Parenting tip: Wrap up a few empty boxes and place them under the Christmas Tree. Warn the children that each time they misbehave you will throw one into the fire.
Sounds like it may be pretty good logic to help encourage good behavior? Well, I have a friend that is quite a jokester – Victor Vega Jr. and his question was, “What happens when you run out of kids?”
Haha! That cracked me up! It also got me thinking about parenting and some of the failures that I have experienced. Like that joke, it’s all in how you view it.
I have been parenting for over 24 years. Honestly I would think that someone doing something for 24 years would make them a professional. I don’t know about you, but I am certainly not professional. I have learned that this is a life skill that continually changes and morphs into different patterns necessary to keep up with this day and age and the child being nutured.
I titled this “Failing as a Parent”, because I have failed many times and I am sure I will continue to. For myself, I feel that often times recognizing my failure is when I learn the most about parenting and myself. When I fail, I am humbled and reminded that I am human. Contrite, I have to come to my child and ask forgiveness; or to God and ask forgiveness. Being Super Mom and having a perfect plan for raising a child is almost an oxymoron and is certainly impossible.
One would think failing as a parent is hard enough. Honestly though, probably some of the hardest moments in my life that I have had to endure is letting my children fail. As a parent we want to protect our children and not let them get hurt. The problem is if we shelter them and solve every problem for them, we actually weaken their character and resolve. So sometimes the best things we can do for our children is to not to step in and help them; but actually let them make their own decisions. Let them take responsibility for their choices. At that time all I do is pray because I can’t simply stand by and do nothing.
Watching Jorjia hit rock bottom was hell. But we had tried so hard before to steer her away from negative choices and environments and she just continued to go back; nothing worked. I can remember the day that I hit my knees at the foot of my bed and screamed out to God that I just couldn’t do it anymore. I screamed out that His Word said that He loved her even more than I did and that I was giving up and accepting that I was failing and there was nothing more I could do. I cried so much that my stomach hurt. At the end of that emotional collapse; I received peace. I can’t really expIain it, and I wish I could say that everything was good after that, but it wasn’t. I had no clue what the outcome of my daughter’s life would be; but I did know that I wasn’t in control of it and that I had to chose to live anyway.
I think as a parent making the choice to live even as the uncertainty and heartbreak of addiction reeks havoc on our family is something that feels so very wrong. Yet, in the healing process later on, you learn that that is actually one of the best things you can do. If you don’t then the addiction actually wins against you as well. It is also the best example you can share of healing.
I realized that I also had to stop my failure as a mom to my son. I had been letting the emotional exhaustion of trying to help his sister control my time. I needed to remember that if I wasn’t present in his life, that I could end up losing both of them. Naturally my first instinct was to completely try to shelter him and protect him from everything. I mean, who wouldn’t? I had screwed up with his sister, so let me tuck him tighter under my wing and make his world perfect so that it doesn’t happen to him. Wrong answer. It was so hard to sit him down and talk to him; to apologize for not always being there and to ask forgiveness for my emotional outbursts. I know that there were many times that I had been gruff and moody toward him, when it was actually the fear for his sister that was controlling me. I had to admit that to him. We had to share with him that we really loved his sister, but that we had to make the hard choice of letting her live the life she was currently immersed in. I had to tell him that he would have to make tough choices too sometimes. That his dad and I would always love him and be there for him, and that we hoped he would forgive us as we continued to go through times of failure with him. Being honest with him was humbling, but I believe it was one of the strongest foundational blocks in our relationship.
Eventually Jorjia took her life back, battled her addictions and made some extremely tough choices to get sober and stay that way. Ken and I had to stay back and let her make those choices and live with them. Tough love is hard to do, and honestly I believe that even though we didn’t baby her; that we never stepped into the rigid tough love that some people felt was necessary. We were blessed that we didn’t have to close the door on our relationship with her; nor she toward us. There were many times that after speaking with her on the phone that we would cry and pray that she would make it, and that she would always know that we were on her side and we loved her.
I failed her, yet never stopped loving her. She choose to keep in contact with me daily, often through text, even during her active addiction. I thanked God for that, because I knew at least in that moment she was alive. I would get a little glimpse that somehow I hadn’t failed everything – because at least she stayed connected.
Fast forward to 2019. Suddenly Michael, our 16 year old homeschooler is facing some huge academic decisions as well as some monumental baseball decisions. It would be so easy to ‘tell him what to do’; but being easy doesn’t make it right. He has to be the one to weigh out the options. He needs to talk over with us what his reasons are for the choices he is making. But ultimately he will make the decision. Ken and I will stand behind him and encourage him, but it is his future and while we can guide him, we can’t live it for him.
Jorjia’s life has dramatically changed, and she too is making choices that direct her path toward the future she envisions. She has learned to listen to her body and feelings and list the pros and cons to make choices that will be the healthiest for her. She has even learned to say ‘no’ to things that stress her or monopolize her time and is actively teaching me to as well!
So, can I look over our years of child-rearing and say that I have failed? Absolutely. My children have not only experienced the affects of my failures, but they have also received the apologies and they have witnessed me getting back in the battle again.
Failure is only final if you quit.
My biggest prayer is that my children fail forward into their best future. Life is too short to live small.
Do you ever feel like a failure?
Is there a time that you failed, and then after time saw how you learned from it?
Failing forward, Amy
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(Photo Credit: Shane Mashke)