If you’ve ever seen your teenage child in juvenile detention clothes, you can bet that you’ve also beaten yourself up about where you went wrong as a parent. You’ve questioned, you’ve searched the timeline back to the beginning, pondering how things might have gone differently if you had just…
And, if you’ve learned anything at all in your time here on this beautiful mindfuck of a planet, you have learned that parenting isn’t about YOU. It is the farthest thing from that. It is the one thing we willingly enter into that leaves us more vulnerable, out of control, fearful and shattered than any other encounter we could possibly experience. Some of us have been under the illusion that when we had our children, they would make us feel good about ourselves by their perfect behavior, their beauty, their talents, their grades, their jobs, etc. Some found out the hard way that parenthood never promised any of that, yet I’ve seen maternal and paternal feathers ruffled at the sobering realization that we don’t always get the children we dreamt up in our minds, but we always get the children we NEED along with the lessons they were sent to teach us.
Allow me to elaborate so as not to be misunderstood. During all three of my pregnancies, I believed I was having a boy. I still believe my first child was a boy, but I will never know. Maybe the next two were wishful thinking – wishing I could take back a decision I made when I was 16 that I didn’t want to have to make. Maybe it was because I just always vibed better with boys growing up and thought I would be a better mother to boys than girls. Maybe I was afraid of girls. For whatever reasons, God hand-delivered two daughters into my arms. I have always been proud of my daughters and loved them madly. They were never a disappointment. But I had boys engrained in my mind. Looking back, I wouldn’t change a thing. I think deep down inside, I WANTED a boy (and oh how I miss the one I never got to hold), but God knew I NEEDED girls (and then he put a cherry on top by giving me two unexpected redheads!). I don’t even fully understand why still. I just know that that having two daughters (and also my relationship with their girlfriends) has helped me grow in ways that would not have been quite as impactful with boys.
Being a youth mentor and having worked with teens long before my daughters entered that magically twisted age, you like to think you have a few things figured out (Ha! Ha!). When you do this work, you have to constantly check your ego and sometimes give it a good ass-whooping so as not to get too fancy with your expectations of yourself and those you are working with. You can’t force anyone to change or to be something they are not or don’t want to be. You might see all their potential, but you can’t make them see it or act on it. We can only “save” or “fix” ourselves and to think we have the power to fix or save another human being is..well, arrogantly insane.
I often wonder how God must feel when he looks at his children (including myself) and shakes His head thinking: “If you could only see what I see.”
It’s so easy to look at our mistakes as parents and attack ourselves, thinking we have somehow failed our children. Do we sometimes, fail them? Do some parents wreck them with emotional, physical and other horrific kinds of abuses? Of course. I wish I had answers and explanations for why these things happen. All I know is that the more we focus on being “good parents”, the the more we make it about ourselves and less about our children.
Ironically, our parental sensitivities and the fact that we care so much about doing right by our children can leave us vulnerable to succumbing to the expectations and opinions of others, rather than listening to our own parenting instincts. NO ONE knows your children and their needs better than you do, but how often do we question and doubt our decisions when made on the behalf of these young lives? I don’t know about anyone else, but I find it absolutely terrifying that a perfect, omnipotent God put my silly ass in charge of two of His most incredible creations. And then I remind myself that I’m not doing this alone. Our intuition is the most important thing we have as parents and as anything on this planet. That intuition is basically your relationship with the source of all things. I call Him God. You call Him whatever you like, but it’s that calm, confident voice that is always speaking to you and showing you things that you wouldn’t otherwise be able to see. We can’t hear that voice when we are listening to the limited opinions of others. We have to silence those voices and dismantle the violent, crippling dominon we have given them over our God-given ability to help our children navigate through youth and into adulthood.
I want to offer all of us an outstretched, compassionate hand and ask you to forgive yourself for anywhere you feel you have failed you children as a parent. I believe God already knew every screw-up we would make, but He has a plan for all of it…and we’re all a work in progress. You don’t owe other parents an apology or explanation and while we may sometimes owe our children apologies, we don’t know how God will use even our worst parenting mistakes as fertilizer for bountiful fruit in their lives.
I’ve watched my baby suffer some things over the last year or so and watched her make poor choice after poor choice, not because she is a bad person and not because she has “bad parents”. She is a phenomenal creature with a deep gift for empathy and compassion. She is also a human being in a phase of life with an underdeveloped capacity for reason and rationale in a body that is overly-hormonal who is trying to make sense of life and doesn’t always know what to do with all of the pain, fear and confusion inside of her. She is doing great things in life and I have no doubts that she will continue to do so for all of her days. But she’s struggling and the judgement and shaming from her peers and other parents isn’t helping her in any way.
Shame never motivated anyone…EVER. It never set any human being on a path of greatness and growth. We are killing each other with our insecurities and lack of intuition. So again, I want to ask us all to forgive ourselves and if you really want to motivate and help in the world, check in with yourself and the source of all things beautiful and great before you utter a word or take a step. Our words and deeds are lasting in this life, so please choose wisely. It is truly a matter of life and death.