Whenever I read about troubled childhood experiences, there are references to parents who never said "I love you," who never gave hugs or said anything nice to their children. I didn't grow up like that. My parents weren't unloving, just volatile and unpredictable.
My mother told me "I love you" every night before I went to sleep. It was part of our routine, and I believed her. She wasn't always nice to me or accepting of me, and she didn't seem to know what to do with my emotions or childish qualities, but when she could see past her own pain and mental troubles, I do believe she loved me. She really tried to be a good mother sometimes, and sometimes she was. Sometimes it seemed like there were two versions of my mother doing battle: the one who wanted to give me everything she'd never had herself and the one who resented everything about me. I was never quite sure which version of my mother I was going to get when I woke up in the morning or came home from school. It was contingent upon her mood and had almost nothing to do with me, though I didn't recognize that at the time. As she got older and started abusing prescription muscle relaxants and sleeping pills, it seemed like the wall of pain and sadness around her got taller and thicker until she couldn't recognize the existence of other people's feelings at all anymore. The best way I know how to describe it is that she didn't give a fuck about me or anyone else because she didn't have a fuck left to give.
My dad used to love me. He seemed to love me more than he loved anyone else anyway, and he seemed to hate my mother and Dante with a fiery passion. His love manifested largely as a sort of smothering toward me and a protective aggressiveness toward other people. But it also sort of seemed like "out of sight, out of mind" with him. He doesn't seek me out. He wouldn't call or email me no matter how much I used to encourage him. He doesn't show an interest. We were close once, briefly, when I was in my early 20s and we bonded over how crazy my mother was driving us both. I don't know why he stopped caring about me. I don't feel like he has the excuse my mother had. There is definitely something wrong in that he doesn't control his emotional outbursts and has a history of violence, but I understand him less than I feel like I do my mother. I also care less though. I never expected much of him.