Advice for feeling like a failure as a parent?

Discussion in 'Parent Emeritus' started by Acacia, Dec 25, 2019.

  1. Acacia

    Acacia Active Member

    I have two difficult adult children, 34, and 39. They were great kids, but ex enabled them and allowed drug/alcohol use. One is a full-blown addict/narcissist; the other is borderline/substance user. I am a sexual abuse and neglect survivor and have spent my whole adult life (now 66)trying heal and be a good person and parent.

    Neither of my two difficult ones speak to me. My 3rd child from second marriage is 21, and we are very close. There is so much I love and appreciate about him. Unfortunately, he is failing out of college for the second time and hid the truth of his situation from his dad and me. I am beyond devastated that he lied and that he has loans with nothing to show for it. He does not seem to be learning the lessons he needs to by changing his behavior.

    When I think of talking to friends and family, I feel embarassment and shame. I know what other people think of me is not supposed to be my business, but I feel like something must be wrong with me to have 3 kids off the rails. I know I have been a reasonable parent, but it certainly doesn't seem like that by looking at me kids. I left home at 17, put myself through college, and supported myself for 30 years as a high school teacher.

    How do others handle the pain of having multiple children in distress and the shame of feeling responsible for it?
     
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  2. BusynMember

    BusynMember Well-Known Member

    Hi. I am so sorry for your pain.

    Please, please do not see your youngest son as off the rails. He is just not made for college and did not want to disappoint you. He is not drugging or breaking the law. He can do fine without college. Many kids do.

    As for the other kids, we always give ourselves all the credit when it's bad. We discount all other factors.....genetic makeup (important!), school and peers as a major influence, friends, the rest of the family, lots of X factors that we can never know. You are but one piece of a large puzzle. You did not cause it. I actually put most on genetics.

    Please stop making yourself the main reason for the disappointment you feel. Your kids are adults making their own choices and it is not about you. It is about them and you didn't cause it.

    Live your best life despite your children. They may come around. If not, at least YOU will be okay. I recommend Al Anon and a therapist. Church can help too if you believe. I handle my pain by letting go of my abusive ego mind and living in the moment and sharing in Al Anon and therapy. In Al Anon people did understand. Therapy as well. I tried very hard to do better for myself.

    Prayers and hugs. ❤️

    Prayers and many hugs. Hope you find peace in this holiday season.
     
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    Last edited: Dec 25, 2019
  3. Chasejazz

    Chasejazz “No story is a straight line... ".

    Acacia,
    All mine are 'off the rails', too, so you're not alone.
    One thing I try to remember is not to judge people's insides by their outsides, because there are a lot of parents whose adult kids appear to be doing great, but in reality they're not even near perfect by a long stretch.
    Addiction can run in families and that's no one's fault. It's just worked into the genetic code in some and others just use until they become addicted. Either way, none of that is your fault.
    As far as I'm concerned, there is something to be said about the new generation of "kids". They are not the go-getters of our generation, it seems to me. At 17 you were on your own, supporting yourself, etc. How many 17 year olds do you see doing that now? How many can say they had jobs -- babysitting, mowing lawns or bagging groceries at the supermarket as teens? Hardly any! This is a sign of the times. I too was a teenaged mother. Worked my absolute butt off for myself and my three kids. I went to college also, in my 20s. While my kids are educated, they are entitled spoiled-brat grownup children. Two don't speak to me, (ages 35 an 39) and the 41 year old is homeless because I tossed him out . I got tired of the revolving door policy he thought he was entitled to. What I'm saying is, I did my job and then some, as did you. These kids today run away I think. Drugs, alcohol, sex, wasted lives, divorces, inability to manage money... you name it. To hear them whining about something from 30 years ago, or who was "loved" the most, or or or.... I mean, who can stand it? Please don't feel like a failure. No parent gets a "How To" manual when they have kids. We just go about it the best way we know how. Some might bring a little baggage of our pasts, some not. But as I said, there are skeletons in most people's closet. Some just keep the doors closed better than others.
    Relax. Enjoy your holiday season. You're not alone.

    "So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past..."
    - F. Scott Fitzgerald, 'The Great Gatsby'
     
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  4. Acacia

    Acacia Active Member

    Your reply, Busy, is just what I need hear. Thank you for taking the time to send positive energy on Christmas. It is appreciated.

    Thank you, Chasejazz, I jump to feeling guilty for sure, and, yes, I do see a difference in this generation. I would never have expected my parents to bail me out or support me. I worked hard.

    It's helps to hear compassion from others traveling similar journeys with their children.
     
  5. Nomad

    Nomad Well-Known Member

    I agree that you shouldn’t see your youngest as having a big problem. Perhaps he should consider a trade instead. Or maybe college isn’t in the cards at this time.

