This isn’t meant to be a pity party or a way to solicit “but you’re such a good mom” sympathy. It’s meant to be a recognition of the fact that I can be doing some things better as a mom—and specifically that I failed my kid recently because I let work get in the way. It sucks but the first step to fixing a problem is to admit you have one. I admit I failed as a parent—not totally and completely but in a meaningful way. But I’m doing something about it. And if you are reading this and thinking you were the only awful mom with good intentions out there please know you are in good company—it might be just the two of us but we are in this together.
2017 was the perfect storm for my family. My husband and I both work full-time and our two sons both have busy extracurricular lives which means there is no such things as free time. In my infinite wisdom I decided that the difficulty level wasn’t sufficiently high enough so I decide to also study for a designation in my field that has about a 65% pass rate. Genius, I know. So not only did I not have free time but I was cutting into actual sleeping hours to keep my life running and study. Add to the fact that my oldest son started middle school. If you thought middle school sucked when you were there, just wait until your kid is. In a nutshell: hormones, different teachers for each subject, the opposite sex, tween angst and the complete certainty that parents are idiots. My son Jack basically lost his mind. My son who had been a straight A student in elementary school quickly became a C/D student. He was caught plagiarizing twice. In two days. By the same teacher. He decide to try vaping and saved the video to his phone which I monitor. So that was fun.
And all the while I felt like the little Dutch boy who was trying to plug each hole in the dam only to have another immediately burst open. My husband and I were doing everything we could think of to get him back on track. We took his phone away, then grounded him, got him tutors, threatened, cajoled, literally we threw the entire parenting protocol book at him and were met with limited success. And all the while my mom Spidey-sense were telling me that I needed to connect with him. I needed to dedicate time to him and find out what was going on in that pretty little head of his. But when I wasn’t working I was studying. I had already spent a year studying and I couldn’t let anything derail me. Not when I was so close to my goal.
Then the whole dam came tumbling down.
I will spare my son the total humiliation of having his latest transgression published in a public forum but to give you context his final act of rebellion was, in terms of seriousness of the offense, less bad than doing drugs but worse than failing a class. I didn’t sleep a wink the night that his violation came to light. Instead I spent the entire night on Google trying to figure out where he had gone so wrong. Only to realize that most of the articles and advice I was reading suggested that his behavior indicated that he might be experiencing feelings of not feeling loved by his parents and also deep sibling rivalry. And I had to admit they were right. I had spent a total of eighteen months stressing myself out and making myself unavailable to my family. Yes it is true that my husband was still there for my sons but in my house I am the warm and fuzzy. My husband is a guy’s guy through and through so anything having to do with feelings and emotions falls to me. And that works for us. Until I am so stressed that for eighteen months—and a very critical eighteen months—I am also emotionally unavailable. And as for the sibling rivalry I am going to own that I totally stoked that fire. Because my oldest son is also my more challenging son and he was falling apart in middle school whereas my youngest son was still my sweet easy-going baby boy. So guess who was snapped at for eighteen months while his younger brother flew under the radar?
I’m not a bad parent. I worked hard on the designation so I could make a better life for my children. It just didn’t work out as I had planned.
But it’s because I’m not a (mostly) bad parent that I am willing to own my shortcomings and do something about them. Of course, before I owned my failure completely I talked to my good girlfriends and got their opinions—because you can’t trust everything you read on the internet. I am very lucky that I have friends who will tell me the truth but tell it to me with love. They didn’t diminish me with their observations. They love me and my son and want us to succeed even if it means speaking some hard truths. And they confirmed that they could see why my son was feeling disconnected from me and second best to his brother. It hurt, but it gave me direction.
So I will push through the guilt because that isn’t helping anyone. And I will do the things I know as a mother—a good mother—that my oldest son needs from me. And maybe someday he’ll understand that I try my hardest and that I love him more than the air I breathe.