Over the past few weeks I’ve had to do some soul-searching and self-evaluating. It’s a difficult and painful process. There are aspects that bring a smile to my face, others that trigger the tears to fall, and still others that give the warm fuzzies. I’d like to be able to say there have been more warm fuzzies but I would be lying.
As a parent, I bought all the books from What to Expect When You are Expecting (An absolute must for the soon to be mom), to Dare to Discipline, The 5 Love Languages of Children, The Ultimate Parenting Guide, to Raising An Emotionally Intelligent Child. OH, there were many others. My home library looked like a child psychologist’s office combined with a day care resource center with craft magazines and ideas to entertain my children, develop their fine motor skills, creativity, and pique their imaginations.
We became parents a little late in life. While many of my former classmates were fawning over preschool and school aged children, my husband and I were working in our chosen careers.
To be perfectly honest, I would not have made a good mother in my 20’s. I didn’t have the patience, or the where-with-all to be responsible for raising a child. Heck, I thought I was doing good to keep myself healthy! When I turned 30 and became pregnant, I seriously doubted my abilities to parent. I was terrified of being like my mom. I was terrified of damaging my kids. I was terrified that I wasn’t fit for parenting! When my first was born – from the moment they suctioned her and she took her first breath I would have died for her. I would defend her with my dying breath, do anything for her, move heaven and hell to see that she was well taken care of. She was a Gerber baby from the very beginning! No stork-bites, no cradle cap, no splotchy skin – just sheer perfection!
Then, they sent her home with me from the hospital – no instruction manual, no guidance other than a few instructions on how to nurse her correctly. Welcome to parenthood 101. It’s sink or swim with a live guinea pig only they didn’t give me a guinea pig – they let us do trial and error on a live baby! Why didn’t I take those home Ec. classes?
I know you all are thinking what’s the big deal? We eventually figure it out and our kids survived. To me it was a very big deal. For over a year I thought I couldn’t get pregnant and would break down and dry every month that I wasn’t pregnant. Then when it happened the reality that I was responsible for this tiny bundle of joy became my soul focus. I was determined to be the very best parent I could.
I made many mistakes along the way, but I think I did many things right as well. At the end of this week, my first baby will be 20 years old. It will be her first birthday away from home without her family around her to celebrate. I’m so proud of her I can hardly contain it.
But now it’s time to let her spread her own wings. And I thought the early years were difficult!
So what does this have to do with my intro? EVERYTHING! I was determined to be the best mom I could, part of that based on the less than stellar parenting of my own mother. I’ve been attending this counseling course. I’ve been meeting with this counselor. I have issues many of which stem from my early formative years. I am the youngest of 5 children, and was a change of life baby. My mother never let me forget that I was unnecessary, that I was a burden, and that I was unwanted. I have 2 older sisters and 2 older brothers – so it’s not like she finally got her girl. They were strapped for cash trying to feed 4 kids already. She thought she had moved on through the change and didn’t have to worry about pregnancy anymore and 6 months later found out she was pregnant with me. She pointed out to me on several occasions how I screwed things up, that by the time she figured out she was pregnant with me it was too late to do anything about it. Yeah, I have issues. Rejection being one of them.
During my formative years it was made clear that I was unwanted. It created in me a lack of self-worth. Don’t get me wrong – I am not blaming my mother for all my issues. She contributed to them, but I’ve been an adult for quite some time. I’m just trying to work through things to keep my sanity. I never wanted either of my girls to feel like this, to feel that they were unwanted unloved, or unworthy! It has been the driving force behind everything I’ve done as a parent.
A friend and writing associate has criticized my parenting on several occasions. It cut deeply. I know I’m not going to be mom of the year. I know that I have a lot of room for improvement, but is it anyone else’s place to critique your parenting when they don’t live with your family? They aren’t there to make those snap decisions. They aren’t there to see the temper tantrums, the poutfests, the attitude, or smart mouth come-backs that your children give you. They weren’t there experiencing my childhood. So in all fairness, does anyone ever have the right to criticize your parenting skills? Well ok, if you are abusive, neglectful, or somehow causing detriment to your child’s well-being or survival then yes.
I’m working through this week’s lesson and homework for this course. I have to evaluate some of these issues and how it has affected me, trying to determine the root problems with my own bad behavior. I think I’ve done a pretty damn good job at parenting. I didn’t always make the best choice, but it was the best choice I knew at the time. I mentioned my oldest one, we are just as proud of our younger daughter as well.
