February 10, 2012
seventeen years of winging it
It is almost impossible to believe that seventeen years have passed since I went kicking and screaming into that hospital room as a naive twenty-year old girl.
I had so many hopes and dreams back then, and in a strange way anything seemed possible.
But by far the most important thing to me was that I would be a good mother to my son, and that I would raise him up into a fine young man that any mother would be proud of.
Little did I know back then that raising a child would turn out to be so freaking hard. I was young and I had romantic ideas about how it would all pan out. In my mind's eye, we would be best friends, kindred spirits who shared a special kind of bond.
When I was pregnant, people would often tell me how hard it was going to be, especially in those early years but I would just smile and nod politely while picturing the two of us walking hand in hand along some sun kissed beach, with smiles illuminating our blissfully happy faces.
Parenting is by far and without a doubt the absolute hardest thing I have ever done. It never breaks for summer holiday or weekends, in fact during those times it requires even more blood, sweat and tears than ever. There is no rule book or help manual one can refer to when all hell is breaking loose and 99% of the time we are all just winging it and hoping that nobody catches on. I have been a mother now for seventeen years and I reckon I have acquired a pretty good idea about what not to do.
But the funny thing is, for all of my smarts and my sensibility and over a decade of acquired wisdom, if I had my time all over again, I would undoubtedly still make a million mistakes, have a heap of regrets and ache for some parenting angel to come fluttering down from the sky to tell me how to get it right.
Whenever my son and I butt heads I inevitably find myself reflecting on the argument in one of two ways. Either I blame myself and conclude that I have been too lenient or I blame myself and conclude that I have been too harsh.
What none of us parents will ever admit to one another is that a high percentage of our parenting choices are borne out of guilt. We feel guilty when we yell at them, guilty when we punish them and guilty when we don't give them what they want...Hell we even feel guilty about feeling guilty!
By far the hardest and most guilt ridden years for me have been these recent teenage years. At times I think maybe I have been too lenient and given him too much freedom.
To be honest, I thought I was doing right by him, by trusting and letting him go, mainly because I rebelled against the strict ship I was raised in. But I think it turns out I was kind of wrong.
It is much harder to say no to your child and face the painful reality of them disliking you than it is to say yes to them and have them regard you as their best friend.
It is only through my own trials and experiences that I can see how tough it must have been for my folks to stick to their guns, especially when I was throwing it all back in their faces. Back then I called them out for being the world's worst parents and now days I want to give them a medal of fucking honour.
Yep. Being a parent is tough and being a good parent takes courage.
If I have learnt anything from raising a teenage boy it's that it is not my job to appease him and to be his friend. It is my job to set him right from wrong and to make sure that he has the ability to make good choices for himself and to take care of himself when it comes time for him to leave the nest.
Of course it is our natural instinct to want to do everything for them and this stems from those early years when we are called upon to nourish and protect them, and of course to wipe their bums.
But by far the best thing we can do for our children (and especially our boys) is to stop doing everything for them. Making their school lunches for them when they are almost seventeen may be a nice gesture (wow it sounds even worse on paper) but it does not foster self-reliance.
In fact, it goes a long way to breeding lazy, selfish, ungrateful and incapable men. And the world has enough of those, right?
Give a man a fish and you will feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you will feed him for a lifetime. If I had my time over again I would get my son to make his own school lunches in primary school. I would teach him to cook basic meals (not necessarily all fish based) and do his own washing long before he was seventeen years old. I would.......
Anyway, there is still time (isn't there?) and I am planning to make some changes around here before another year passes us by and he moves out of home.... Sheesh.
At the end of the day, I made mistakes but I did my best with the tools I had in my cupboard. And while I haven't exactly raised a fisherman, I have managed to keep him alive and out of Juvie and I like to think I've raised a pretty good kid and one that I am proud of.