Yeah, sure, I’m 15, not inclined for home repairs, I’ll go up on the roof, start swinging a hammer and, voila, repaired roof. The entire roof likely needed to be replaced. That’s why people are trained as roofers. It’s a skill. Dad got sick when I was 15, I hadn’t been trained in any type of industrial skill, and I just go up and fix the roof. Gee, you sound like a rocket scientist. You know, just because I haven’t had that many posts here and haven’t been at the SDMB that long doesn’t give you the right to try to make me look like an idiot. You know the saying about when you assume. Ass.

And maybe with some help, I’d been able to fix the back steps, which started deteriorating when I was somewhere around age 10.

As for the OP, I guess I am the only one from a weird family. I can accept that.

Life in an alcoholic household is usually chaos. Your family is hardly unique in that respect.

Hey, Clucky, don’t let someone second-guessing your behavior get to you. You were young–15 is just a kid, IMHO. And a kid without good, solid parenting.

It sounds like you learned from their mistakes. Good for you. So many people don’t.

You’re probably generalizing here concerning my family. Dad might have been a minor alcoholic (he didn’t drink Sunday through Thursday), but alcohol wasn’t a factor in every poor decision made by my parents. Most of the times, they were quite lucid when making selfish choices.

Brynda, thanks for your comment. You hit it on the head, pretty much. I mean us kids were given the essentials, but I wouldn’t call my parents’ skills good and solid. It took me longer to grow up because of a lack of solid role models. And, when you’ve grown up like this, it’s not like you care that much to go fixing things around the house.

Yes, I have learned many lessons from my parents’ mistakes.

No, you’re not the only one, trust me.

My mother was 18 when I was born. She didn’t want me. I was raised by wonderful grandparents.

She hadn’t finished growing up yet. Unfortunately, I didn’t see my dad from 1970 until 1994: she kept us apart. They divorced and she remarried. My stepfather was a drunk. I tried living with them when I was about 12, and he tried to molest me. She didn’t believe me. Grandma and grandpa did, though, and I went back home. We drifted apart after that.

My moronic stepfather didn’t even bother to tell any of my family when she died back in August.

Clucky, sounds like you have it all together, in spite of it all. I feel like I do too.

My childhood wasn’t anything like you described, except in this case. My dad would go out every few weeks or so to the bar with the guys from work. Then he’d drive home completely drunk. Also, if we were out at a party, he’d drink and then drive home. And seatbelts weren’t a big deal until I was maybe 12 or so. Mom never really did anything about it.

When I was 16, and got my driver’s license, they gave me the whole speech about “being responsible.” So I said, “Well, if I’m not supposed to get in the car with someone who’s drunk, then I won’t ride home with you when you are either. And I don’t want you driving home from the bar like that. Mom and I will come and get you.” My dad mumbled something about just worrying about myself and not him. But about a week later, he went out with the guys. About 11:00 that night, he called home and asked if we would come pick him up because he’d had a few beers. I don’t know if it was because he was trying to set a good example, or if he had finally realized how badly he could have gotten hurt. Either way, I was damn proud of him that night.

My parents are pretty much perfect. They really care about my brother and I, are involved in our lifes.

I have been fighting with them a lot lately 'cause they’re having trouble adjusting to be growing up (and becoming less involved in my life). It’s good to be reminded of how great they really are, and how lucky I really am.

And I’m really impressed at how you guys moved on. Probably a lot more than I could have done.

No, I wasn’t trying to make you look like an idiot. And I would have posted the same thing if you had 4000 posts.
But I’m certainly not clear on the point of your post. From the sounds of it, your folks had no money. Probably not much if any health insurance. And your dad had just come down with a fatal disease.

You say " Our family never had money, but I would have went into debt to fix the roof if I was a parent." From the sounds of it, there might not have been any resources to draw on. Under these circumstances, I don’t think it’s unreasonable to expect a 15-year old to try contributing.

And yes, when I was 16 or so, I was doing work around the house, grouting, tiling, plumbing. I taught myself, and I did a pretty crummy job, but I tried, because my folks didn’t have gobs of money either.

Alcoholism is a disease that goes far beyond drinking. There is the obvious physical addiction to alcohol or inability to control one’s drinking, but there is a far larger problem, essentially a mental illness that is characterized in part by extreme selfish, self-centered behavior and usually an inability to cope with life. Many alcoholics become overachievers to compensate, but many more do like your father and simply refuse to deal with anything. An alcoholic doesn’t have to be actively drinking to manifest alcoholic behavior. I’m a recovered alcoholic, sober for 10 years, and both my parents were alcoholics, so I have a little experience with this.