Both are intelligent, beautiful girls with good morals and sense of self-worth. I don’t think any parent is perfect – we have to make snap decisions on the fly, come up with solutions RIGHT NOW, provide conflict resolution, be master chef with limited ingredients ( I don’t like green beans, corn peas, fish, peanut butter, fill in the blank), provide star quality entertainment, instruct them in appropriate dress codes (I had to set a rule with my youngest that no more than 5 colors were to be worn at one time. The oldest was forced to wear colors with her black.), and make sure they get to enjoy some fun in their childhood. All in all, I think every mom that manages to raise their children to adulthood is more qualified to be a CEO of major corporations, or even run congress. I certainly think we’d make better decisions. (You speak to your mother with that mouth senator?)
We are all on different stages along life’s highway. While examining my own troubles, as part of this section I had to come up with music, movies, and tv shows that impacted me as a child and explain why. TV was my babysitter when I was pretty young so there are a whole bunch of ideas that stemmed from Leave it to Beaver, I Dream of Jeannie, The Munsters, Dark Shadows and even Hogan’s Heroes. TV was an escape. It provided laughter and comedic relief to the day-to-day existence.
Music on the other hand was invaluable to me. From the first little hand-held radio (AM) that looked like a white stuffed poodle – music was essential. I learned a variety of styles during my piano lessons. My older siblings exposed me to many artists. One sister loved Elvis Presley, the other loved the Beatles. My brothers contributed Tubular Bells, Inagoddadavita by Iron butterfly. One thing that stood out in my memories though, were Simon and Garfunkel’s album that my sister used to put on the turntable while doing housework and chores.
I still find those tunes comforting and soothing. Strong lyrics that have personal meaning to me. The counselor didn’t like the fact that I lifted the lyrics for my responses, but why reinvent the wheel when Paul Simon expressed it so well?
I Am A Rock”
by Simon & Garfunkel
In a deep and dark December;
I am alone,
Gazing from my window to the streets below
On a freshly fallen silent shroud of snow.
I am a rock,
I am an island.I’ve built walls,
A fortress deep and mighty,
That none may penetrate.
I have no need of friendship; friendship causes pain.
It’s laughter and it’s loving I disdain.
I am a rock,
I am an island.
Don’t talk of love,
But I’ve heard the words before;
It’s sleeping in my memory.
I won’t disturb the slumber of feelings that have died.
If I never loved I never would have cried.
I am a rock,
I am an island.
I have my books
And my poetry to protect me;
I am shielded in my armor,
Hiding in my room, safe within my womb.
I touch no one and no one touches me.
I am a rock,
I am an island.
And a rock feels no pain;
And an island never cries.
It’s how I coped. I built walls, didn’t let anyone in. I am shielded in my armor. I’ve created such a tough shell exterior that very few people really see beyond that to the why’s. Sadly, I know there are many more people who have done the same. The demons may be different but the symptoms are the same.
I think these lyrics sum things up astutely. Now is the hard part, to fix me.
How about you? What are your personal struggles? Is there a song that has meaning to you?
Write on my friends, write on! And as my friend Misty says – L.O.L. (live it – own it – love it)
beautiful post and I loved the pictures
Thanks! I debated about posting them, I didn’t want to emberass my kids but proud mom won out!
Wow. Just…wow. A lot of what you wrote struck a chord with me. I can’t say that I had family issues like you did–but the new baby thing, oh yes. I still remember the first day we brought home our oldest. I watched him sleeping and wondered, “What am I going to do with you? And what will you do with your life?” He’s now 25, involved in research and post-graduate studies in Brazil. My youngest is much closer; at 22, she goes to a university that she can drive home from on the weekends. I can happily say that both kids are two of the best friends I have.
That song–it’s powerful. There was a time in my life when that summed me up perfectly. Fortunately, I’ve grown past that for the most part. The song that I find meaning in now is “Teach Your Children Well”–Crosby, Stills & Nash.
Oh, and the critiquing by other people who don’t live with you–I agree. No one has the right to tell you how to raise your kids. Especially people who have never had any.
Great blog today–thanks!
Ah yes, that is an excellent song as well! I hear that one differently now than I used to. The power of music transforms hurts into distant memories that we learn from and go on.
Yeah, it’s hard enough to hear critique from someone that means well and has kids but when they have these idealized views and don’t have kids, they think all that textbook solutions is the right way. The right way is the best way at that time. It may not be the best way all the time, or next time. In fact, it may not have been the best decision but we own it, learn from it, and move on.
All unsolicited advice – especially about parenting – is meddling regardless of who it comes from.
Ellie from what I know of your girls, they are great people. That says a lot for your parenting skills. They don’t come with manuals. We had to learn through trial and error. In the end….we did the best we could at the time, and that’s all anyone can ask of us.
That’s it exaclty – we do the best we know how to do and that’s all we can do.
The single hardest thing anyone will ever do is be a parent. From what I`ve heard about your girls, I`d say you did just fine. ❤
Thanks! I agree, it’s the toughest job I’ve ever done. I can honestly say ” I get by with a little help from my freinds”!