We are not bad parents

Discussion in 'Parent Emeritus' started by Tanya M, Mar 6, 2016.

  1. Tanya M

    Tanya M Living with an attitude of gratitude Staff Member

    We are not bad parents:

    Through our journey’s we have all second guessed ourselves and our parenting skills. How is it that our children’s lives have become so unmanageable? Where did we go wrong? What should we have done?

    Surely this must be my fault, I didn’t love him/her enough, I loved him/her too much, I was too strict, I wasn’t strict enough. These questions and doubts can be endless.

    There are no easy or magic answers. We can play the woulda, coulda, shoulda game but in the end that will never change anything. All it produces is wasted energy on our part. We have no power over the past. We only have control over the present time we are in. Not one of us here is a perfect parent. We have all made mistakes, however, we all love our children and are heartbroken that their lives have spiraled out of control.

    Are there aspects of how our parenting affected our children in a negative way? Absolutely, but the same holds true in that there are many if not more positive things we did right.

    The truth is, we all did the best we could in raising our children. We loved them, we nurtured them, we taught them right from wrong, we afforded them opportunities, we stood by them, we bailed them out, we enabled them and we enabled them some more. Our children for reasons we may never fully understand have made choices to live their lives in a manner that we would not want for them.

    We have traversed the most difficult battlefield. We carry deep scars upon our hearts and mind that no one can see. We hide behind a mask of normalcy to those who cannot begin to understand what it is like for us to have a Difficult Child. For those who do not know what it is like to have a Difficult Child, they may have good intentions, their comments and “advice” can be cruel and cut like a knife.

    We are all at different points on this very difficult journey. What a blessing this site is for each one of us. For those that are new to this journey to those of us who have traveled this road for many years we come here to share, to support, to cry and to laugh, but most of all we come here because there is such comfort in knowing that we are not alone.

    We are not bad parents.

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  2. nlj

    nlj Well-Known Member

    I am reading Sue Klebold's book: "A Mother's Reckoning".

    It's heartbreaking.
  3. Tanya M

    Tanya M Living with an attitude of gratitude Staff Member

    The Columbine tragedy is very personal for me. I was still living in Colo. at the time this happened and many of my co-workers kids went to Columbine. One of my co-workers son was killed. It was just so horrific.

    My son at the time was 17 the same age as Dylan Klebold. He was serving time in a juvenile detention center.

    I remember all the talk around the office about how everyone blamed the parents, how "they should have known" and I remember thinking, this could have been my son. My son had exhibited such rage and fury that I was terrified of him. My son set fire to the field behind his Jr. High School. Yes, it could have been my son. My son once shared with me how he and some of his buddies beat up a homeless man. I was horrified!!! I wanted to tell the police but without evidence or my son admitting to them what he had done, I knew nothing would come of it. I remember the threats my son used to make that he wanted to kill everyone including me and my husband.

    My heart goes out to the Klebold's and Harris's. I have imagined myself in their shoes over the years.

    Yes, it's heartbreaking.
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    Last edited: Mar 6, 2016
  4. Estherfromjerusalem

    Estherfromjerusalem Well-Known Member

    Tanya, I couldn't agree with you more. Today I have reached a state of calmness (well, that's not such an achievement when my difficult child has taken himself to the other side of the world and he's been there for the past five years!), and have the peace of mind to reflect on things. One of the main conclusions I have come to is just as you said -- we all, as parents, did the best we could for our child. We may have made mistakes and could have done it differently, but at that time and under those circumstances, that was the best that we could do. Well, no one can be expected to do more than their best. I have ALMOST reached the stage of not blaming myself, but only ALMOST. I just can't quite get there completely!

