I now understand why some animals eat their young.
Fuck it’s been a long haul. But I’m close. The light at the end of the tunnel is in sight. My oldest turned 19 not that long ago and the twins will be 17 soon. And they’re all alive. No one is pregnant. And they may all even graduate high school. All parenting wins right?
But in all seriousness, I have devoted the last 13 years of my life to trying to be a good parent. To help my girls become who they feel they are meant to be all the while trying to encourage them to become kind, empathetic, good people. It’s been exhausting and exhilarating and the absolute best thing I’ve done with my life. So I thought I’d share some of the hard fought parenting lessons I’ve learned along the way.
School/Homework Doesn’t Really Matter
Very early on as a parent I decided that it was more important to be a good person then a good student, so that’s where I’ve focused my energy with my girls. Our school system is archaic and outdated and not designed for anyone who doesn’t learn “normally.” And none of my girls do. So instead of making them feel bad about themselves for not being able to memorize this or produce that, I spent their time outside of school developing their value system, fostering kindness, helping them understand the concept of service above self.
I’m Not Your Friend
Our girls are adopted which has made my parenting journey different from most, but no less wonderful or frustrating. And the single best piece of advice I have ever received about parenting was this. Don’t be their friend. Accept that you have to be the bad guy a lot of the time and do unpleasant things like setting boundaries, making them do chores and living through their temper tantrums without placating them with screens or sugar. Parenting is hard. Friendship is easier. If you want something easy then don’t become a parent.
They Are Who They Are
It’s the whole nurture vs. nature debate. I used to be nurture all the way, but now I feel differently. I can see it in our girls. As a parent I can share my values, set routines, explain right and wrong, but I can’t shape their personalities. For example, as creative and flighty as I am, I also enjoy order, try to be tidy and thrive on quiet and solitude. Nobody taught me to be this way, in fact, I was raised in a very different environment. It’s just simply who I am, my personality. And now, my oldest, who has been “nurtured,” in a quiet, tidy, tranquil environment is the complete opposite. She is loud and messy and chatty and fun, fun, fun. This is who she was meant to be regardless of how she was parented. My job as her mother is not to mold her into a mini-me, but to help her become her best self, whatever that looks and feels like to her.
Social Media is the Devil
FUCK social media! It is the worst thing in the world for teenagers. Teens are cruel and idiotic and impulsive, so giving them a platform where they can hide behind a screen to say and do mean, careless, dangerous things is a nightmare. After a very unsettling incident involving nude photos and a stranger, my partner and I decided that none of our girls would have cell phones and would only be allowed to access the internet at home in front of us or at the tiny library in our town where the computers are in a very public place. But it’s still a nightmare. Why? Because they can use their friend’s phones, get on Facebook at school or at a coffee shop.
I’ll say it again. FUCK social media.
Eat Dinner With Your Kids. Always.
This seems so simple, yet it’s really hard to do in the world we live in. But do it. It’s how you find out what’s going on with them. Say things like “What’s new?” or “How was your day?” They’ll start talking if you stare at them long enough.
Another obvious one, but not one you see happening often, especially with teens. And don’t get me wrong. I am not about forced hugging or unwanted touch. Our oldest almost went a full two years without wanting us to hug her, but now she’s open to it again. Safe physical contact is important for all humans. A hug says that we’re still a safe place to land even if you’re having a shit day and slamming doors and rolling your eyes at everyone and everything. A hug says “I love you no matter what.”
And that’s it. That’s all I’ve got after thirteen years in the parenting trenches. Simple right? Like hell it is. Even though my girls are older, I’m still figuring things out and making mistakes. Every. Single. Fucking. Day. But I can say, unequivocally, that it has all been worth it. Every tear, every screaming match, every “I hate you.” Worth it. Parenting has changed me…for the better. So worth it.