This post is really for my sister, Toadie. But there are things I have to say that I want other parents to read, so I’m posting it rather then just writing her privately. In some ways, this is also a letter to myself. So, here goes:
First, I love you. Stop beating yourself up. There is no such thing as perfect and as much as we want to be, there is no possible way any one can be a perfect parent. We are limited by are humanity. But that is also a strength. As we struggle, we can show our children that you can conquer and work through problems. We can be an anchor when they are struggling. The most important thing that a parent provides a child is presence. Having an emotional connection with other people is the single most important factor for a person’s happiness and mental well being. All shit can be tearing loose, but if a person is grounded with loving and supportive people they can come through with resilience. It never seems like enough. Especially when they reach the age that they are struggling into adulthood. We have to stand back and let go. If we don’t they will never fly. But it is so hard. Being there never seems like doing anything. Your heart aches to fix all their problems, but you can’t. For so many reasons, you can’t. The world isn’t designed in a way that we can erase all their hurts or heal all their wounds. And trying to do so will prevent them from learning the important life skills they need to thrive when we are gone. It’s so hard. But not being able to fix their problems does not make you a bad parent. It makes you a human parent. Forgive yourself for that.
Never measure yourself by the praise of others. Even if they cannot see it; you have value and beauty embedded within you, inherent in who you are. Stop waiting to be noticed or appreciated. Notice and appreciate yourself. Notice the things that you do well and the shining characteristics you have. Be still and notice; take stock of who you are. Be honest, but be kind. No one is all bad. Each of us hold a dichotomy of light and darkness. We are all a swirling blend of grey. Let yourself be grey. But remember to look at your light. You are smart and loving. You ache when you see your children struggling. You consider the needs and wants of others. You are strong; moving forward and looking for solutions even when it is hard. You are stubborn, particularly so when it comes to your children. You stand up and refuse to allow their problems to be overlooked or dismissed. You fight for them. That is a lot of light. That’s a good parent.
Sometimes, people don’t say what they should to each other. Time slips by and they miss the opportunities they once had. Just because someone has failed to say something does not mean that they do not feel it. Doesn’t mean they have not noticed. You can choose to wait for them to speak, letting the time pass in your own way. Or you can start the conversation. These conversations are hard, frightening. There is no way to predict how they will go. But I feel they are important. When you don’t know if you are appreciated or noticed, ask. You might find that you were passed by like a shadow, and that idea is difficult to face. Even more difficult to accept. But you might also find that they have noticed and appreciated, but let the feelings go unstated. It is a risk, but mother will never be able to tell you how father is feeling or what he was thinking while we were growing up. Father is a convoluted person. I can never see into him clearly. All the past, the present, my fears and my hopes wisp around him like mist and weave into his being. Who is to say which parts are real? But it is undeniable that he is the central figure in my childhood. You are right when you say that you shouldn’t bottle up your feelings. Don’t bottle these questions and doubt up either. They can be as toxic as anger.
Things were so different when we children. There is much that I wish had stayed the same, but there is much that has changed that I am grateful for. While there is much work left to do, I am glad to see that there is at least an awareness about the differences and challenges our children face. There are options for children that we didn’t have. But it is all so complex. It is unfair for us and for our parents to look back upon or childhood with the light of today’s reality with regret. In the future there will be options for our grandchildren that our children don’t currently have. We work with what is present in today. Mother needs to forgive herself for not seeing what no one else was seeing and what was mostly misunderstood. Hell, it’s still mostly misunderstood. I can’t even fit together the puzzle pieces of myself. I think that’s also part of being human.
Getting Scholar Owl or yourself screened will harm nothing. But it might shed a different light upon the challenges the two of you are facing. Maybe you will find other possible ways to tackle those challenges. If there is nothing, what did you lose? And it’s never to late to be screened. Unfortunately, psych is still a game of hide and seek, then trial and error. I agree with Mother in regards to Scholar Owl behaving younger then his age on an emotional and social level. Both of up present with symptoms that fall into the Autism category, but those symptoms over lap with others. It’s a tangled knot. Maybe being screened can help untie the knot a little. Because I sure don’t have the answers. And I’m not as good with knots as I’d like to be.
Because I was bitching to her about him accusing me of giving up on my son when the law says at 15 my son has the legal right to tell me to fuck off and drop out of school and there is not a damn thing I can do about it. Just like at 14 he has the legal right to tell me to fuck off and not go to his med appointments or therapy appointments or take his meds. I can’t even legally force this kid to take a shower. So I consider myself incredibly lucky that my son is still willing to sit down with me to at least read the fucking book, half ass the assignment, take his meds, go to his appointments, and take a shower at least once a week. Is it perfect? Nope. Not by a long shot. But it’s SOMETHING and way the fuck better than NOTHING.
That is the hardest part about parenting once they reach this age. You’re still looked to as be responsible, when the power to make choices has been stripped away. There is even a feeling of responsibility in yourself, but their lives are now really in their own hands. And I don’t disagree with this. They need the autonomy. But it makes so much difficult for us parents. Who doesn’t want to scream when they see their kid doing something stupid? Unfortunately, making bad choices is part of becoming an adult. Even more unfortunate is that society blames those bad choices on the parent. It sucks. There isn’t going to be perfect. Something is better then nothing. Would you refuse $10,000 because you couldn’t get a “full” million? I wouldn’t. Rather have $10,000 then nothing.
It can be so hard to know how much to push our kids. They do need to be pushed and challenged, but it can be so hard to figure out how much. Not getting that balance right doesn’t make you a bad parent. Raising kids is trail and error too. You try things and see what happens. If it works, it’s great. If it isn’t working, you try something else. Good parents don’t have all the answers. What they have is a willingness to keep trying, to keep investing themselves in their children.
Now, give yourself a hug and forgive yourself for being human. Then reminder yourself that being human isn’t all bad.