Love Them

I’m referencing a post by my bloggie friend Betty, who inspired this response.

We all feel inept and bumbling when it comes to parenting, but most people are afraid to say it. We pretend we know “the answer” or “the way,” so that we can put our minds at ease that we will turn out people who follow our advice  but really we are all just floundering around here creating people who will one day do things that make us cry, or laugh, or tear our hair out, or wail inside with almost unendurable pain.

You have to create a way of living that will work for your family. I’m not saying it’s okay to treat children any old way, either. As the product of a destructive home environment and the survivor of some horrible events, I am know the mess that can make.

Yes, there are some absolutes: Don’t teach racism. Don’t beat your children, with belts OR words. Don’t leave them alone in the bathtub. That sort of thing. And yes, there’s even empirical evidence that breastfeeding is best, and attachment parenting can be really good psychologically. But that doesn’t mean it will all work out perfectly. I have almost never yelled at my daughter. I fed her organic, I wore her everywhere, I breastfed her and tried to do everything I thought was right, which is to say, everything I was capable of doing at the moment.  But she is nearly an adult, and she makes some choices that are unhealthy and self-destructive.

I like to quip to my friends that we all mess up our children. The trick is to give them good stories to tell their shrinks.

We could do this to ourselves forever, this throwing ourselves up against the wall of condemnation and inadequacy.  We can damage ourselves and ruin any chance of being even a remotely good parent if we aren’t careful.

What all of it comes down to is this:

Love them.

Validate them.

Love them.

Hug them.

Love them.

Let go.

Let go.

Let go.

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32 Responses to “Love Them”

  1. Why is the parent always the problem? Maybe there are just some really crappy kids out there. You did your part, it’s time for your child to step up.

    (Actually, I am a terrible parent but I wanted to say what I thought Dr. Phil would say).

    • Of course the answer is somewhere in between. I know people who had great parents but they had to go make their own stupid mistakes anyway.

      I think I have this false belief that if my parents had done a better job my life would have turned out significantly different (and better) than it did. I’m not saying I don’t love my kids, or that my husband isn’t wonderful, or anything like that. But I have a lot of regrets.

      I don’t know what it’s like inside the head of a healthy person. I’m sure they have regrets, too. But I bet they’re not the kind that make it hard to keep going. I want to raise kids who don’t have that kind of regret, and I don’t even know if it’s in my power (or anyone’s) to do so.

      • You are being too hard on yourself. We all suck at some level but that’s ok. I almost titled my book “Never Normal” because I also don’t know what normal is. But with age, I realized that I was just chasing shadows. I am ok with who I am…a very imperfect being.

        I promise you that your kid will also be imperfect and know the same pain that we all do. Maybe for different reasons but pain nonetheless. It’s part of being human. Embrace your imperfections…it’s what makes you unique.

        How is that for a speech from a guy that has no clue how to interact with people?

  2. Hopefully the letting go also means letting go of the guilt…

  3. Maybe it isn’t “Let go” but rather “Let fail” b/c they know you still have their back.

    • I do believe that’s true, that we need to let kids make some mistakes while they still have a little bit of a safety net. But I do wish my teen understood that the net is gradually being rolled up and moved out!

  4. Must say that I agree with the reality that the letting go must also include “letting go of the guilt.” I think the guilt is what makes most moms feel their very worst.
    Beautifully done!

    • I think you are absolutely right about guilt. It’s not really a good emotion in my hands, since I just use it to feel hopeless and bad. Thank you so much for your comment, Sam. It means a lot to me! 🙂

  5. My husband works with teens and has seen every iteration of success and failure – very together parents with messed up kids, very together kids with messed up parents. Some of it is always going to be left to fate, genetics, wiring, and the influence of those when they leave the house, turn on the TV, read a book.

    We do the best we can with what we have.

    And you said it concisely and well. Thank you.

    • Thank you for the compliment, and for the reminder that sometimes we are up against forces of nature that we just can’t overcome. I really don’t know how much my personality would be different if I had had different parents, since some of my issues are biological/chemical. We just never know, do we?

  6. thefeministshopper Says:

    I have a complusory need to not fail my children the way the sperm/egg donors who brought me into this world failed me.

    I don’t do a perfect job, and I’m certainly not a Professional Mother, and I hope and pray that my children have a better start in life because of it.

    My two are also still in the “suicide watch” stage, where they’re too young to know that stepping off the landing or falling asleep with the crib bumper covering their face will kill them, so I spend every moment of the day trying just to keep them alive. I have no idea how my parenting will change (or if it will stop being so compulsory) when they’re old enough to think critically and make choices out of my line of sight.

    I just HAVE to believe that I’m doing a better job than sperm/egg donor did. Otherwise I just couldn’t go on.

    • All of that fear will go a long way towards making you a better parent, just don’t let it make you feel guilty and don’t let it turn into ammunition to damage yourself. That’s what I do, and I don’t need the competition. 😉

      So happy you stopped in to read, and I hope to see you again.

  7. Just my thoughts, from my perspective – I was raised in a home where I wasn’t allowed to make any decisions for myself, other than what I would wear to school that day (even that was limited since I went to private christian school). When I finally “got out” I made a lot of bad mistakes – A LOT. And my family just sat back and watched – after all I was an adult now. Maybe I wouldn’t have listened anyhow, but maybe.

