Have you seen those #MomFail tags on people’s Instagram posts? I know that they are just kidding but I believe that deep down many of us moms and grandmas feel that we’ve failed in parenting. I want to tell you about a time I thought I’d failed for real.
Parenting Paradox: My story
When my eldest was going through his teen years it was rough. I was homeschooling him from grade 8 to grade 11 and at the same time I was homeschooling his brother grades 5 through high school. His baby sister was just beginning her schooling, learning to read and do math, so she was taking a lot of my attention. This boy was intelligent and canny. He knew how to push my buttons. And he loved to push and push. There was war in our house even when I didn’t want to fight.
My parenting strategy wasn’t working very well. Every morning I determined that I wasn’t going to fight. I was going to carefully choose where I would stand and try to keep peace in the house. But every day, he determined that whatever his momma wanted that would be the place he’d battle. It was exhausting parenting a strong-willed teen.
To make matters worse, when I asked his father for help to manage the situation, my son told his Dad that what I said wasn’t true and that I was making it up just to get him in trouble. Instead of supporting me, my husband took my son’s side and asked me to be more understanding of him. That made the hard situation intolerable.
I remember feeling at an utter loss and wondering if I could handle one more day. I stood at the kitchen sink crying and thinking I’d failed. My son was going to turn out to be a shame to his family. There seemed to be nothing I could do to change the course of events. #MomFail
Now to be fair, he wasn’t doing drugs, dropping out of school, or breaking the law. It was simply that he refused to get out of bed in the morning. He refused to do his schoolwork. He refused to get a job to earn part time income and gain work experience.
He just wanted to read novels all day or sleep. Plus he picked on his younger siblings so that they despaired. He mocked me when I asked him to change his behavior. I was afraid he was sinking into mental illness. He wasn’t but my fear of it was there. In short my son was troubled and acting out. And he knew my buttons.
My troubled son moved away from home and finished his last year of high school with his cousin, living with his aunt and uncle. It was good for him to be away from the city and in a smaller rural area. He made friends and excelled at school. He went on to college. And it all seemed like it was working out, though his relationship with me was strained.
Maturity comes with time
After a while we reconnected and our relationship developed on a new footing. I don’t have to get him out of bed in the morning.
This last month he and his partner invited me to come spend a few weeks helping them welcome their first child into the world. I’ve observed him holding his little baby girl, and admired his gentleness, kindness, and unselfishness toward both his partner and his child. And I remembered that day standing at the sink, weeping because I thought I’d failed him. I hadn’t failed. He just needed something I couldn’t give him. Maturity, life experience, and self-acceptance come with time. You don’t get them from your parents.
Be kind to yourself
Mom and Grandma if you feel like you’ve failed in parenting, like I felt, give it time. For my son and I, several years passed before I saw the fruit. Don’t judge your child or your own efforts on their high school or even college years.
If you’ve ever stood at the kitchen sink crying, and wondering what happened to the sweet newborn that you cradled. If you’ve meditated on what went wrong in your relationship and mentally assessed your own parenting failures in the situation, cut yourself some slack. Find a grandma to talk to, someone that will give you perspective, pray with you and for you and help you find new coping skills for the new season of parenting you are in. You are enough, right now, in this season. Yes, you ARE.
I would have loved to have had an older woman to talk to in those hard years. Someone who could have told me at the time, it’s all going to work out. It will be all right. I may have had more resilience if I knew that it was just a season.
This is just a season!
God hasn’t forgotten you. Turn to him in prayer. He knows exactly what is needed. He will help you.