My mother always said if you have an easy baby, you will have a difficult teenager and vice versa.
My firstborn, Angel, was a happy baby. She was easily excited, bubbly, and laughed often. When she was happy, things were great. When she was crabby, something was wrong…like an ear infection. She has a positive, bubbly, happy personality except when she is really stressed out. Then watch out. As a teenager, she was rather mouthy at times. But she got good grades and made good decisions. She stayed fairly consistent throughout the years.
My youngest, Arabella, was a difficult baby. She cried constantly day and night. But so far she seems to be the easiest teenager to raise. She gets good grades, stays out of trouble, and is easy going.
If I only had Angel and Arabella, I could probably write a bestselling parenting book that would wow you with my tips on how I’ve got everything together.
Then comes Alex. At this point, you are probably sick of hearing about my vaping, flunking, cliff diving, race car driving, hell raiser of a son. I’ll tell you this, he was my easiest baby. If I could describe his infancy in one word, it would be content. He rarely fussed and kept a routine that I could set a clock to. He was a big time mama’s boy.
In middle school everything changed. He started hanging with a bad crowd. His grades started to slip. We gave him consequences for his behavior such as grounding him from his friends or his Xbox. That did not give us the change of behavior that we were hoping for. He seemed more rebellious and at times despondent.
In the evenings, Paul would sit down with Alex to help him with assignments. It reminded me of when my mom helped Mark with his homework. It usually ended in an argument. One day Alex was complaining to a girl via text about how mean his dad was. The next day my son showed up to school with bruises. The girl told the counselor about Alex’s mean dad who called child protective services.
It was all a misunderstanding really. At the time, my son was in wrestling. Over the weekend he had a brutal tournament that left him bruised on his body and face. The girl incorrectly thought that because Alex said his dad was mean (for making him do his homework) that my husband beat him. CPS came to the school and took pictures of my son. They came to our house to talk to us. They interviewed our other children. Then we showed them the before, during, and after pictures from the wrestling tournament. It all ended there.
It was a horrible experience. Strangers were coming into our home judging us. I felt embarrassed because we are acquaintances with the school counselor, other CPS workers, and the girl attended our church with her parents. I was angry for awhile with the girl. But Paul said he didn’t feel angry because she did the right thing if she thought Alex was being abused.
I felt angry because Paul was wrongfully accused. He is one of the best dads I’ve ever seen. All this from a man that never had a father. He has a lot of self doubt at times. Was I too hard on the kids?? Was I too lenient?? Maybe I should’ve tried something else…Maybe if I knew that kid was bad news earlier…Maybe, maybe, maybe..
It is easy to blame yourself as a parent if your kids don’t turn out the way that you want them to. It is hard to escape the criticism if you’re the one that has the baby that always cries…If it is your kid that is doing drugs, while your friend’s kids are getting straight A’s. Maybe your son is suicidal or your daughter has an eating disorder. Or maybe you have a violent autistic son…like my mother, who was ostracized and blamed by her peers.
When you’ve done everything that you could, even when everyone around you condemns you for something you have little control over…it’s really not your fault.
Paul and I feel like we did the best job that we could. We tried to give our kids the childhood that we wanted but never had. Then we commiserate that our kids don’t have the grit that we earned from struggling. The messed up situations in our lives that gave us strength we kept away from them. It seems like a paradox really…everything should’ve been perfect. It was good in many ways, but never perfect.
As we near the end of this active parenting gig, we feel we did the best that we could. We talk to our kids about what is happening in their lives, the good and the bad. At the end of the day, we tell our kids we love them and they tell us they love us back. That should count for something…
We may not be the perfect parents, but if you are…please do enlighten us with your bestselling parenting book…somehow in the shuffle of raising 3 teenagers we seemed to have misplaced our instruction manual!