What About the Parents???

I hope you aren’t expecting a light hearted, carefree, easy going or humorous post today, because that’s not what I’m feeling.  I am not even sure of the direction that this will take, but I’ve had some thoughts stirring that needed to come out on paper, so here we go.

I am a parent.  It’s one of the roles that many often dream about even when they are very young.  I was one of those dreamers.  I remember at a very young age pretending to be a mommy to my baby dolls.  I couldn’t wait to go to Kmart to spend my allowance on things for my fake babies.  I was so good at parenting as a five year old.  It was so easy!  I just knew that I would grow up to be the best mommy in the whole wide world.  Three kids, two boys and a girl to be specific, a husband, house and a van, that was my big dream!  What I ended up with was four kids, three boys and a girl to be specific, three husbands (not all at the same time), a few houses over the years and several cars, which included the van.  But what happened to the most important part of the dream, being the best mommy in the whole wide world?  Well, it just wasn’t as easy as I imagined it would be.

My big thought today is, “What about the parents?”   Many very disturbing events have made the news recently.  I don’t think that you can find a corner anywhere in the world, that news of the shootings in Tucson, Colorado and Wisconsin hasn’t touched.  Of course, we think about the victims first, then the actual shooters themselves and then the parents.  I can’t help but try to imagine myself in the parent’s shoes on these occasions.  How devastating it would be for a parent!  To find out that one of your own children, that once innocent baby that you held in your arms, had committed such a horrendous, senseless act.   It’s simply unimaginable!  My heart is broken, not only for the parents of the victims, but the parents of the shooters, as well.

I’m thinking of the mom who posted on Facebook this morning.  Today is her daughter’s birthday and it was a year ago today that she hugged her daughter for the last time before she went to prison on drug charges.  How my heart hurts for her and her daughter.

I’m thinking of the single mom who lost her child to a drug overdose and my heart hurts.  I’m thinking of the parents who lost their bipolar child to suicide.  Many had passed judgment on these parents for their children’s behavior during the short years of their lives.

I’m thinking of the struggles between children and parents that I’ve witnessed in an office complex where I once worked.  The children were often very loud and aggressive and those working in the complex were put off by the behavior and registered complaints with the complex management.  Insensitive signs were even hung in the common restrooms by someone who thought the kid situation needed to be addressed.  Did the person who hung the signs not know that these children were visiting the complex for therapy because they were autistic?  Yes, my heart hurts for these parents too, and their children.  So many scenarios we could talk about, all heartbreaking.

Many are quick to jump on the parents and point fingers.  Certainly the parents have done something wrong in their parenting that caused their child’s behavior, or addiction or suicide.  Is that fair?  Why are we so quick to place ourselves in the role of judge and jury and pass sentence on parents?  It happens all of the time.  Who hasn’t been in a grocery store or a restaurant and seen someone’s child act in a ridiculous, unbecoming way and we’ve thought or maybe even said, “They need to do something with their child”, or “If I were those parents, I would (fill in the blank)”.

Granted, parents do make mistakes and I am not saying that all parents are innocent and haven’t had a role in how a child turned out.  I’m not talking about parents who are abusive or are alcoholics, addicts, criminals or horrible examples here.   I’m talking about parents who do all they can to raise their children in the best way they know how.  None of us have our parenting skills 100% perfected.  We all have flaws of some kind.  Go ahead and admit it mom and dad.  You’ll feel better.  That perfect super parent cape is a heavy weight that will keep you from flying anywhere, so take it off!  Easier said than done, right!  Expectations are high for parents and as a result, we often carry a huge amount of guilt.

It’s easy for those who have not had children or who have had perfect children to make flippant comments about or even to other parents.  Yes, I am speaking from experience here.  Before I had my perfect kids, I knew exactly how to be a perfect parent and I’m sure I passed judgment on someone along the way.  But now I know the flip side.   I can still remember comments regarding my parenting that were made to me over the years that were so insensitive and hurtful.  You see, I didn’t have the perfect kids that you did.  How would you judge me if I told you that I had raised an addict, an alcoholic, a criminal, a child with mental illness or all of the above?  Certainly, you would wonder about my child’s upbringing.  You might even want to dissect my parenting ability or debate about parenting styles.  You might even consider unfriending me on Facebook.  Was my child’s behavior my fault???

Of course, I know that I’m exposing my own feelings of guilt here.  Every parent who hasn’t had perfect kids feels guilt, sometimes massive amounts of guilt.  I’ve worked on resolving my own guilt issues and I’m not here to debate what was or wasn’t my fault.  I’m addressing two groups of people here.

To group number one, the group that still has not had children or that never will, and the parents of perfection; to you I say, give us imperfect parents a break!  Ease up a little.  Have some sensitivity and compassion.  If you haven’t walked in another parent’s shoes, please don’t be so quick to throw stones.  There is no “Super Parent” cape, so if you think you’ve been wearing one, you’ve just been running around naked or sporting some really ugly spandex.

