I have heard people say that there should be a test administered for parenting before someone is permitted to bring a child into the world. I have witnessed stupid parents in action and sort of agree! Yikes. A few years ago, I accidentally bought a Christmas gift with the wrong name monogrammed on it. A friend recommended I try to sell it on a “Mommies” group on Facebook. So, I sent a request to join the group, and posted my item. It didn’t sell, but that is not where I am going with this. I stayed on this group for a few weeks, and literally watched in shock as some of the most absurd posts surfaced. “My child has been vomiting all night and hasn’t eaten in 2 days…anyone have a similar experience with this and have recommendations on what I should do?” I immediately wanted to write, “You should call the Department of Human Services and tell them that you are an idiot and that your child needs to be put in foster care immediately!” Why in the world would you ask Facebook people, most of which you have never met, what to do instead of hauling your ass to an Emergency Room or calling your child’s pediatrician?!? The stupidity and peer pressure on that site was INSANE! Another post went something like this, “It’s my son Biff’s 3rd birthday. Looking for new ideas for his party.” I found myself checking this post frequently out of curiosity. “Oh, we had Ted’s Exotic Pets come to my son’s and the kids got to ride the Alpacas” Uhm…. What? Or “We had a casino night and gave my 3-year-old and all his friends $30 to play games while smoking candy cigarettes and sipping juice cup martinis. It was so adorbs!” I’m pulling your leg on that last one, but that is how outrageous some of the responses were. What happened to the Good Old Days of “I made a Betty Crocker Cake, bought some Turkey Hill ice cream and we sang happy birthday with the kids on the block?” I appreciate that I raised most of my children in simpler times.
Let’s face it, there isn’t a science to parenting. It is a hard and stressful job a good amount of the time. I watch families in meltdown mode, dragging their kids through amusement parks and restaurants and think…How the hell did I survive that insanity? As I watched some of the comments in that group, I couldn’t help but think that somewhere along the line, we have lost track of the fact that a good parent doesn’t have to throw elaborate parties and buy expensive gifts. We just need to teach our kids basic moral fundamentals: Be honest, work hard, and love deeply, you know, important thinks like that. But we also have an obligation to guide them onto that course and protect them along the way. This was a task I was not consistent on performing in my parenting. I was really good at that for so many years, all the way up to the second I wasn’t. If there WAS a test on parenting and this section was on it, I am afraid that I would have failed miserably and would be childless today.
I had the unique experience of being a very young mom and then an old mom. Three of my children were born before my 24th birthday, and one after my 37th. I have to say that I didn’t dream of being a mom. It was not part of my high school finance plan as I believed that I was going to be one of the top attorneys in the city, living in the penthouse suite at Rittenhouse Square, driving my brand-spanking-new, red Lamborghini, What else, right? Lol…Talk about straying from your dreams. As that young mom, I can remember being excited at each milestone my kids reached, not as an accomplishment to be proud of, but one less thing I had to do. I was trying to survive myself those days. I regret that terribly looking back now. The old mom version of me was so much more patient and present. I was established in my career, had my own business, made my own hours and cried each time a milestone was met, and my son no longer needed me. So, although, having children was not a planned thing for me, once I had them, I fell in love and I was fierce in protection them.