    Love, Esther
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  5. SomewhereOutThere

    SomewhereOutThere Well-Known Member

    Dylan wasnt violent at all before colombine. I finished the book.
  6. recoveringenabler

    recoveringenabler Well-Known Member Staff Member

    Beautifully said Tanja, thank you.
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  7. TheWalrus

    TheWalrus I Am The Walrus

    I played the "regret game" many times, rewinding and replaying all the things I should have done differently. When I stopped and really thought about it, I knew ALL parents make mistakes. No one does it perfectly. And I could honestly answer that every decision I ever made with my daughter was done with love. Parenting is a learning process, and we learn what to do/not to do as we go, and as I knew more, I did better. But not one time did I ever make a decision that wasn't with her best interests at heart and love in mine. So I don't play that game anymore!
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  8. mtdenise

    mtdenise Member

    Yes, we do put on a mask of normalcy. I've had people who know some of the stuff about my Difficult Child say things that did cut like a knife...and make me feel as if I wasn't doing all I could. Great post. Thank you.
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  9. New Leaf

    New Leaf Well-Known Member

    Thank you Tanya, great post. We are all just human beings, doing the best we can.
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  10. InsaneCdn

    InsaneCdn Well-Known Member

    Yes. We are not alone.

    There is such thing as "bad parents" - they do exist. It is highly unlikely they will be found among us (not impossible) - because "bad parents" do not go looking for answers. They either neglect or abuse their kids - fight against, rather than fight for.

    We are not perfect parents. But we are not bad parents. In fact, we pretty much are "not bad" parents - as in, reasonably good. We were simply given challenges that most parents have no idea even exist. We did the right things and got the wrong results... because the "right things" weren't the things our kids needed at that point in time or ever. And some of the actual things that we did that other parents think are absolutely awful.... turn out to be exactly what our kids need.
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  11. Coping11

    Coping11 New Member

    I strongly agree. I took me a very long time to realize that I am a good parent and that I've done and am doing everything i can. i still struggle with guilt. Difficult child is my only biological child. Her birth was difficult and we were told we will not be able to have any more children, which is why we adopted our son. It makes it even worse somehow, probably because i can't "blame" it on her early childhood or birth parents genetics. I struggle with guilt and enabling and the feeling of just not being adequate and not being able to give her what she needs. This is not what I've hoped for for my child.
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  12. ColleenB

    ColleenB Active Member

    Thank you so much for this post. I constantly play the " what if" game.... I don't know if I ever will be able to fully accept this isn't somehow my fault, but I'm trying.

    When friends make comments or look at me with sympathy it hurts because I always wonder what they really think. I know that's juvenile.... But it's true. I think knowing they feel sorry for us, and think my son is "bad" is what really hurts. He has an amazing soul and is so kind and empathetic. He was the kid everyone thought would be a leader, and successful. Instead he is sad, addicted and hopeless. How does this happen to "good parents" and "good kids" ????

    I will never again judge other parents, no one knows the pain of this .....
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  13. so ready to live

    so ready to live Active Member

    SO TRUE. We have learned this the hard way. Not sure how judgemental I was before, but at least I believed Hard work=Good outcome.
    Now I know it is their outcome alone, theirs to find, solve, live. It's still challenge to fight my mind when I see a family where all children "made" it, not to compare our outcomes. I never look at a homeless person now without realizing that they have someone who loved them and wanted so much more for them- This long ride is on the COMPASSION Train-as I read I so feel all of your "mom pain" Not a fun club, but the one we are in together. Please know today that I "get it".
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  14. Childofmine

    Childofmine trying to do this thing one day at a time Staff Member

    Dear friends, working on this guilt and shame in ourselves is so important. If we don't, we forever limit our own ability to care appropriately for ourselves and for other people. It's not "just okay" to feel like this...even though it is real....it's worth the work to keep on letting go of these types of feelings as they are so severely limiting in ways we can't even understand.

    I think the work starts with this, a healthy recognition that we did the best we could, and it wasn't perfect, but it was the best we could do. This is also an acceptance of our "lack of perfection."

