I suck as a parent. There, I said it.
I thought I would be a great parent. Well, that’s not actually true. Truth be told, I never thought that I would have kids, but once I held my friend’s baby, I was smitten. Babies are so cute and they smell good and they do adorable things like coo and smile. What I now realize is that I was smitten with the idea of having a baby– not a teenager.
Don’t get me wrong – I love my teenager and not just because I’m putting this in writing. It’s just that no one tells you when you have a baby that the baby will grow up…to be a teenager.
To be fair though, my oldest has not developed his oppositional behavior because he is now 15. He’s always been oppositional. We are a family of Cubs fans – he became a White Sox fan when he was 7. We are Chicago Bears fans – he cheers on the Green Bay Packers. We want to go on a beach vacation – he wants to ski. Are you seeing a pattern? He has always been his own person and yet I am always surprised that he won’t do exactly what I say when I say it. Take homework, for example. I did my homework every day, without being told, and I remind him of this fact every day. But daily reminders are apparently not enough, so I remind him more loudly and more loudly until I am yelling it at him. And he still doesn’t do his homework exactly the way I did! My 11-year-old son asked me the other day if I was going to yell at him about homework one day, too.
It was a very proud moment for me.
Which leads me to the first reason why I suck as a parent – I yell. I know that it is not “pc” to say that you yell at your kids unless you are a Chinese mother ala Amy Chua. But I yell, and I know that every parent who is now judging me has either yelled and repressed the memory or has young children and thinks that she (or he) will never yell (see below regarding expectations). Trust me, you will yell. You will yell and in the middle of it you will realize that you are yelling and you will wonder why you are yelling at your child for getting a “B” instead of an “A” (“if you would only apply yourself – dammit!”) and you will want to stop but you will think that if you stop your children will think that you are surrendering and then you, too, will realize that you suck as a parent and you will wonder how you got here.
Every parent probably starts out the same way: you look at your baby and you envision building things together, cooking meals, taking great adventure vacations, playing sports and reading books. And when he starts talking you picture wonderful, heartfelt conversations or challenging dinner conversation ala the Kennedys. And, sure, you may even have that for a while and then one day, your son wakes up looking more like a man than a boy and you think – shit – who is that? You don’t expect the grunts, or the sass, or the condescending stares that apparently come with being a man/child.
Which leads me to the second, and probably most important reason that I suck as a parent: I had EXPECTATIONS. You can’t have any when you have a child. Intellectually, I know this to be true and, yet, there’s a part of me that keeps yammering away saying “but if they share my DNA why can’t they do everything like me??!”. But—and here’s the secret—they are not mini versions of you or your spouse – they are their own person! Which does make me wonder why I spend so much time worrying about becoming my mother…but that’s a discussion for another day.
Connie Lissner is a writer, lawyer, wife and more importantly, the mother of two boys. She was once told that a child’s job is to constantly push a parent’s limits. She assures you that her boys do their job very well. She, in turn, is trying to do her job of not totally screwing them up. She navigates the slippery slope of motherhood one day at a time.