So, I’m an orphan. Not the traditional kind of orphan. My parents didn’t die in a car accident when I was three. I wasn’t left on someone’s doorstep or abandoned at a hospital. It’s a bit more complicated than that, since both of my parents are alive, know my address and have my phone number. They just don’t use it, nor do I often theirs. Making a choice to put boundaries around people in your life that should hold significant spots is not an easy choice, and one that gets questioned and reevaluated every time there is an incident or event that I need someone to talk to. Even though, they’ve never been the people I can talk to about anything, I still have a biological response when I’m in crisis, or sick, where I just ‘want my mom’. All of this is not to throw myself a pity party, but to explain to you that when it comes to being a parent, I have no freaking idea what I’m doing.
Over the years, I’ve heard people who have had their parents come and stay with them after their babies were born, helping them cook and learn how to take care of their babies. I’ve heard people complain about the meddling, unsolicited advice that their parents or in-laws give them. In both cases, I have thought how fortunate these people are to have parents in their lives to ask questions to, get support from, and get told what a great job they are doing, when they are doubting themselves.
I, on the other hand, have not had parents to model good parenting, so I am flying by the seat of my pants. So far, no one has died, so I would consider my parenting job a huge success up to this point. With just one child left at home, I am almost in the clear, but there are days when I just wish that I had someone cheering me on, telling me that I’m doing the right thing, doing a good job, and probably not doing anything that is going to require too many years of therapy- although I think you just haven’t done your job as a parent if your kids don’t need therapy when you’re done with them!
How do I have a tough conversation with my 23 year old without making him quit talking to me? How do I give advice to my 18 year old without seeming bossy and over bearing? How do I make sure that my 14 year old knows how important it is to put her best efforts into school, without adding more stress and frustration to her heavy workload?
I’m not a smother-mother, helicopter mom or let-me-do-everything-for-you mom. Not at all. I learned at an early age, to take care of myself, so I know that my kids (all kids, actually) are quite capable of getting themselves up and going in the morning, feeding themselves, doing their laundry, cleaning their rooms and on and on and on. I don’t like excuses, I-don’t-knows or half-truths. My kids would probably tell you I’m a crazy woman with high expectations that makes them take care of themselves, but they would also tell you that they know that they CAN take care of themselves because they’ve been taught to. My son actually came close to thanking me, when, upon arriving at college, he had to teach other kids how to use the washing machine and dryer. He was glad that in all that was new, running a washer & dryer was something he could do without thinking about it!
Over and over again, though, I run into situations where I wish I had a manual that had all the right answers, or had a parent I could call with a, “What did you do when..?” I guess this is where the catch phrase, “You do the best that you know how to do at the time,” comes in. I think that one of the best things that can happen, is that parents should be supportive of each other. Not compete, critique and criticize, but to have empathy, lend an ear and give well earned high fives. We are all on the same road to the same end goal- to grow self-sufficient, productive, good humans, and we are all flying by the seat of our pants.