    We want to be perfect in so many ways...we think we **should** be perfect...we love them so much, can't love save us all? Media and culture sets us up here as well, so we are fighting culture as we work toward a healthy acceptance of ourselves as...mere mortals...trying hard, but failing to be perfect...and being okay with that. It's okay to fail to be perfect. Everybody does it.

    And then...what if we were able to be perfect parents? What if we were incredibly awesome parents...and still this happened? Because that is most often the truth. We tried so hard. There is nobody I know that has endured what we have endured that didn't give just about everything...everything...to help "save" their own child. It still didn't work. What does this mean? It means we can't fix everything. Even, sadly, as much as we want to. This is a mother's and a father's desperate cry in the night---please tell me what to do to help my child. Then, finally...after years and years...turning the cry into this: Please help my child, to our Higher Power. I can't do it, so will you please help my precious child.

    I don't think anybody believed this as much as I did. I'm known as an almost annoyingly persistent person, in business, in volunteer work, in friendships...in all areas of my life. I can do and accomplish many hard things. That's who I am. Until this. There was no amount of work and pushing that I did with Difficult Child that ever amounted to a single thing. This is one of the hardest truths I have ever had to accept in my life. And I resisted it for almost 10 years. I fought against it because I had never met a challenge I couldn't at least influence. Until him.

    Ah, Colleen, there is such freedom at the end of this road. Such relief. Such honesty and humility and truth. It's worth the fight, within us. And the fight is letting go. I have literally gotten on my knees with my palms outstretched and have...let go. Again and again because it didn't stick the first 1000 times I did it. I had to keep on and on and on letting go. Being that kind of humbled. Admitting I can't do everything. I'm not as powerful as I want to be. I can't make other people do anything. I can't fix them. I can't control them. I can't manage them. And....after years and years...I didn't even want to anymore. This work is a journey to a better us. A better you. A better me.

    There is no way that parents with "normal" kids can even begin to understand this. Their avoidance, and their facial expressions, and their innocent comments...they do cut like a knife. They know not of which they speak. I have dear good friends whose children are Super Accomplished who keep on and on and on about it. Their whole lives are their children. It seems they have no life of their own. I finally had to distance myself from them. It wasn't them. It was me. I am still working to let go of my own resentment of some of these people. I have one old friend from h.s. who sends me a Christmas card every year of her two grown adult children---one is 30 and one is 28. The parents' pictures aren't on the card. Just the two adult children. That is very telling, because that is her life. Them. When I was with her the last two times, all she talked about was them. Literally. How wonderful they are. How amazing they are. On and on and on. I couldn't be around it anymore. First, it cut me like a knife, and second, quite frankly, it was boring.

    I love my two sons, and I have one that is Super Accomplished by culture's standards. But they are not my whole entire life. I have a life of my own.

    Anyway...suffice it to say I don't go on the girls' trip to the beach with these old h.s. friends. I just would rather not.

    We have been very good parents here. The fact that we spend this kind of time on this board counts for evidence of that. We can't fix these kinds of serious mental illnesses and problems. This is way above our pay grade, and quite frankly, some things in this world just can't be fixed. By anybody. accepting that is a life's work.
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  15. InsaneCdn

    InsaneCdn Well-Known Member

    Her issues may well stem from that - and it's not like you had any control over THAT experience. Unless you were directly neglectful or abusive - not likely - you are not directly responsible. Simple.

    However, there may be other things that have happened that you have no knowledge of and had no control over, which have also helped shape her. Kids spend a significant portion of their lives with teachers and coaches and other care providers.

    I know what you mean about people thinking our challenging child is "bad". He isn't. Most people, handed the set of challenges he has, would have given up on life long ago. Inside, there is a wonderful person. We get to see this wonderful person from time to time - and a lot more often than the "outside world" sees.
  16. so ready to live

    so ready to live Active Member

    We haven't seen that wonderful person for a long time, but we believe he might still be in there and we hold that hope. That's really all that we have but it's got to be enough at this stage of the game. ...and if we die with just that hope it still made OUR life better and possibly we have helped others along the road to feel not so alone. Stay strong, we are with you.
  17. Tanya M

    Tanya M Living with an attitude of gratitude Staff Member

    I know this feeling as my son is my one and only child. I felt guilt for a long time but realized that by holding onto it I was not able to move on with my own life and as long as my son knew I had feelings of guilt, he used it against me. We did the best we could and there is nothing to feel guilty about.

