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.