As most moms, I spent more time making meals, doing laundry, helping with homework, and running to sports than there were hours in the day. I also wanted to be the cool neighborhood mom, so if someone wanted to have a friend sleep over, the answer was typically yes. I rarely had a house of 3 kids; it was typically 5 to 6 most times. As my girls got older, I ‘wanted’ to stay the cool mom, but I found that I tended to ‘lose my cool’ instead. My older children were raised in a time of no cell phones, so I could keep track of them better believe it or not with my secret weapons…. EAVESDROPPING and INVASION OF PRIVACY! If I heard there was a keg party down at the train tracks and they were going, sure enough, I was venturing back with a flashlight yelling to them by their first and last name and warning them that if I caught up with them, they were done. YES, I was that mom! I can recall my one daughter being on the phone on night, you know, the one attached to the wall. I overheard her talking about her friend’s mom being away and everyone going there for a party. When she finished, I said, “I hope you don’t think you are going to that house with no parental supervision.” “Oh, please mom, I’m not” was the response. When she left, I called a friend of mine that lived in that neighborhood and asked her to look outside in about 15-20 minutes and let me know if she saw my daughter going into that house. As sure as the sky is blue, my phone rang about 20 minutes later and my friends only words were, “You are good!” Like most rationale parents, I drove to the house and calmly knocked on the door. Suddenly the background music stopped playing. So, I proceeded to knock again and wait patiently. After a few minutes, all I could think is …You have got to be friggen kidding me? Are they this stupid? I stepped back and looked at the house: all blinds and curtains were pulled shut. As I starred at the house trying to resist the urge to borrow an axe and chop through the door, I noticed that the half-moon window at the top of the storm door had clear glass. A quick scan of the front of the house brought my attention to a large trash can. I grabbed the trashcan, turned it upside down in front of the door, climbed up and looked in. Can you imagine if this happened today, in the day and age of cell phone videos and social media? I would be an internet sensation overnight with this type of insanity. As I looked in, there were about 12-15 kids sitting on the living room floor looking up and me. For the love of God!!!! I tapped on the glass, pointed directly at the little liar that belonged to me, and made the motion with my thumb up and moving backwards over my shoulder that signified …” Let’s go!” It took me all I had not to choke her right there.
As my children became teenagers, I was hard on them at times…a lot of times if I am being honest. I needed them to be great and stay out of trouble as I didn’t want them to turn out like me…mom at 18. It was so important to me to show people that MY mistake as a teen would not carryover to my kids. So, I could be super fun but super strict. If you have one, you can also relate to that fact that teens like to test limits and in testing limits, they will tell lies along the way. Some of my children lied more than others. It was like the little boy who cried wolf. At some point, I no longer believed a word that was being said by any of them. This is the ultimate parent fail. It is my ultimate mom fail. I will refer to the “unspeakable” event in my life many times in my blogs, but this is not my story to tell and its origin will remain private to protect people as a result. My mistake is something that will haunt me forever, but I was fully committed to the belief that teens will lie to deflect attention away from the things they are trying to get away with. In a lot of cases, I was 100% accurate and my theory worked. However, in one very important situation, I was wrong.
When you make a vital mistake as a parent, no matter what the situation is, it is extremely hard to accept. As the parent, you are supposed to be correct all the time…Right? You aim to be perfect in your children’s eyes. When you fuck that up so significantly, how do you ever recover? You are clearly no longer their hero, or someone they can even count on, trust, or look up to. Perhaps I am very hard on myself, perhaps other parents have made mistakes but adopt a ‘oh well, I tried my best’ attitude and live stress free, or perhaps, some of you are lucky enough to have not messed up. But I am painfully aware of this reality EVERY…SINGLE…DAY! And every so often, some of my adult children will get mad or frustrated with me, and do not ever miss the opportunity to remind me of my mistake. I feel that this is a perpetual sin I will be paying for indefinitely.
I wanted to be the perfect mom, but I was not. I have accepted that I have made a very big mistake that I can never change. I live with a terrible, gut wrenching fear that the thousands of things I have done right as a mom will not be the ones remembered at the end of my life, just the one I screwed up. I watch the movie Eat, Pray, Love at least once a year, it’s one of my favorite movies! I watch it faithfully on New Year’s Day to remind myself that it is a new year and I need to continue to work on letting go all these demons that keep me trapped in the quiet torture of my mind and find balance. The scene that touches me the most is when Richard from Texas and Liz are in the car after the wedding and she talks about wanting her ex-husbands forgiveness who she believes she hurt very deeply. Richard says, “Forgive Yourself. If you do that, then everything else will take care of itself.” In the very next scene, Richard proceeds to tell her the story of how he messed up with his son. Liz then asks, “Is that why you are here, to forgive yourself?” Richard replies that he is working on it. Well I, too, am still working on it. At times I fear I will spend the rest of my life working on it. But each year, when I watch that movie, that line breaks my heart a little less, so perhaps I am making progress.