Parenting is an important job. It’s one of life’s double edged swords of beauty and pain, like a thorny rose. It’s a privilege and it’s precarious. It’s exhausting and life giving. The rewards of watching your child(ren) grow into their potential and seeing them shine with happiness are tempered with the tantrums of toddlerhood and teenage rebellion. The warmth and comfort of the loving hug and tender kiss on the cheek of a sleepy child is what takes the sting of being told, “You’re ruining my life!” Parenting is not for the weak of heart. It strengthens those who may start out weak and weakens those who begin with the belief in their own power.
My oldest is 30. My youngest is 8. I started taking care of my infant cousin when I was 14-15. My 23 year old is now parenting two of her own. My grandchildren will soon be 3 and 2. I’ve been doing this parenting thing a very long time . . . and still feel like I’m walking on sinking sand most of the time.
Even more so with my youngest.
When I was young, I had this hope and belief that I could figure it out quickly and be the best mom in the world. I had come from such a dysfunctional family and I just KNEW that anything I did would be so much better than how I had been raised. I had the overcertainty, overconfidence, and false sense of invincibility of youth to prop up my belief that I was a good parent.
Of course, hindsight has taught me that I was delusional and that my eldest was not the child blessed with the best parent. He and his sister saw more than their fair share of dysfunction and heartache throughout their lives with me as their mother. I’ve moved beyond the mommy guilt and shame from those years and realizing the pain I caused them. I’ve worked hard on my healing, recovery, and growth. I’ve worked hard to make amends, to repair and restore my relationships with them, so I can have a place in their lives now.
By the time their sister was born, when I was 39, I was overwhelmed with the knowledge of my faults and failures. I was living the life of a castaway on a tempest tossed sea of depression, hopelessness, fear, resentment, and bitterness. I was in no way, shape, or form under the illusion that I was a fit parent. However, I was determined to do better by her than I’d been able to do by her siblings. I’ve sought every opportunity for her to have access to supportive services to fill in my gaps. I’ve taken as many parenting classes as I was able to. I’ve done what I could to make healthier, more stabilizing choices.
I didn’t plan on getting diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder, PTSD, Hypothyroidism, and Diabetes II. I didn’t plan on her getting identified with High Functioning Autism Spectrum Disorder. I didn’t plan on the relationship with her father continuing to deteriorate and to increase in toxicity to the point we couldn’t live together anymore. I didn’t plan on us figuring out that he’s probably on the autism spectrum, undiagnosed and untreated, all 51 years of his life. I didn’t plan on my mental and physical health disorders combining to keep me from working or holding down a job. I didn’t plan on feeling or being so broken that some days it’s all I can do to not go back to bed once she’s on the bus to her school.
I certainly had no idea that I would need to plan on being hit and kicked, called names, screamed and screeched at until my eardrums almost burst, and told on a daily basis that she wished she’d had a different mom.
I don’t want to be the mom who’s too exhausted and hurting to play with her child. I don’t want to be the mom who’s so overwhelmed with thoughts and feelings from PTSD that when her child has meltdowns, she melts down too. I don’t want to be the mom who has to restrain herself from lashing out when her child lashes out at her. I don’t want to be this mom.
My little girl is hurting right now. She’s hurting because people who she formed attachments to, have disappeard from her life. All children experience pain and difficulty when important people are no longer around. All children act out in whatever ways they need to in order to cope with the big feelings of grief, bewilderment, abandonment, anger, and whatever other feeling they may have. Her way of coping is all of the same things that other kids do . . . amplified on an exponetial level.
After the hitting, kicking, screaming, name calling, and lashing out have happened, at the end of each day, her sweet little girl voice tells me she loves me, tells me she’s sorry for saying and doing mean things, and tells me she wants me to hold her.
A better mom might say that hearing her tell me those things makes all the rest of it disappear and seem worth it. Well, I’m not that mom. As much as I love my little girl and as much as my heart breaks for her struggles and to know the challenges she faces, hearing those sweet declarations of her love for me, just don’t make me feel better about having been hit, kicked, screamed at, and called a bitch less than an hour or two before. At least not all the time and not recently.
These are the times when I think that parenting sucks . . . and then feel guilty for feeling that way because I love her so much, my heart aches. How can it possibly be okay to feel that way about this child, any child, my child?