“There are no guarantees. From the viewpoint of fear, none are strong enough. From the viewpoint of love, none are necessary.” Emmanuel Teney
I have been struggling , with, well, LIFE ever since my children were born. A little over ten years ago, I found out I was pregnant. With an actual baby. That I was going to incubate and then take home and somehow figure out how to keep alive. Although there are so many resources for information on child rearing, that moment when it becomes real TO YOU is kind of overwhelming.
While I read a TON of material prior to my first born being born, I was still woefully unprepared. All of the books and articles offered simple advice on how to deal with everything from colic to fevers. But yet, they didn’t deal with the exhaustion, with the sinister thoughts that could creep up on a new mother when her baby has been crying for hours and nothing would stop it. I remember trying to nurse my fussy and constantly hungry infant and wondering for a brief and thankfully fleeting moment if anyone would actually notice if I threw her out of the window. In those very early days, I remember being so tweaked out with exhaustion and desperation that I could do nothing but cry; I couldn’t even form full sentences. I also found it a great relief, being able to call my Mom and say, please, please, just be here. And she showed up and let me get a few hours of much needed sleep.
It’s the truth. Motherhood did not come as naturally to me as it appeared to come to so many others . I still struggle with the fact that there are these two little beings in my life that demand so much of my time and energy. I want so much to be a positive and present force in their lives, but shit, man…I struggle.
I have explained to both of my children that my job as a parent is relatively straightforward. If you read my post from a couple of weeks ago, you know that I perceive my job as a Mom is to keep them safe and healthy, make sure they feel loved, and to ”make sure they don’t grow up to be assholes grow up to be productive and well-adjusted members of society”.
Am I succeeding? I have no idea. They’re still young enough that so many things could happen between now and their adulthood that I have absolutely no control over…which yes, drives me nearly insane.
I have several friends who have children older than mine. Many of them have kids who are experiencing the normal teenage stuff; the mood swings, the arguments, the days of silence that can drive a mother to the brink of sanity.
I also have friends who are mothers to daughters where things have gone seriously awry. Their upbringing and socioeconomic status is across the board; from affluent parents with a stay at home mother who was constantly physically and emotionally present for her child, to the single and financially struggling mom who needs to work well more than 40 hours a week to provide for her child/children.
I have listened to their stories of how their children, their daughters, who were such beautiful and loving little girls, turned into these depressed, anxious, substance abusing young adults who turned their backs on the very support system that had always been there. These women are amazing mothers who have done everything they can in whatever situations they have been in to love their children and keep them safe and healthy. Mental illness is never an easy thing to deal with in a loved one, and there is no straightforward path to getting better. But when it’s your own child, much like with any serious physical illness or injury a child may suffer, the agony and guilt and anger are amplified.
I have no answers for my friends who are struggling with their children. I can only hope that their daughters come back to the parental fold, because I know, as a mother, everything would be forgiven and they would be embraced with such fierceness that they never need to know anything else.
I have cried real tears for my friends, wishing I could comfort them, but knowing how futile my expressions of comfort are when they just want their daughter(s) back in their arms. These friends of mine have apologized to me for my tears, because they know that they are equal part empathy for them and fear for my own babies.
Depression and anxiety disorders do happen in the teenage years, and although we haven’t hit the teenage years yet in my household, I want to be prepared to be able to parse out normal teenage drama and moodiness from something more serious. I feel fortunate that there is an abundance of research and data and information out there. I believe that I, as the parent, should know my children well enough to be able to recognize signs of significant problems, the truth is I may not be as in tune with them as I’d like to be or as I think I am as they grow older.
I hope with all of my heart and soul that with my girls: hormonal fluctuations will be within normal and manageable levels; they won’t use or abuse drugs or alcohol or be victims of any kind of sexual abuse, manipulation or assault; they will trust and be open with me and their dad.
But I also know I can’t be solely responsible for keeping them safe forever (and if you think about it, “safe” is almost a relic of times past with things like intruder drills added onto the fire drills in our schools, a truly frightening replacement of the fallout shelter drills our parents had). So, I will continue to do the very best I can for them, every day. Even though I will still wonder, every day, if it is enough, if they will understand the balance between the messages I try to impart of “Be Kind To Everyone” and “Don’t Take Crap From Anyone”; if they will continue to confide in me and share their good days and bad nightmares with me; if they will know and appreciate that everything I do has something to do with being their Mama? As these two children of mine find their own paths, their talents and voices, how do I ensure their safety and well-being forever and ever? What do you do to keep your children safe, aside from enclosing them in a bubble and never letting them leave the house? Is there a secret to parenting with just the right balance of protection, awareness and fostering of independence?
Heck if I know, but I’ll do my best to figure it out. And after such a heavy topic, I think the mood needs a little lightening. So here you go, some clipart of dancing hamsters.
(Image courtesy of Google Images)