Monday, March 11, 2013

Parenting is hard

Ever wonder why few, if any, people ever tell you how challenging being a parent can be?

I suspect because if they did, and we thought about it more than the ticking of our biological imperative clock, the human race might cease to exist.

Don't get me wrong.  I love being a mom.  Well, most of the time.  I have been blessed with 3 beautiful children.  They've all brought me great joy and a good deal of emotional pain not to mention the physical challenges of growing and birthing them, particularly the 2 for 1 package deal.  :-)

The tough part is in finding your parenting mojo.  Finding, and keeping, a degree of confidence in yourself that yes, you really do know what you are doing.  That you really do know what is best for your children.  Finding your voice to stand up for what you believe in.  Sometimes that means doing things differently.  Advocating for your children, after all, you know them best.  Finding the resources and the time to research, ask questions, learn, and choose the best way to feed, nurture, and grow your children into the beautiful and functional adults you dream they'll become some day.  Figuring out how to provide for them physically, emotionally, spiritually and beyond and as their parent, not as their friend.  To be comfortable setting boundaries, sticking to them and enforcing them even when you just want to throw in the proverbial towel, pull the covers over your head and cry.

Tears are cleansing for the soul, right?

I've had a challenging week.  It's only Monday.  Not a good sign. In my quest to be more mindful of how I feel and why.  In trying to figure out why I react the way I do and think about why my children are acting they way they are, I'm discovering new things and new ways of parenting.

Still, it's hard.

I know as parents, we never want to discuss how 'bad' we are at it or how bad we think we are at it.  God forbid someone agree with us!  We want others to think we have it together.  We want our kids to be the ones everyone else wants their kids to be like.

Yeah, my kids ain't that.  Well, sometimes they are.  One more so than the other.  Although it depends on the day.

Really, it's about the lessons we can learn from them as much as it is the lessons we strive to teach them.

The process I went through this evening went like this:

  • Teenager and I get into a dispute (the same one we have many times a day) about his responsibilities and consequences of not doing them.  It started as an amicable conversation and quickly deteriorated to an oppositional defiant teen vs. attempting to be rational mother.  Those battles are never 'won' by anyone, still it's a pattern and it plays out the same every time. 
  • Teenager goes to tutoring session visibly angry and near tears, frantically texting the girlfriend he says he doesn't have about his horrible life and mother.
  • I drive home, first wondering what I did in a past life to deserve the challenges I've been dealt in this one.  My eldest and his behavioral challenges, the twins, the loss of a child, having to parent a twinless twin, a messy and contentious divorce, being a single mother for essentially the duration of their lives until very recently and the impact all of those things had on these boys...Easy to drift into "I suck as a mother for all these things I've done wrong" land.  The 'why me?' demon tried to rear it's ugly and self-deprecating head.  Especially when I dwell on the negative aspects of their personalities and how they challenge me.
  • Then, I started thinking about how that heated conversation could have played out differently.  I concede he had a point about one of the topics of dispute.  I pondered the disability he has with his ADD and ODD.  I pondered the dynamic that has developed between us over the past 14 years as a result and the fact it doesn't help he pushes the same buttons in me at times as his father always has. I pondered that humor is something we value and have lots of in our family and he responds well to it.
  • I started thinking about the wonderful qualities he possesses   He's brilliant.  He's funny.  He's pretty handsome (yeah, I'm biased, but he's handsome!). He's loving and caring.  He is great with younger kids even though he complains about them all the time.  He wants to much to express himself but doesn't know how or isn't comfortable doing so in any other way than negatively.  He's sensitive.  He's sweet.  He just wants to be loved and accepted like everyone else.
  • I revised 'the contract' - a behavior contract we drafted for and with him that clearly outlines household rules, privileges and consequences of not following the rules.  It is lengthy and detailed because he needs everything spelled out or it doesn't exist in his world.  I realized that his point about the thing we were arguing about was not clearly spelled out and was an oversight in drafting the document.  So I fixed it. 
  • I picked teenager up.  He was in a significantly improved mood (distraction can be a good thing sometimes).  We went to the grocery store to get some ingredients for a project he has.  We discussed my decision to amend the contract briefly.  He seemed pleased at the perceived 'win'. 
  • We got home.  I asked him to do the same things that led to the argument a few hours earlier.  I threatened to hold his stuffed Chicken or his cat hostage until it was done. He was silly.  He did it.  With humor and very little encouragement.  I only had to chase him around and try to get the stuffed chicken out of his shirt where he 'hid' it for a short time.  :-)  
I know it won't last forever.  Chances are good there will be a new disagreement tomorrow and the contract will be brought up and ODD will return.  It's so hard to determine what the best way to deal with it is.  It really just depends on the moment.  It changes with the wind.  

Maybe, someday, I'll have that fantasy day with my family.  You know, the one where everyone gets up on time all by themselves, does all their chores, does their homework without being reminded, cleans their room, and hugs their mother, thanking her for everything she's done for them.  All the hard work, the sacrifices, the good food, the love...

Just in case, anyone have a fairy godmother I can borrow? 


  1. Parenting IS hard. And I've shared a few of the challenges you've had, though certainly not all... I was a single parent to 2 boys for most of their growing up years, dealing with the emotional challenges of a father that didn't show up for them, the financial challenges of unreliable child support and one very bright son with ADD.

    When my older son was 16 and very angry & challenging, we had a conversation when I was driving him to school one morning (after he'd missed the bus ~ again!).

    This is what I told him:

    "I love you, no matter what. I know I've made mistakes, but I do the best I can for you every day with the resources I have available on that day, physically, financially & emotionally. Some days my best is better than others... Some parents may do better, based on the resources they have available. But every day I do the best I can."

    He got very quiet and then he said "I know, Mom, I love you too and I appreciate everything you do for us."

    We still had our challenges, but it was a bit of a turning point.

    I'm sure you are also doing the best you can every day with what you have available on that day! Keep that in mind when you're struggling.

  2. you are not alone. <3 That's all I got. I'm at the same spot with my teen. Lordy I feel like I'm failing most days.