To the group of parents who have known the heartbreak of your children not growing up and following the beautiful dreams that you’ve envisioned for them; to you I say you’re not alone.  It’s not all your fault.  It’s time to let go of the guilt and if you can’t do that, then get help.  You deserve that for yourself.  And for any mistakes you did make, there is forgiveness here.  You deserve to be free to fly!

This world can be a cold, dark and lonely place.  Parents need lots of support during the hard times.  When you see a parent friend having a really difficult time, don’t pull away because the situation looks to overwhelming.  When the going gets tough, instead of pointing fingers, extend a hand.   Get involved in being a part of the solution and consider it an investment in your own future, because it is.  Even if you don’t have the answers, you can still be available to stand with and for your friend.  You’ve heard it said and I do
believe that it truly does take a village to raise a child.

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14 thoughts on “What About the Parents???

  1. Denise Martin says:

    Bobbi, as i write this I’m wiping the tears away cause that’s exactly how I have felt just wanting to have a family, raise my kids the best way I knew how (even going to church 3 times a week for a while when they were young) and have struggled with guilt resulting from their choices that I sometimes still think is partly my fault (even though they will all say they put themselves in their own situations) I can’t help but feel in a way that maybe if I could have been more strict or used a tough love approach they might have not been through so much heartache. But Gods grace is so sufficient, I know He has helped me through so much and thank you for sharing, this one is a real blessing for me!

    • bspargo says:

      Thanks for being so transparent, Denise. I don’t think the questioning ever totally goes away. I think that letting go of guilt is much the same process as forgiving someone. It starts with a conscious choice first. The feeling isn’t usually there up front. But as time goes on and the things come up that trigger those old emotions, you remember the choice you made to forgive or let go and you do it all over again. Eventually the negative feelings subside and line up with the decision and the triggers happen less and less often. Then one day you realize that the emotion has come into line with your choice. You can look back and know you are finally free. Like unforgiveness holds you prisoner, so does guilt. And speaking of forgiveness, maybe it’s time to forgive yourself, too. I know, that too is easier said then done. Wipe away those tears, my friend. It’s time to fly free! Love and hugs coming your way…

  2. Karen Powell says:

    Bobbi, weirdly coincidental in that I had these same thoughts yesterday as I saw pictures of the Tucson shooters family and the agony etched on their faces. My heart ached for them…despite troubles they may have had or maybe even contributed to I still felt compassion for them as victims too. I have worked hard on not dwelling on guilt…sometimes the guilt can be selfish because you may be wallowing in regret for your children not reaching expectations that were made up in your own head. In fact they may be the exact way they were intended by God.

    I remember an incident when one of my boys was about 3. I was in Target and he had dressed himself in his favorite bike shorts and cowboy boots. 2 young girls stared at him and commented loudly how could a mother ever let her child dress that way. I just laughed to myself and thought you just wait and see! In my life at that time I was just glad I was able to get ANY clothes on him to get out the door. Fast forward … wish I had
    remembered that same attitude when other people judged in oh so many ways about behaviors, grades, or other struggles my kids experienced. I didn’t laugh and it did hurt.

    Now, after many years of hard work I may not laugh but I am at peace with
    Loving my boys just the way they are in this moment. Sometimes they are great and sometimes it may look different than I pictured. Most times i just feel the joy I have in loving them. My worries I try to put in God’s hands but I still am learning to fly:)

    • bspargo says:

      Ahhh, Karen, your cute story of your son dressed in a cowboy boots and bike shorts, (I can picture this) jogged my memory. There was once when one of my sons went through the “kilt” phase. He was always cutting apart his clothes and “re-purposing” them. It was totally frustrating at the time, but now I can shake my head and smile. He made himself a kilt to wear and he wore it to school. I just knew that I would be called into the office on that one, but surprisingly, I never was. Funny how he wanted to be different and even though he got negative looks and comments and they hurt, he still had to express himself. Then there was the “tri-mohawk” phase, followed by the “head shaved” phase. All these phases were occurring during a very intense time for him with lots of doctors appointments with just about every kind of specialist, medication changes, surgery, hospitalizations, then throw in puberty… It’s no wonder he was needing an outlet. If only those who made the insensitive comments or gave the cold stares knew what was going on at the time. I would hope that they would have been more compassionate. It was one of those motherhood nightmare times in my life. I could have used a little more compassion myself. It does hurt and I’m sorry that you’ve been hurt by those same types of people. If I would have known you back then, you can be sure I would have offered my shoulder to cry on and given you all the hugs you needed. We are both learning to fly now. Reminds me of the analogy of an eagle teaching her babies how to fly and how she kicks them out of the nest and lets them free fall, but she’s there to swoop under them before they hit the ground. We’re kind of like those baby eaglets. When we become parents, it’s like our mamma eagle kicked us out of the nest to teach us to fly. We were still babies and having babies and they didn’t come with instructions. We free fall with them throughout their lives and it’s crazy and scary and exciting all at the same time. But we’re never out of the watchful eye of our mamma eagle who is there and ready to catch us all before we hit the ground. Fast forward… Our kids all made it to adulthood and we made it, too! Time to celebrate! Where’s the party???