    Now as a parent I don’t wonder if I wasn’t allowed to make some decisions (even bad ones) growing up and in my teen years when I could have had some direction, or someone there to say ok, now lets fix this mess, ect if maybe my life would be a little different. Not that I don’t love my kids, hubby, ect, but who knows what would have happened – at least maybe there would be less regrets.

    I say do the best you can to raise your kids to go off in the big wild world prepared. Let them make some choices when you can still be there to help them fix things, when you can still hug and hold them and try to teach them a better way. Let them know you’re hoping and counting on them to make good choices.

    Maybe that isn’t the right way either but I’m hoping it helps my kids avoid some of the messes I made trying to find my way.

    • I think the whole thing is that there isn’t just one “right way” and we’ll all drive ourselves bonkers trying to meet some ideal. Different children need different things, and some parents can do great things and still have children that do awful things, and vice versa. Trying and loving is probably more than half the battle. Now if I could just convince myself…
      😉

      Thanks for stopping by, Krista!

  8. I think the biggest gift we can give our children is to let them be who they are, I do not want cookie cutter kids (okay some days that would be great) but what fun would that be, we would have no stories to look back at to laugh or cry about or feel even feel guilt about (not fun). Our goal for our children is for them to be better people, spouses and parents than we were. My parents had the same goal for us, not sure how it worked out, I had pretty great but not perfect parents. Some of their imperfections I am just now seeing and it is almost comforting- the bar has been lowered somewhat. I do know that I pray for my children daily and know that it really does not matter the type of parents, family they come from because they are all different and will one day make their own decisions no matter what I say or do. A family can have five children and all five will for sure have TOTALLY different personalities and become TOTALLY different people and that is great! I also think some of the best lessons in life are learned from the mistakes and failures we make rather than by our successes! As parents I think it is our responsibility to help our children learn from those mistakes instead of letting them flounder around and pick up the pieces by themselves.
    Great post- enjoyed it and have enjoyed reading the comments!

  9. Ok, I hugged them, Loved them, I tried to validate them but I wasn’t sure how. Then I tried to let them go… why are they still here? I’m not going to follow your advice if it doesn’t work. Think about that for a minute!

    Just kidding, good post. This subject has been on my mind a lot lately. Everyone goes through rough patches with their kids. I realize that all I can offer them is my unconditional love. Even though they tell me that their love for me is conditional… as in if you don’t let me stay up I won’t like you anymore!

    Thanks

  10. Very good advice. I need all of it that I can get. I will soon know what it feels like to be a parent without a clue. Right know I am just a husband without a clue.

  11. I’m not sure of the exact situation but I feel that as long as you’ve given all the love and support you could, you’ve done everything you could. You still are doing everything you can. What more can you do?
    I know that as parents we do tend to worry and fret way too much. I know that in many cases our kids have to find out the hard way. Whether it’s with wanting to watch a scary movie when they are 12, then being to scared to sleep, or sneaking too much candy before bed and then suffering the stomach ache. Even sometimes the big scary stuff when they are older, sometimes humans HAVE to learn from experience. During this ordeal though, they will know that you always were, and always are, and always will be there for them. Forever. I think that is all a wonderful gift. You are a terrific parent, no matter what happens!

  12. I’ve raised mine and they’re off my hands now. I think I did an ok if slightly unconventional job – they’re both happy and healthy anyway.

    By the way, I’ve got the recipe for gayness if any mother out there would like to “turn” their son 😉

  13. i wouldnt blame my mum! shes the greatest! I dont know that much about my dad, but im sure that he was a great chap, even if he wasnt in my life! LOSTL! Its funny, but i dont think i miss him at all!

    I have mum and thats all there is to it. She even breastfed me until i was 5ish and i had teeth! she said that i bit too hard sometimes. Oh wells! gone are those days!

    The best thing she ever taught me though, was to be a lover, not a fighter! And that everyone will laugh at me, which i now use in my acting because i love comedy! LOSTL!

    Stay lovely BKT!

    Bob

  14. I can bring tears to my own eyes in a blink if I even think about letting either of my children go. But I’m doing it, and they’re enjoying it, and I’m thinking about getting a dog when they’re both at university.
    Which I will never let go.

  15. Now that MJ died, you can rest easy, your children will be safe.

  16. oooh TL – that’s a little below the belt 😉

  17. ooops…. i mean FJ

  18. I pretty much live in continual fear and trauma these days. I have a mentally ill 17yo that I believe I did mostly the right things for, the right amount of letting go, choices, encouragement, etc etc. But terrible things happened anyway. The old Crap Shoot theory. Now I have a 15 yo that I think is making the normal amount of teen choices and mistakes, but I now have a sort of PTSD that makes me feel sick all the time about what she is doing and whether she is ok and safe. And I look at my 12 and 9 yo’s and think how I just don’t know how I will go through this two more times. It’s too much.

    • I know my situation pales in comparison to yours, but I understand a little bit. Watching the teen go throgh some hard times is making me realize just how little you can do for a child. They are their own people after all, and damn it all to hell. I wanted to protect her from making my mistakes, but there she goes. It’s disturbing my world to have to raise these two little ones without even being able to pretend that I can have any control of the outcome.

      But the good news is some day we will sit around drinking wine on my porch, complaining about their adult decisions and remembering how hard it all was. xoxo

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