Tonight, Drew, myself, and the other half of my children’s parents had Parent/Teacher conferences.
First, let me say that I find it pretty awesome and amazing that my fiancee and my ex-husband sit around a table together and talk about these children that we call ‘ours’ and are completely at ease. No tension. Drew takes on this parenting role like he was made for it. My ex-husband grew into the role of “Good Father” over the course of time – because we were really young – but Drew, it seems, has been preparing for quite some time to be a “Dad” without actually having to do the trials by fire like Robert and I did early in our marriage. Robert and I were just like “Holy shit, this is our baby! We have to keep it alive! OK, first thing is first… feed it… oh shit, we probably have to clean it, too… OK, got it… put it to sleep on its back? Ok. Done and done.” Thank GOD she turned out socially and academically well-adjusted. Robert and I were just like “High Five – Holy shit – we made it.”
Then, when our son came along and scared the hell out of everyone – made Robert fear he would be a Widower and lose his only son. Burying a child is no joke – and that day in the O.R. I saw shades of my ex-husband that in 7 1/2 years, at that point, I had never seen. I saw the fear in his face that he would have to go at this parenting thing alone, more the less, lose the mother of his children. That’s a fear, that I now realize is very real and so lacking in eloquent words to say…. it’s mostly just “Holy fuck, I cannot raise these little people by myself.”
We don’t ever go into parenting thinking we will fail at it or be awful. We also don’t imagine that one day, the diagnosis of Bipolar disorder or ADHD or chronic Generalized Anxiety Disorder is on the table for the children we birthed and nurtured and whispered sing-songy verses about how “Every little thing is gonna be alright” when they were just tiny babies and it was 3AM and you were swaying in the kitchen in nothing but a long t-shirt and a tiny baby in a onesie on your shoulder… No, we didn’t anticipate or imagine that. We didn’t plan for that. This. We didn’t plan for this. We got over the hump of “Thank God We’re Alive!” and now we are here.
There are times when my son is in a good mood and I look over at him smiling happily at legos or excited about a game, or excited about a Yoda winter hat (That is somewhere in the school’s lost and found right now … we have to track it down) or snuggled up on the couch watching Mizzou football with Drew and I think “This little person’s placenta NEARLY KILLED US – but damn I love him and I am so glad he didn’t kill either of us – because these moments are awesome and I am so glad that I didn’t die before getting to experience them.”
And then there are days where I cannot really wrap my head around what he does – or why. There are days where I looked at his blank remorseful stare when he doesn’t know why he made the bad decision that he made and I spin in circles in my head – going “Where did I go wrong?” “Could I have been a better Mother?” .. and sometimes it even goes so far… “If I wouldn’t have had children, KNOWING that I had a progressively awful Generalized Anxiety Disorder… then maybe he wouldn’t be dealing with these genetic problems that I seem to have given him. I am awful. This is my fault.”
Everyone decides to have kids when “They are ready”. You know what? Take it from me, Friends, you aren’t ever ready. You are never ready for the day your 10 year old comes home and asks if its “OK” if a boy likes her in 5th grade, you are NEVER ready for the day your 6 year old tells you that he doesn’t know why he knocked a bunch of chairs over and threw pencils at school after two solid months of fantastic behavior. You just aren’t prepared. Sure, you can be financially prepared… but emotionally, strategically, you are NEVER prepared.
Tonight, as I welled with tears feeling torn between my Daughter’s awesome progress – and my son’s dismal report and a general acknowledgement of this huge dark cloud of feeling hopeless, I had to remind myself, that I am not alone and that other parents go through this too while raising little people to become awesome big people. I know that I am doing, and have done, everything I can do to raise my children into compassionate loving humans with their own head on their shoulders… and that perhaps, I shouldn’t be as hard on myself as I am while crying to my spouse. I will say that those, like me, who struggle with feeling like my best wasn’t good enough – should choose a spouse like mine. One that reminds them of all of the awesome parts of you that your struggling child got and wipe away the tears before they fall off your face and see each day as a new day and they don’t let you wallow in the parenting ‘guilt’ too long.
All four of us, all four parental figures, we are doing the best we can. That is all that we can do. So, we press on… because no little people come with a manual on how to raise the “perfect child” according to some potentially unattainable standard.
With that, sleep.. solid sleep for the first time in days. Parenting is the pits, and this Momma needs the gym in the morning…