Tuesday, September 30, 2014

I am a Terrible Parent

I'm a terrible parent. It's true. The evidence is everywhere.

  It's all I've been reading about these past few weeks. My Facebook feed is filled with stories and statistics about how my over-parented offspring barely stand a chance in life. All of my well meaning help, advice, support and love has evidently crippled them and left them unable to make choices and fend for themselves in the real world.  At the first sign of rejection or adversity, they are apt to curl up in a ball and stay that way until I come to their rescue. They have been over-indulged by my helicoptery (yes, I made up that word) parenting style, and now they are doomed.

Up until a few days ago, I was actually buying this. It's been a rough few weeks, for so many different reasons, and I let this sort of stuff get to me and make things worse. Lots of self-recrimination, self-doubt and wishes to turn back time and do things differently. Well, I've given this a great deal of thought and  here's what I say now...BALONEY!!!

I can't for the life of me understand why so many people spend so much time looking for ways to put everyone else down or make them feel inept, misguided or broken, or at the very least failures at the one thing they thought they had done well. After reading all of this new "research", I am so very grateful that I am not the parent of little ones anymore, because I think I would be paralyzed with fear at the thought of doing everything so completely wrong. At least I had the good fortune of getting my kids to 20, 18 and 14 before realizing how badly I bungled everything.

Many moons ago

I am a good parent. Great on some days, significantly sub-par on others, but on balance, I am good. Are there things I wish I had done differently? Yes, tons of them. Here are a few...
  • I should have taught them to do laundry sooner (definitely sooner than the day or week before they left for college. Oops.)
  • I should have bought them fewer things
  • I should have given them more chores
  • I should have stayed off of Parent Portal and not micromanaged their schoolwork (I wish Parent Portal was never invented)
  • I should have given them much better money management skills
  • I should have given them a much stronger foundation in a church. I never had it, so I did my best, but I really wish I had done more. I'm still trying.
  • I should have held out longer on things like cell phones, Instagram, Facebook and Twitter
  • I should have said "no" a lot more when "yes" didn't feel completely right
  • I should have worried far less if they liked me or not (but that goes for everyone in my whole life, so this is a skill I'm still trying to master)
But there are many, many things I did that were right (for me), and that I would do all over again, and that I will continue to do, regardless of the naysayers. 

  • I told my kids I loved them a lot, OK, a crazy amount. Sometimes several times in the same phone conversation. I will continue to do this. They will always know how very much they are loved.
  • I raised children with excellent table manners. I think it's really important and will get you far in life. We used to play "the queen is coming to dinner" game while practicing when they were little. 
  • I taught my kids to always be polite to their elders. To this day there have been very few reports to the contrary
  • I taught my children to look people in the eye and to shake hands
  • I taught my children to always have an opinion
  • I taught them to love food and great big family meals. It's where the best stories are told.
  • I taught them to love travel and adventure
  • I taught them to love books
  • I taught them to hold doors
  • I apologized when I was wrong
  • I taught them that no topics were off-limits. I did this by talking to them about EVERYTHING, even the embarrassing and really awkward stuff, and I did it often. I did a lot of this talking in moving cars. They can't escape.
  • I taught them that if they have a choice that will make someone feel good or someone feel bad, that should be the easiest choice they make. It starts with sharing a toy or a seat at a lunch table, but carries on to so many bigger choices in life.
  • I taught them to love animals and babies
  • I showed them that service to others matters and told them that they have so much to give
  • I listened
  • I praised them...a lot. I refuse to put this in the negative column.
  • I took them lots of grown up places and trusted that they knew how to behave. Kids can't be expected to behave in restaurants, museums, hotels, etc. if you never give them the chance.
  • I told them they were smart, and beautiful and kind, because they are.
  • I asked too many questions, but as a result, I got a lot more information than most moms
  • I taught my kids to be confident public speakers, a life skill that will never be wasted
  • and I told them I loved them some more

I have watched each one struggle through hard times, from middle school mean girls (and yes, they are the worst), to bigger disappointments, and even through some really big things that I wished I could have protected them from forever. I helped in any way I could, even if that help could only be crying right along with them sometimes. I refuse to believe that praising them less and letting them fail more would have really made them more ready for the lives they are trying to live now (but the money management skills would have helped). And even if all of these articles are right and I am wrong, my kids knew (and always know), that they are never alone, no matter how far away they are.

So while they were clearly over-indulged (and still are to this day), over praised and definitely "over-parented", I think my kids are amazing, good, kind people, and I have every confidence that (with a few stumbles, I'm sure) they will forge their own paths into their own happy adult lives. They are not perfect. I am not perfect. We are, however, pretty perfect together.  And in case you didn't know...I love them.

I know my use (and non-use) of periods in my bullet points will make some of you crazy. I should fix it, but I'm just so grateful to publish this post after so much time has past, that I'm going to let that go.