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Dysfunctional parents = a kid’s BFF

Maddy Bellucci explores the relationships between children and their separated parents.

CW: dark humour, dysfunctional family.

I am by no means stating that people with happy, functioning parents have unfulfilling and bland bonds with them, I am merely contemplating the notion. No conclusions have yet been drawn – it would be premature to do so two lines in.

All I am saying is that affection isn’t limitless, and I am fairly certain that the birth of my brother and me divided the love my dad received in three. So, if my mum loved my dad at a rate of, say, 6/10 before us, since 2001 (moi), it became 4/10, and from 2004 (the brother) onwards it was 2/10. My mum since had to replace one big love bucket with three mini buckets to fill (and indeed over time she replaced mine and my brother’s buckets with two significantly larger ones, and my dad’s with an even smaller one). I can see why this may frustrate the poor Italian man who is so full of passion, infatuation and zeal. “Wai you two come-a and took-a away-a my-a wife-a??!”  This is just the way the buckets in my family crumbled. However, I am unfortunately not the only quirky and troubled kid who suffered the high tensions of a mental-health riddled home. In fact, I stupidly seem to have surrounded myself with people who actually steal this special quality of mine and even put my “my dad went to Italy for a month because my mum exiled him for locking us in the house all day as I was wearing a miniskirt that could be a belt” story to shame, as my close friends yawn and sigh when I promise them that this time it really is going to happen, my parents will divorce next month. I can feel myself slowly metamorphose into a boy who cried “divorce!”. But I guess a parent in prison will always take the cake. “Oh my dad is in prison, I’m so cool” – she always feels the need to whip that one out. That’s easy too, the law got involved. No personal credit can be taken there. Whereas I (and my brother) am the sole reason for my parents’ ruination. Now that’s honourable stuff.

I tell my mum everything. Not everything, but everything. When my dad and I aren’t ripping each other’s eyeballs out, we lie for hours on the sofa as he plays everything from an indie Italian punk band called something like The Grungy Faecal Matters to ‘Nowhere Man’ by the Beatles. The only reason both my parents have so much time for me is because they don’t have time for each other. Well, my dad does for my mum but, unfortunately for him, in this day and age, reciprocity is an important thing. An unreciprocated hug over the table – nearly tipping over the red wine, whilst there are guests, as the blonde woman you are seizing is grimacing and pushing you away – is regrettably deemed pitiful to the modern spaghetti-slurping audience. Ultimately, people chortle it off because he is-a Italian-a and passionate. He has cooked them what they’d usually pay £80 for at a Michelin-star restaurant. I have to admit, however, seeing my dad constantly get rejected is a sorry sight. Sometimes I try to give him a surrogate charity hug but my efforts go unappreciated because, ‘tis true, I am not his beautiful, blonde, “stupenda” wife.

As I said, I seem to loiter in circles where everyone’s parents are unhappily married or divorced. Almost all my best friends’ parents have got something going on. Whether it’s a nasty divorce; two people living together but leading two completely separate lives; two people co-existing in hatred; bipolar disorder in one or both parties; or even one party openly cheating. All my friends have one extremely close bond with one of their two parental nutjobs.  I am convinced it is this non-dedication between the spouses that allows for more dedication for the child. If you take me for example (me me me), my mum is not just my mum, she’s my manager. She does everything for me. And I mean everything. Picture a helicopter with my mum’s face on it. She knows all of my awkward encounters with the silent pork noodle-cooking girl who seems to be unaware we actually get the privilege of personal fairy-lit caves and lives in the kitchen. Mum even asks for updates: “did pork-girl glare at you again today?”. To top it off, I went on a girls’ trip to Cape Verde with my mum on my parents’ 20th anniversary. I am officially a leach.

One of my best friend’s parents would smother her in attention and devotion, making us the most delicious spinach and chicken ravioli in the hopes we would then hate the dad, who only got us frozen margherita pizzas. As much as I love pizza, the creamy ravioli took the amore. She would then egg us on to tell us all of the latest ridiculous things the man had done that week, whipping out a banana bread from the oven that tasted as though it was from the Garden of Eden. She is but one of many examples of such parental dynamics.

The people I know who have happy, functioning parents tend to not be anything to write home about. My nutjob friends, who have nutjob parents, however, make for a good story.  Most of the time they also happen to be better company. Sorry, I said it. I guess what I am saying is, if you regrettably had the misfortune of waking up in a home of co-made, smiling pancakes, and you were left with sulking babysitters whilst your parents went on romantic dates, you can still fix this and make sure of your close bond with one or both your parents. There are many ways you can ensure destruction. You can either do the classic, and squish red thongs on the side of your dad’s bed frame – although if they’re truly happy, their honeymoon trust will cut through that. Alternatively, buy your dad a guitar and tell him you’d love him to play ‘Knocking on Heaven’s Door.’ After the fourth month of the same four chords, he will definitely be knocking at your front door. And in the mean time you can snuggle up to your mum and tell her you’d love to go shopping with her because you need her fashionable opinions.

Image Credit: Lisa Fotios via Pexels.

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