Lori Q. McGavin
I had a dream that I made it through parenthood completely unruffled. I could share the greatest advice based on the expertise I had gained from surviving the most tumultuous moments, from surviving near-death experiences, and raising the strongest, kindest, most respectful and compassionate children that would ever walk this earth and through it all, I managed to remain perfectly poised.
What a strange, unachievable dream! An even stranger thing about my dream was that my children were not in it. They were no longer a part of my life and it seemed quite sad. Yet, I was only focused on how poised I seemed to be.
Before I had kids, I had dreams of what parenthood would be like. I wouldn’t make the mistakes my parents did. I was going to be a great mother, a cool mother, a confidante, a protector. I wouldn’t let my kids down. I would teach them about giving back to this world. I would raise responsible, kind-hearted, fun-loving kids who would respect themselves and others so they would never make the same mistakes I did.
Little did I know that parenthood has its own plans and would veer me way off the course that I had mapped out. And little did I know that I would end up feeling like the expectations of parenthood had exceeded what I thought I was capable of.
My daughter is 17 years old and my sons are 14 and four. Raising children is the most difficult thing I have ever had to do.
After my first two children passed through the terrible twos stages, and once the kicking, screaming tantrums subsided -- well, aside from a few of my own that I will admit to -- I thought the rest of my parenting days were going to be smooth sailing. They were well behaved, calm, intelligent, adventurous, and thoughtful children.
As my children hit the pre-teen years, my husband and I added to our family with a little guy who flipped our calm world upside down with ferocious demands and impatience.
But wait, that’s not all. Then our older two children became teenagers! The worst was yet to come!
Now I could go on and on about how difficult life has been as a parent of two teenagers and a four year old who has not outgrown the tantrum phase yet, but … ah, who am I kidding? Here goes …
I have felt like I was on the brink of throwing in the towel as a mother. I have cried uncontrollably and inconsolably during difficult times that felt like they were never going to pass or never going to get better. I have felt extreme sadness at the distance that has been wedged between me and my teenagers during their moments of growth and independence. Standing back and having to watch them make their own mistakes is extremely difficult. After all they are making some of the same mistakes I had made and I thought I did a better job as a parent than my parents had!
Never have I ever felt like I was such a failure at anything as I have at being a parent. Yet, my children are still extraordinary, caring, thoughtful, intelligent, good kids.
I have wasted so much time regretting decisions, regretting time that I couldn’t ever get back, regretting mistakes that I couldn’t ever erase from our time growing together and apart and together again as a family.
I don’t think I could have even begun to understand some of the blood, sweat, and tears that my own parents had shed in raising me until I hit one of the roughest times with my daughter this past year.
In the past, I had regrets about my childhood. Until a moment of realization slapped me in the face and I could finally begin to understand some of the pain I had caused my own mother and father. It was no longer about what they had or hadn’t done as my parents. It was about realizing that they did the best they could. I am fortunate that my mother and father are still living and that we have moments to share without regrets tainting the limited time we have left. Now, my realizations are more powerful than all my regrets ever were.
Thank goodness for realizations. Realizations are the powerful lessons that come from truth and all that is real in our lives. I have gained hope and strength from those realizations. Mistakes are sometimes unavoidable but letting go is a choice I must make in this parenting adventure if I want to survive with even one little smidgen of poise.
Of course, in some instances, I will probably still cry, fight, yell, grasp, and try to resist the change and tension that comes along the way of parenting my children. That’s just how stubborn I am even if I realize it won’t help.
But, the ultimate goal of parenthood is not to remain unruffled and perfectly poised at the end because there is no end on this everlasting journey.
You will be touched, completely altered, stressed, anxious, grey, and wrinkled, but it will be completely worth every thing you give.
That impression that will be left on your heart by those you love will never fade. The people you love become a part of you just as you become a part of them. They will always be a part of the ruffled, frayed, imperfect spectacular being you are. That is a wonderful realization.
“You are young, and your bitter recollections have time to change themselves to tender remembrances.” Alexandre Dumas, The Three Musketeers.
Lori Q. McGavin is a Saskatoon freelance writer. Her column appears every fourth Friday in rotation with Jessica Iron Joseph, Sharon Thomas and Kevin Joseph. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org