I’d like to turn in my parenting card please. I can’t do it. It’s too hard. And I have one of the greatest kids in the world. I can’t even image what parents go through who have ‘problem’ kids.
Where do I start?
A 19-year old was killed this week, right down the street. Drunk driving. The driver is still here, the passenger died on the scene.
Was he, this now dead teenage college boy, a ‘good’ kid? Was he from a family where the parents were proud of him. Someone who was told over and over as a tween and teen ‘Don’t drink and drive. Don’t get in a car with someone who is drunk’. Or how about that pearl of parental advice we all use ‘make good choices, be a critical thinker’. “Yeah mom, dad… I know. What, do you think I’m stupid??” He would sigh as he left the house to head to a party with his buddies.
Maybe, on the other hand, he was some stupid teenage looser who drank to much from an early age, hated his parents and was going to end up dead anyway. Somehow I doubt it. From the number of flowers placed and crying friends I’ve witnessed this week sitting by the side of the road where the crash occurred my guess is he just made a bad choice. The kind many kids make over and over while in college. Except this time, this one time (because that’s all it takes) it cost him his life. Not to mention the life of his buddy who was driving who will now live out the rest of his days dealing with the guilt. And let’s not forget his parents who have lost their child because of one, stupid, split second, blurry, intoxicated choice that, for the past decade, they thought they had been raising him NOT to make.
As I have said, I’d like to hand in my parenting card.
I can’t do it. All this heart ache, all this time and attention and worry. All these ‘learning moments’ and lectures and love and worry and love and more love ….. for what? So my child can end up wrapped around a telephone pole because she makes ONE … just ONE wrong choice one night 9 years from now. I can… not…. do it. It hurts just thinking about it. It hurts so much my eyes fill up with tears and my heart caves in on itself and I have to turn away when I see her coming and collect myself. Still, she hears my voice crack when I open my mouth to say something. ‘Mom? You ok?’. “sure sweety… how was school?”
My daughter lies about stupid things in an attempt to stay out of trouble and steals chocolate chips from the freezer when she thinks no one is looking. It’s impossible to get her up in the morning and trying to get her to shower pretty much starts WWIII. She eats other kids’ desserts at school because sweets are limited at home and she listens to music when she’s supposed to be doing something else. But otherwise I’d trust her with my life (if not my chocolate – although she shares that too). She is kind and helpful and loving. Not a day goes by that she doesn’t ask me how I am, how my day was, if she can help, is there anything she can do for me. She shares her day with me and gladly fills me in on what happened at school and how she feels about it. Each night she texts her dad (or me when she is away) to tell us how much she loves us. I never hear her say an unkind word about anyone.. she may question a friend’s motives or choices. Sometimes she is confused by their behavior, sometimes she’s hurt by the things they say or do but I never ever hear her put them down. She seems to be able to find the good in people. She is considered the diplomat in her 5th grade class her teacher tells me. “Teagan is always trying to stop arguments between kids and get everyone to work together” . God I’m proud of my kid. Like I said, I trust her. She is a good kid and often seems so much wiser than her years. I’ve been told by countless people that it’s like talking to an adult when they talk with her. Is that good? I don’t know.
I do know and feel so fortunate that she actually likes to talk with me about books and ideas like life after death. She’ll talk about religion and politics and friendship and anything that pops into her head. We take walks, read books, go to dinner and watch movies. And she listens when we have ‘learning moments’. She seems to understand, the best a 10-year old can, about what’s ‘right’ and what’s ‘wrong’, that actions have consequences, that negotiating the world is going to get harder and harder as she grows older. She doesn’t just listen. She asks questions and challenges things that don’t make sense to her. I KNOW she’s paying attention. And yet a few days will go by and something will happen that shows me she didn’t put these nuggets of parental wisdom to good use, choosing instead to make wrong choices. Now, the consequences are nothing… nothing worth even thinking about. The hard part is knowing that most of what I’m telling her she won’t even begin to understand until AFTER it needs to be put into practice. I tell her ‘now it’s about dessert or an app on your phone in a few short years it will be about getting in a car with a drunk kid… peer pressure will be unbearable. You need to be ready’. “ Yeah, I know mom. Do you think I’m stupid?”
I want to hand in my parenting card..
…but I wont’ because 90% of the time this kid of mine does make the right choice. I will just have to keep doing what I’m doing and hold my breath and trust in her that we make it. And I do trust her almost as much as I love her.