It sounds like you came out of it OK, and that is great.

If you would like more information about alcoholism, check the AA website at http://www.alcoholics-anonymous.org/

For information about the family aspects of the disease, Al-Anon http://www.Al-Anon-Alateen.org/ has some great info.

And, finally, for info about children of alcoholics, try these:


*Originally posted by Finagle *

I here you there man. My mom is divorced and my asshole of a dad hasn’t really payed any child support. Guess what though? Roof gets a leak in it. Hmm this is bad. I spent a good amount of time learning how to fix that roof and then spent another good 3 hours in well below freezing weather fixing it because my mom did not have the money to. Now I’m not saying that you can just get up there swing a hammer and SHAZAM the thing is fixed but go to the library get a book learn how to do it. I’ve learned everything from fixing cars to fixing the roof on our house. Hell I’ve even become somewhat of an electrician these past few months.

The thing is I learn all this crap on top of a full schedule of class while at college and I work another 20 hours a week while at college. I realized that this was awhile and yes things do tend to suck as a child, but almost everyones childhood wasn’t that great. I went on 1 vacation as a kid, never travelled, and never got gobs of money spent on me, but I did not give a shit I was happy to have a house, food, and parents who did care enough about me to not let me make bad decisions.

Okay, your family is not my family. My point is that my parents didn’t instill in me the need to help with home projects. If my father worked on something around the house, he would not take the time to teach me what he was doing. My parents didn’t care enough to teach me or even ask me to help. I wasn’t interested in gaining an industrial skill, and probably immature for my age at 15.

In the past, I’d blame myself somewhat for my failures as a child, but a few years ago I quit doing this. My wife made me realize that my childhood wasn’t normal, and that with better parental guidance, I could have been more productive. Besides, my parents could be so critical, I realize now. I wouldn’t want to volunteer to do work for fear I wouldn’t do a good job.

As for my family’s money situation, I made it clear any extra money was wasted on boozing and other selfish needs. My Mom could have used the money from the life insurance check she received to fix the roof. It was used for various items that were less important. I loved my parents, but in the past few years I’ve realized that my family’s problems weren’t my fault. Your comments touched a twitchng nerve. I understand where you’re coming from, but you have no idea about my family situation, so the judgmental tone of your comments was out of line.

And, Geobabe, perhaps you’re right. Perhaps my family was the victim of alcoholism. It won’t happen in this generation. Plus, my father was my stepfather, I just found out in the past year. So, I don’t have any of his genes (if genetics plays a factor).

Clucky, I feel your pain.

And finagle, it wouldn’t have helped if he’d fixed the roof. Really. That’s a symptom. Not the problem.

If I want to throw around loose generalizations, I was raised by a borderline alcoholic and an unmedicated psychotic. And, since they were my parents, they were my role models of family behavior. Did I wish Dad could finish any household repair he started? Did I wish Mom had a rudimentary concept of house cleaning, laundry, and social skills? Hell, yes. But the times I helped out or tried to make things right, it didn’t do much good. My mom would undo anything I’d done, and do it her way.

Dad driving drunk? Yep. And he knew it. So he offered me thee keys. I was a fourteen year old girl at the time. Scared me shitless. I probably could have driven better then him, but it since I’d never been behind the wheel before, it wouldn’t have been such a hot idea.

And Clucky, sounds like you’ve got a touch of what I’ve got. You look back at parts of childhood and can’t believe that stuff happened. You wonder if there was stuff should have been doing to have a normal life. You feel like you were the parent, or at least the only sane one in the nuthatch. And when you complain, you feel like a baby because life sucked, but it wasn’t the kind of front page, criminal child abuse that some kids get.

You’re parents probably were clueless. So were mine. But as my Mom pointed out, she did the best she could. Which, frankly, wasn’t so hot.

My zen perspective on this is, those people made me who I am, even if they chose an awful way to do it. And generally, I like myself, so my story gets a happy ending.

I hear ya, kaiju. You know exactly where I’m coming from. And, I’m here to tell ya I know about your current zen perspective. For the first time, I can look back at my childhood, see all the f***ed up things my parents did, and just think, well, now’s my time to try to make things right. My daughter will have a much happier childhood.