    There was a brief period of time I had two difficult children. I “get” what you are saying because that period of time really “threw” me.

    I found counseling helped as well as perusing my own interests. Enjoying my own personal interests and successes.

    I helped both children were I could. I used much tough love on the one that I felt needed that approach and it worked. He turned his life around completely and fortunately, is healthy, productive and doing well.

    The other is mentally ill and still a struggle.

    I don’t have a great answer here. I just empathize. While you know you shouldn’t blame yourself, it’s your “mommy default” to do so.

    Putting time and energy into my self was something that was some help in this difficult and confusing situation. And yes, even with these difficulties in the background...push forward and enjoy life to the fullest.
     
  6. Copabanana

    Copabanana Well-Known Member

    Dear Acacia

    We share a lot in common about our pasts, and how we picked ourselves up by the boot straps. It's hard when we were so damaged in our early lives, when parenting becomes a minefield. My son was a great kid too, who hit a wall when he was about 20. It seemed to wake up in me sleeping dragons.

    You are a fine mother. Each of us has done the best we could. There are so many other variables at work that influence lives. Nobody has a showpiece life. There are all kinds of problems that kids can have. Even the kids without problems like ours have other stuff going on. They can be self-absorbed and selfish and shallow. They can decide all of a sudden they hate their parents, and drop them like hot potatoes. They can be mean.

    Your oldest kids stories could change. If they decide to change them. People every day decide to go to AA and NA and other 12 step groups. They find G-d. And they change themselves and their lives 180 degrees. There is no reason your kids can't or won't. But their issues are not because of you. It's what they have fallen into and decided to not climb out of. Their deciding is not within your scope of control.

    Over your own life, you have chosen well, every step of the way. That's the main event here. You. The kids are in charge of and responsible for their own lives. Your kids, my own, and every other kid that has brought us here.

    I agree with the others about your youngest. I don't think life is decided during the first couple tries at college. It may be a poor fit. It may be the wrong time. The important thing is the love between you. I agree with the others too that he hid it from you most likely because he wanted to protect you and how you'd feel. He is embarrassed. But I'd keep a close eye, because something else may be going on too. Depression, for one. Drugs, for another. These things happen.

    I agree with the others. Life happens for young adults. And it doesn't have anything to do with parenting. It's called life.

    I flunked out of college the first semester. And then when I went back to Berkeley, the only thing that saved me was all the rioting that shut the university down, and they passed all of us because they had to because the campus was closed. I ended up doing okay. Your son will too.

    As far as the older two, you're in good company. You know our stories too. I am sorry for your pain, Acacia.

    Please know that your life story is admirable and exemplary, and spiritually uplifting. You have faced down the hardest of trials and you have chosen good, for yourself and for others. I admire you. Take care.
     
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    Last edited: Dec 25, 2019
  7. MissLulu

    MissLulu Member

    Acacia, I can so relate to your feelings. So far I only have one of my three off the rails, but I feel every bit as much a failure as you do. So I completely understand and empathise, but neither of us should feel that way. Our children are adults. We did the best we could. We loved them and provided for them. We nurtured them and gave them everything that was in our power to give. We did not abandon them, abuse them or neglect them. We have gone above and beyond what parents of "normal" kids have to. We have cried and begged and prayed for them. We have made sacrifices. And still they are who they are. You are not a failure. You deserve better. We all do.
     
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    Last edited: Dec 25, 2019
  8. Blindsided

    Blindsided Face the Sun

    Acacia, I am so sorry. I hear the pain in your post. As usual, I too find comfort and sanity in the responses you have gotten. They are all winners. Stand strong. Reserve the rights to your boundaries, and accept your role in your child's lives have nothing to do with you. These are choices they made. My daughter in law said something enlightening to me. She said, it seems we all think of May as a child, but in truth, she is a grown middle aged woman and we should treat and react to her as such.

    I hope today is a better day for you. Forward we go.
     
  9. louise2350

    louise2350 Member

    Acacia: My youngest daughter was put on medication for depression while she was in college. She was working and going to college and had stress with all of this .. The person( NP) she saw who put her on this medication wouldn't listen to her affects from these medications and we finally got her off the medications he prescribed and she just went to another medical person. But, while she was on these medications it affected her so negatively that she did flunk out of college too. Before she was on these medications she was doing fine as far as grades go. She repeated the term over which cost more money, but she got her Bachelors Degree. Your son was just embarrassed and probably felt like a failure when he flunked out but it does happen to others too. So, don't feel all of this is your fault. I'm sure your son will find something else to support himself.
     
  10. Acacia

    Acacia Active Member

    What you say is true, and I need to keep reminding myself of that. I don't have to have been perfect to be a good mother.

    Yes, I go to the hurt child inside of my adult children even as they are behaving as unkind, irresponsible adults. I can have compassion, but I need to have as much for myself.

