I told myself when I was growing up that I would be such a better parent than mine were. MY kids would be valued and respected. I would LISTEN to them instead of always dictating. I would give them the right to DISAGREE with me without fear. I wouldn’t smother them and depend on them and expect them to be my companions. MY kids would be happy with their lives and confident in their approach TO life. Not like my parents. Not like my childhood.
I have three kids – 15, 12 and 9. I LOVE my children. I have tried my absolute best not to repeat the mistakes of my parents. But this is not the picture I would’ve painted for myself.
- I have a teenager on antidepressants whose teeth are in horrible shape after a serious bout of bulimia (which I won’t go into detail about because we’re all still trying to process, plus that’s HER story not mine),
- a daughter with autism (which is never on anyone’s parental wish list),
- and a son with self-esteem issues because he’d rather play with dolls than trucks (and he’s afraid his school friends will find out).
I may not be my mother (really. thank. God.). And my husband may not be my father (REALLY. THANK. GOD.). But my kids are still struggling with some of the same issues I did, albeit for different reasons. It’s been so incredibly frustrating. Fucking frustrating. And the cause of a good deal of marital stress, especially as my husband and I discover we have different parenting styles and expectations. Honestly, you’d be surprised at how stuff can hit the marital fan when your kids become older teenagers! It’s been tense around here lately let me tell you.
I’ve got no great words of wisdom to share. No solutions for how to give my kids an easier ride over the bumps of childhood and adolescence than I had. They’ve been spared A LOT of what I went through. They don’t have an overbearing mother, helplessly enabling an addict, and dependent upon them for her own happiness. They don’t have a mean tyrant alcoholic father. Yet they still have therapy and pharmacy bills and anxiety and tears on their pillows. I didn’t plan on any of this. These are not the children I expected. This is not the childhood I expected for them. But here we are.
I LOVE MY CHILDREN. Let there be NO doubt. Just because they’re not the children I expected doesn’t mean I don’t love them. My love and devotion are so fierce and deep it’s scary sometimes.
Because of that love, I expected a better childhood for them (meaning less painful). I expected a better childhood, because I expected more from myself. I expected to be a better mother. The learning here is that even though I have indeed risen to the occasion, it hasn’t been good enough. I can’t, as no mother can, spare my children from LIFE. And that’s a hard pill to swallow. Really hard.