It’s not you, it’s me. No, really!?

My mother and I, circa 1986

Mom and I, circa 1991

In my blogger exploits this past week, I’ve come across several stories that are just heart breaking.

I’m not calling anyone out in this post, if you feel I’m talking about you, that’s your own guilt eating at you, not my words. It’s a tough topic, but it needs to be addressed.

Parenting.

There, I said it. This post is about parenting. But not a typical, “you’re a great mom if you (insert random useless self-appreciating thing here)” or the “The best dads (earn gold stars for whatever is in the parenthetical)”. I want to talk about what your doing wrong. Not all of you, but some of you. Again, your guilt will tell you where you fall. I’m not saying I’m a perfect parent. Just ten minutes ago, I made peanut butter sandwiches on hamburger buns and put the used kitchen knife back in the cabinet. I use wrist tethers and backpack restraints on both my children. We’ve had ice cream for lunch. We’ve all had moments where “I hope this doesn’t make me a bad parent” is the phrase that comes to mind.

I’m talking about the parents who just don’t know what they are doing. When I was a kid, my grandmother felt more like an aunt to me. After her five kids were grown and making babies of their own, she became the primary guardian of two of my cousins, while their little sister bounced around various family members (including living with us for a bit when she was less than a year old). Their parents had problems. My uncle was, and mostly is still, an alcoholic. Their mother had been severely brutalized by her own parents as a child. She died of a drug overdose in her daughter’s apartment barely two years ago. This was a destructive couple to say the least. I don’t doubt that they loved their children dearly. They just didn’t know how to be a good parent.

Kids don’t come with instructions is a joking phrase used by most parents at some point. But I think, at least for some people, parents really do need extra help. These are the parents who have the latest gizmos and gadgets but struggle to put food on the table. These are the parents who have $60,000 cars, but their kids clothes are ragged and worn out. Their priorities are clearly off balance. Being a parent means putting yourself on the sidelines for the betterment of your children. My mother wouldn’t have won “Mother of the Year”, but she did the very best she could. Given the number of traumas she experienced as a teen, she was the best mom she could have been. In contrast to my cousins mom, my mother never locked us in a closet when we were misbehaving. My mother would go days eating very little so that there would be enough to feed my sister and I for breakfast and dinner (we would have lunch at school). My cousins mother wouldn’t feed them at all. They would be let out of their bedrooms just before my uncle came home from work. Naturally, they were half starved and would gorge in the fridge until he walked in, saw that dinner was cooking and sent them to their rooms until dinner. He had no idea that his youngest daughter, not yet able to walk, had been sitting in a sheet-less crib all day, in the same diaper, with a bottle of formula that was days old. He had his problems, she had hers. And neither were there for their children.

To me, some people just don’t know how to be good parents. They can’t get past their own issues for the sake of their children. They feel helpless under the weight of their own problems and don’t know what to do with a small child relying on them for everything. I readily admit that, years ago, I had to water down the milk to make it last til payday. There have been times our family has hit rock bottom, but my kids have always come first. Maybe this is a result of my self-sacrificing nature.I would give my last penny to a complete stranger if I thought it would help them. But some people need to be taught this concept.

It is possible to break the cycle. My cousin, “Janie”, was one raised by my grandmother. She has a daughter of her own now and has done wonderful things for her daughter. It’s difficult for her being a single mom (the babies father is passed away while she was pregnant), but Janie has a great support system. Her daughter’s grandparents as well as her half-siblings (her father got around), all live together and it seems to be working out well for them.

On the flip side, not everyone who is broken comes from a broken home. My cousin, “Matt”, grew up with both parents in the home. His mother was a stay-at-home at one point, a working mom at others. He has four siblings and they were all a happy family. He was in his early 20s when his parents got divorced, but they remained amicable. Matt took a turn for the worse when he met a young mother, I’ll call “Destiny”. Destiny had one son already and she and Matt quickly became an item. A few years go by and they now have two additional children and are both addicted to prescription pills. My aunt, Matt’s mother, is now raise his two smallest children, ages 5 and 3. Destiny was drowning and Matt tried to save her, only to be pulled under the current as well. My aunt is struggling to keep her head above water taking care of her nine year old daughter and now her two grandsons.

 

I didn’t write this to air my families dirty laundry, but to illustrate a point. Parenting isn’t easy. As a child, I learned very quickly the things my mother worried about, the things she feared, and as an adult, I worry and fear for them too. It’s irrational for me to have these same fears but it was fixed in my head “that’s what parents do”. Not everybody knows how to be a good parent. Some people need more help than others. Some refuse to fix their own issues so they can be their for their children at all.

Blessed child,
  You are a gift. You were brought here for a reason. I know your life is rough. I know it doesn’t make a lot of sense. I know that sometimes mommy or daddy may yell a lot. They may not be home when you need them. They may not be allowed to come home. But please know this, your mommy and daddy love you so much. They just don’t know how to a good parent. Some day, when you are a mommy or a daddy, you will know what this means. For now, I wrap you in love, dear little one. I hug you tight, kiss your little head and tell you that YOU ARE LOVED!

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