YOU are a hard-working, problem-solving, creatively-thinking parent. Sometimes you feel exhausted and run out of emotional slack, and there may be times you want to run away from your teenager. But you are still a wonderful parent.
The thing about parents is we always try our best.
We try our best to:
- Meet the needs of our kids
- Guide them towards good thinking
- Meet our own needs
- Set a healthy example
- Have fun and make memories
I know you always try your best. I do too. We can’t always provide the environment for our families that we would like to or bring the attitude we want into our conversations with them, but that doesn’t mean we aren’t always trying.
Every parent has regrets, but those regrets are not an indication that we weren’t always trying our best.
The year The Boy was in grade 5 we were too isolated and that was hard on us. I look back on that time with regret. I wish I could have figured out building a larger community. I wish we’d had more friends around. I wish I hadn’t parented alone so much. I tell myself sometimes, “I should have tried harder,” but really – I was trying all sorts of things. I WAS trying hard. I wasn’t as successful as I would have liked – true – but it’s false to think I wasn’t trying my best. Clearly, if I could have done better I would have done better!
As parents, we are stretched thin by:
- Economic burdens
- The personal collection of hurts we carry from our early lives and the struggles they leave us with (aka emotional baggage)
- Not enough rest or play to refresh ourselves
- Lack of preparation time for parenting
- Lack of time/opportunities/resources for learning about parenting and child development
These pressures are real. After working all day to pay the rent, then shopping and cooking and cleaning to put food on the table, it might be possible to have a few minutes to play with your kid or help with homework and maybe get in a workout and 8 hours of sleep.
But when do we read that book on parenting teenagers or organize a potluck with other families or get some time to relax or call a close friend? What if there is an emotional project we know we need to tackle? How does a parent fit that in?
Taking this entire picture into account, can you see that you are always doing the best you can?
Looking back on that year of isolation, I can choose to remember it was right after I finished grad school (which was lonely and gruelling in addition to being enchanting and beneficial) and I had 2 jobs and was busting my butt to claw us out of the poverty we had previously been in. We had moved into a neighbourhood where we didn’t know anyone and spent a lot of time in the car (driving to school, to home, to the grocery store, to track practice, to see friends). The Boy’s dad and all of our extended family on both sides lived far away in other cities or other provinces.
Writing these details is bringing me right back to that period in my mind, and as I scan over the memories I notice my heart softening while I recall all the people we DID have around us, and some actually really fun times. When my mind fixates on a regret, it’s hard to remember the good things I did. It’s hard for me to stop beating myself up about my parenting.
When the entire situation is taken into account, we always do the very best we can.