    You're right that I need to not go down the road of doom. My youngest son has many good qualities. Losing the money hurts because I didn't grow up with much, and I am frugal, so to see money wasted gets to me. But it is what it is.

    Thanks all for the continued support. Sometimes I start to crumble emotionally, and this wonderful site helps me keep strong.
     
  11. WiseChoices

    WiseChoices Active Member

    I used to feel shame and embarrassment about my mothering until I worked the 12 steps in Al-Anon, and realized that I did the best I could do with the tools I had at the time. And if I had known better, I would have done better because I love my kids more than life itself , and I would have done anything to raise them with the love, patience, discipline, and tolerance they each needed .

    I think we forget sometimes that everyone is on their own journey. Everyone learns their lessons when they are ready for them. Comparing my kids to other kids and their rates of growth , their journeys etc does not serve me and only introduces more guilt.

    The frontal cortex of our brains (which controls reasoning and logic) is not fully developed until around age 25. People who use drugs delay this process. The lessons we see at age 52 (me) and 66 (you) are not the lessons our young adult kids see, necessarily. Just because your son does not change his behavior on your time table does not mean he did not get the lesson, or won't get the lesson, or won't see this entirely differently as he grows and matures.

    Seeing ourselves as failures extends seeing our children as failures to them by default. I don't think this is serving anyone. Seeing everyone , ourselves included, as being in our journey, growing , changing , and evolving exactly how we are each meant to gives us a sense of empowerment which is hugely helpful.

    Your two older children have an interplay of genetics, outer circumstances, and their own ways of thinking and using their brains, effects from drugs perhaps etc etc etc - to take all that on is playing with what you are powerless over. It's too big of a mountain for you to even contemplate to tackle. Let it go. There is nothing you can do about the past anyway. You can affect how you feel about yourself today and how effective you are in your own life today. That is where your power lies: in the now. Don't waste it by focusing on the past and that which you are powerless over.

    Every time you think it your estranged children, send them love. If you meditate, expand your heart with the inhalation and send a beam of love and light into their hearts on the exhalation for 10 breaths. Then bring that love back to you for the next 10 exhalations healing whatever needs healing in you.
     
  12. Beta

    Beta Active Member

    I can't get my quote function to work on my home computer sometimes so I copied and pasted these things:

    "Acacia, I can so relate to your feelings. So far I only have one of my three off the rails, but I feel every bit as much a failure as you do. So I completely understand and empathize, but neither of us should feel that way. Our children are adults. We did the best we could. We loved them and provided for them. We nurtured them and gave them everything that was in our power to give. We did not abandon them, abuse them or neglect them. We have gone above and beyond what parents of "normal" kids have to. We have cried and begged and prayed for them.
    We have made sacrifices. And still they are who they are. You are not a failure. You deserve better. We all do."

    This needs to be my mantra when I feel like a failure as a parent.

    Blindsided said:
    "She said, it seems we all think of May as a child, but in truth, she is a grown middle aged woman and we should treat and react to her as such.
    Yes, I go to the hurt child inside of my adult children even as they are behaving as unkind, irresponsible adults. I can have compassion, but I need to have as much for myself."

    I tend to do this with both my adult kids but especially with Josh. I wonder if I will ever stop doing this. It makes it harder to disengage.
     
  13. ooo

    ooo Member

     
  14. ooo

    ooo Member

    Don't feel alone. I have two that never grew up. One lives with me at age 36 and I can't get him out while I completely support the other and her children financially. I have nowhere to hide from it. They use me against each other and against me. I am new on here and hope we can become friends here so we can lift each other up.
    Best of everything to you.....
     
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  15. BusynMember

    BusynMember Well-Known Member

    Feelings are not facts. Just because we feel a certain way, such as we are ugly, doesn't mean we are. Same with a feeling that we failed as a parent. Our feeling does not make it true.

    Our ego minds are meaner to us than any outside person. Don't believe that how you feel makes the feeling the absolute way it is.

    This is something I recently learned. It shocked me and I resisted it. But when I tested it, I realized it's true!

    Now I work hard to quiet that nasty voice in my head that tells me that I am no good and that also reminds me of what I did wrong in the past and makes scary predictions about the future.

    My quieter mind has been a blessing. There are many books on how to quiet the nasty voice that chats gloom and doom to us. Eckhart Tolle is just one person who teaches how to silence the ego mind. He is on YouTube and wrote many wonderful books. Highly recommend!

    Blessings to all.
     
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  16. Acacia

    Acacia Active Member

    Thanks all for sharing and for the support. WiseChoices, you have the right name because your post shows a lot of wisdom and practical advice.

    Love Eckhart Tolle. I have to listen over and over again to really learn and integrate new behaviors. Love Gabor Mate very much who speaks about the effects of trauma and stress - can find his talks on youtube.
     
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