I received an email this morning from a pretty great friend. She sent me a link to Donald Miller’s blog and the post titled Great Parents Do This Well with her own words: “Me thinks you already do this… hence the great kids you have!”
First of all, I just want to publicly thank her for making me feel special today. I’m usually pretty down on myself for my own perceived lack of parenting abilities and to have someone tell me they think I’m a great parent is a bit overwhelming but actually kind of cool.
Second, I just want to say that the post she sent me is worth reading, so I suggest you click on the link because the rest of my post refers to it. I will admit that I’ve never heard of Donald Miller. I will also openly admit I’m not Christian and tend to stay away from Christian-related literature. A lot of that is from my own childhood and the pain associated with trying to fit a certain religious mold and never quite measuring up. I do realize there are great Christian authors out there and I’m doing myself a disservice by avoiding them; but I’m thinking baby steps are perfectly okay in this area.
I didn’t set out to be the type of parent who shows her weaknesses to her children. I started my parenting years in much the same way I was parented; trying to control everything and doing things because it was the “right” thing to do rather than what I thought was best for me and my child. “Right” is a subjective word anyway. What is the “right” way to parent? I don’t know that anyone really has an answer. I think we all tend to do what we think is “right” and hope for the best, which is all anyone can ask for.
I’m not sure when the “right” way to parent became, “I’m your parent and I’ve already learned all those things so I know better than you what is best for you,” or “My child can’t see my weaknesses because I need to raise a healthy, happy child and if they don’t see how much I’ve screwed up, maybe they will avoid it.”
I was somewhere in my early teens when I was at my Grandmother’s house and she showed me and my siblings a picture of my Dad. He was pretty upset that she showed us the picture, but it still makes me wonder to this day why he didn’t tell us the things we saw in that picture. I believe his words could have bridged a huge gap. Perhaps I would have seen my Dad as slightly more human and maybe a little less of the rigid authoritarian figure he was. I would have perhaps understood his decision to turn to religion and his willingness for us to have religion in our lives as well. I understand it wouldn’t have been easy to share those things with us. Who wants others to know hard truths about them? Who willingly shares that?
I didn’t so much make a parenting choice as one was forced on me by my own weaknesses in life. As many of you know, I have depression and there have been times in my life when it was worse than others. When my children were small was one of those times and it was difficult to hide from them. I thought I hid a lot of it from them, but now that Adelle is older, she has told me that I didn’t keep as much as I thought from them. So, I can’t really take credit for showing them weaknesses that they saw or were a part of even when I was trying to keep them from it.
However, I did make a conscious choice when my daughter was around twelve to close the gap between mother and child. I believe to this day if I hadn’t done that, I would have lost her. I decided I would rather be more her friend and a part of her life than a parent and not even know her. Is it a balancing act? Yes. Is it harder to parent that way? Sometimes. Is it worth it? It was and is for me.
My children see me cry, not just at sad movies or at funerals, but on bad days when I’m crying for no reason. They ask questions and I don’t always tell them everything, but they do hear me say, “I’m just having a bad day.” When they ask me questions, I answer them honestly. Sometimes this has been embarrassing and difficult, but I believe they learn, even from the embarrassment. I’ve told them the mistakes I’ve made in life. I tell them the mistakes I make now. They will learn it one way or another, why not from their mom?
I’m not afraid to admit when I’m wrong. I have apologized to my children for raising my voice or when I’ve been angry. I change my mind. I think it was just yesterday that Andru asked me if he could do something and I said no. He asked me why and I honestly couldn’t think of a reason why. So I said, “You know what? Go ahead. I don’t know why I said no.”
Children are human beings. As parents, it shouldn’t be okay for us to take their humanity away just because they are in a different age group or because we’ve been there and we know better. Do we want to protect our children? Sure. But in order to protect them how we want to, it requires us to have ultimate control and we all lose something in that process.
I know my parenting style isn’t accepted by everyone, and that’s okay. I’m doing my best just like everyone else and not everyone is going to agree on the best way to do it. But I do try to remember what it was like at age twelve or fourteen or seventeen. I remember what I thought and how I felt about my parents. I don’t ever want my children to feel that way about me. I don’t ever want them to feel like they can’t be who they want to be because I’m standing in their way.
This post is part of Just Jot It January hosted by Linda G Hill.