  3. Thanks for sharing, Bobbi. So much truth.

  4. bronxboy55 says:

    I wish every parent could read this post. It seems obvious that we’re born with our personalities, and barring any extreme abuse by our parents, we’re going to be who we’re going to be. So-called experts like Dr. Phil have convinced too many people that a child follows the example set by his mother and father. If only that were true. The fact is, once our children reach a certain age, we can’t control what they say and do. As you pointed out, in many cases and for many different reasons, the children themselves don’t have the ability to control their own behavior. Blaming the parents is an easy shortcut, and fills our need for scapegoats. But it does little to solve any of society’s problems, and causes even more unnecessary anguish. Thank you for writing this.

    • bspargo says:

      Thanks for the support and taking the time to comment. I wish every parent would read this, too! I am not an expert by any means, but I did spend a good portion of those child rearing years reading many books written by “experts”. I tried my best to follow all of the advice as it applied to each child individually. It’s amazing to me how four children raised under the same roof, with the same parents and the same set of rules and circumstances can all turn out to be so different. I am certainly willing to take responsibility for anything that I did that affected them negatively, but as you pointed out, each child has their own unique personality. That uniqueness does influence their day to day behavior and choices and those things can lead them in a very different direction than their parents followed. If I sound like I am on the defensive in this post, it’s because I am. I hope to come along side and defend those parents that are in the thick of something really beautiful, but it looks like chaos right now. They might be able to use a little boost from a voice that can speak for them.

      • bronxboy55 says:

        Bobbi, here’s a post I wrote a couple of years ago. As I read it now, I wish it sounded a little less preachy and know-it-all-ish, but the basic belief is still the same. You’re definitely not alone. In fact, there must be countless people out there who would welcome your message. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard parents say, with a helpless look on their faces, “Where did I go wrong?” It’s heartbreaking.

        http://mostlybrightideas.wordpress.com/2010/08/03/cause-effect-part-1/

        • bspargo says:

          I didn’t think you sounded “preachy” or “know-it-all-ish”. I think you just made up a new word though. I liked the analogy of the rose bushes. Thanks for relieving me of my guilt over my own garden. I’ve got two tomato plants, side by side. They get the same amount of sun, fertilizer and water. One produces tomatoes and the other looks half dead. I have thought, “Where did I go wrong?” with my tomatoes. The only thing different is that the heartbreak is virtually non-existent when compared to the heartbreak parents experience over children. Thanks for sharing.

          • Betty says:

            I loved reading what you wrote. knowing you and the kind of person you are really touched my heart. I saw a thing on facebook that said “don’t judge someone because they sin differently than you”. Because everyone sins even if it’s only in there mind. And the same can be said for parenting. Don’t judge someone’s parenting skills because they raise there kids differently than you. I think the best thing a parent can do for there kids after they are adults or even when they are young is let them know you made a mistake if you feel you did. Or even apologize for the times you got out of control when raising them. My mother was out of control when punishing and she would only say I don’t remember that. And I wish she would have talked to us about it later when we were adults. I got out of control sometimes and each time my kids seemed to push me to that point i would feel guilty and pray about it. I believe it helped me and i have told my kids i wish I would have been more consistent and not let them push me to anger. They are all good kids and I have had no major problems with them but I have that little skeleton that wishes i would have been a perfect parent. Now I don’t feel quite as bad knowing that there are so many of us that aren’t perfect. And I always think of the parents when there are national headlines like we have seen. Not with a guilty verdict on them but with a sympathetic heart of what they must be going through.

            • bspargo says:

              Thank you Betty. I saw that post about judging on Facebook, too. I don’t want to start on that one here, but I agree. We can all be judgmental and critical at times. We see a lot of that on Facebook, don’t we. I think you are right. The starting place for us, whether we’re parents or not, is to admit to our own imperfection and if we need to make amends for things that we have wrongly done, to do it quickly. Humility is a characteristic that when practiced, will grow and the world could certainly use a lot more humility. Plus, being humble enough to do that is another way that we set a good example for our kids, no matter how old they are. We don’t stop being a parent when they turn 18. You’ve heard it said, “What goes around comes around”. Now that our children are having children of there own, I think they are beginning to get it. Parenting is serious business. You’ve done well, Mom! I know your kids love you and you are perfect in their eyes!

  5. Marusia says:

    Wonderful post, Bobbi,

    • bspargo says:

      Thank you Marusia! I was traveling last week and thought I had replied through my phone, but I see it must not have worked. I appreciate the encouragement. I’m anxious to hear your story.

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