My oldest son is leaving home tomorrow ( a week ago since writing this), and my parenting failures have been on my mind. To say this is an emotional time is an understatement, and if you’re a parent who has gone through moving your children out, you know. If you don’t, take my word for it.
Would I lie to you?
Anyhow, I’m taking a moment away from my usual health and fitness stuff to talk about modern parenting pre and post-COVID and smack bang in the middle of the social media age. If you’re a parent, you may or may not enjoy this; if not, this article is probably not interesting.
But you’re welcome to stick around if you, please.
Success & Failures
Coming from a dysfunctional and disjointed family (who probably hasn’t) with no good male role models, my most significant success is being married for over 21 years. Being a sibling of divorced parents from an early age, I didn’t know much about what a loving relationship should look like.
Between that and being a man, it’s incredible that I’ve been married that long because I have made my fair share of BIG and COSTLY mistakes.
Following this, the birth and upbringing of two boys, one 18 and the other 17 years of age, without breaking them, is another win. If you’re a parent of teenagers, you have a fair idea of the challenges faced, and if not, again, trust me, it’s not the easiest thing.
I’d instead get a tooth pulled without painkillers and talk about my deep innermost feelings with a stranger than have to be around them sometimes. That said, I’m sure they will feel the same way about me sometimes. Kids don’t come with a handbook (obviously), and unfortunately, me picking up parenting cues from my father, I’ve been far from the perfect parent.
But the fact that they are still around and love me (I think), I’ll count that as a win.
Ground Control To Major Tom
No matter how much success you may have had professionally and personally, you probably remember your failures. Remembering is okay because you learn a thing two, and it adds fuel to the fire. Recently, I was let go by a major fitness site I used to freelance for because of a mistake I made not once but twice.
It is a loss professionally and one of the few failures I’ve accumulated since becoming a freelance writer. I’ll take the loss, learn from it and move on.
One of my biggest failures as a parent is not being able to control my anger, and I’ve spoken about this previously, but it almost cost me my relationship with my kids and my wife. Once the Genie is out of the bottle, you cannot put it back in. I’ve set a poor example of handling adversity that has come back and bitten me on the ass a few times.
And that’s on me.
Ever since my oldest son was born, he has been different. He was developmentally delayed and struggled with social skills we take for granted. My son has been in some therapy since he has been two years old and has always struggled at school.
Then COVID came along and threw him (and everyone else) for a loop. He developed a psychiatric disorder that made it hard for him to function, and suffered from crippling anxiety. I didn’t understand it then and was slow to react to get him the help he needed, and to make matters worse, I tried to control his illness.
How was I to control it when he couldn’t?
How do you control a mental illness? I don’t know, but I tried, which worsened matters. Our house had conflicts and ill feelings, probably making my son feel worse.
All this stuff going on in his head, on top of all the ‘stuff’ happening at school, had to go someplace, and that someplace was taking it out of teachers, students, and his parents. Regular blowouts at school and home were common because he felt like he was under attack, like all the time.
My family was held hostage by his moods and constantly walking around on eggshells. Some of it was him, and some was the stuff in his head. How do you separate someone’s behavior from their illness when the illness is the primary driver of their behavior? Is it entirely their fault or the illness’s fault? It’s a fine line.
Hopefully, our relationship will improve after him gaining some independence. Fingers crossed.
Parenting, it’s hard, but parenting a kid with much stuff going on is difficult. You learn hard lessons, make mistakes, take your failures, and live and learn. I’m hoping that in the future, I’ll be a better parent and a better husband because of it.
Like many people, I’m still a work in progress.