    We all have had our hopes and dreams shattered, but they were "our" hopes and dreams. This is where I found helpful to grieve the loss of the hopes and dreams that I had for my son and I was able to let go.

    Again, none of us are perfect. We own what is ours and the rest belongs to our children. I remember so many times when my son was still living with us and he would scream that he couldn't wait to be on his own, how his life was going to be perfect, how he was going to get a great job and make great money. Those things did not happen for him and it had nothing to do with me or how he was raised, he made a choice to not put forth the effort.

    That's a question that there are no answers for. It has happened and we continue to do the best we can.

    I couldn't agree more COM!!

    I know parents that have done everything right and their son still ended up a mess. Wouldn't it be great to say "it's something in the water" to which we could say "don't drink the water" but it's not.

    I too know some moms that are exactly like this. I find it rather sad as they seam to be lost in the identity of their adult children. I have to say that is one positive thing that has come out of having a d_c is that once I let go of all his chaos I was able to focus on MY life.
    I have finally gotten to a place where I am happy for others that have successful adult children but for those who constantly brag, I just find it sad.
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  18. New Leaf

    New Leaf Well-Known Member

    Our children are gifts to us to raise as best we can.
    When they reach the age of reason,
    they begin to branch out and test their wings,
    make their own choices.
    While we do influence their lives,
    instilling values and experiences,
    we are not their end all, be all.
    They come into their own,
    charged with the responsibility of finding their way.

    We are all given wings
    and the power to fly where we put our energy towards.
    As long as we hold onto the thought
    and mindset
    that we are forever entangled
    with the choices our children make
    we are tethered, as are they.
    Untangled from the chains that bind us both
    we have the freedom to live
    as do they.

    I will never give up on the hope
    that my two will come into their own
    and find their purpose and meaning.

    True love does not bind one soul to another.
    True love breaks away from all captivity
    Giving one another the capacity
    to be free
    to find themselves.
    True love knows no bounds.

    Despite whatever becomes of my two
    I will hope for them always
    While working towards living my life.

    There is darkness,
    But within the blackest of nights
    is where the brightest stars will be found.
    Ancient navigators of long ago
    Gazed upon night skies to find these stars
    to guide them to a promise
    of new beginnings.

    Though we sail through oceans of sorrow
    To reach a distant shore
    There is a new tomorrow
    That we all are searching for.

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  19. RN0441

    RN0441 100% better than I was but not at 100% yet

    Beautiful and inspiring posts from all. Thank you ladies.

    My son is beginning his own journey on Monday. Out of state after rehab.

    I was on the phone with the orthodontist office today setting up his last appointment with them. I broke down on the phone with the girl that was helping me. The real reason is that I remember thinking in my anger over my son's addiction "why does a drug addict need straight teeth?". What a horrible thought and I'm glad I never said that to him.

    Like all of you I've asked myself what we could have done differently and there is no answer for that. Our two older boys are great so I know it's not our parenting or lack thereof.

    I also have many friends whose kids are in college on scholarships or who have gifted children. It cuts like a knife to see them on Facebook reaching all of their goals when I think of all the struggles my son has to make it through the day.

    I think it was Leafy that said that we shouldn't try to write the end of our story. We have to keep faith that it will end well someday and we can look back on all of these years (many, many, years for some) as a "bad time" in our lives.
  20. Kathy813

    Kathy813 Well-Known Member Staff Member

    I agree but would also add that kids spend a significant portion of their lives with their peers and at some point the peers have greater influence than the parents.

    I have always liked this quote by Maya Angelou:
    What more can be asked of a parent?