My 9 year old son is an intelligent, old soul, who I view as a younger, much better version of myself. Upon meeting him, other adults often comment on how smart and mature he seems for his age. His vocabulary and ability to hold a conversation on various topics seems to flow naturally with charm and ease; he has a good grasp on all academic subjects, but has said that math is his favorite (considering I am severely lacking/challenged in this specific area, I have thanked Yeezus multiple times for His gracious gift). He is a good student without much effort, and overall, a really great kid. He has a great understanding of kindness and compassion, and he always lets me know how special and beautiful I am to him – almost to the point where I wonder where he gets his ‘lines’ from (I’m definitely in trouble in a few years). His only so-called downfall can be his tendency to be too social and outgoing (in school), but let’s face it, that’s honestly a really great skill (I was always shy and a bit introverted). Did I mention that he is ridiculously adorable (I am absolutely positive that my opinion is unbiased, despite the fact that I am responsible for bringing him into this world)? He honestly amazes me on a regular basis.
Yes, he’s definitely going to be better than I am. Or, at least I hope so.
I became a mother at 25 years young. I know many people have children much younger than that, but to me – then, and still now – this was super young. I may as well have been 16 when I saw the confirmation scream “PREGNANT” on the test. Coming up on my 10th anniversary of being a mom (so many whoas, life. So many whoas), I’m much more scared of what lies ahead than I ever was about handling a newborn and the 5 million possible tragedies awaiting you in your first year as a parent. I’m pretty easy going, and not the parent that worries about the ingredients in processed food, but I definitely have my list of fears.
With a genetic predisposition to addiction on both sides of his family, this subject terrifies me, especially having lived through my ex-husband’s addiction. I know how helpless I felt then and even still; the silent worry in the back of my mind that his father will lose that battle yet again never goes away. I worry about how to “do it right” – do we sit him down and tell him? At what age should he know the details, to help him better understand and make good decisions as he gets older? Will knowing actually stop him from indulging as his friends experiment? I even worry if he will see his father differently if he knows. I never, ever touched drugs as a kid and have thought a lot about why that is. It had nothing to do with how my parents raised me, right or wrong, or fear of what might happen – it was just a decision I made for myself. In a way, it’s scary to think it can just be that simple, and how easily it could sway in the opposite direction.
My son has been interested in girls since he was two; he would talk about pretty girls and how many girlfriends he currently had. While most toddler boys were interested in playing with trucks and thought girls were icky, my son was sneaking kisses on play-dates when he knew Mommy wasn’t looking. He has literally stopped mid-sentence to stare appreciatively at a pretty girl on TV while we were having a conversation; knowing that he’s already aware of certain things paints the picture for what I expect in the upcoming years. Suffice it to say, I’m nervous. All the education in the world doesn’t stop hormones – I should know (insert sheepish grin emoji here – #sorrynotsorry).
I’m not your typical mom (no, I’m not going to quote Mean Girls, relax). For instance, when a kid is an asshole to Richie for no reason, I kind of want to kick them in the shins. I won’t… but I would like to. How am I going to feel when some girl breaks his heart? The worst part is knowing that you can’t help… which leads into my next point.
Not being able to make it all better
Broken hearts, indeed – I’m worried about how my heart is going to break when he loses the innocence that we all do, once he steps out into the world. It’s not always a kind, inviting place. As I watch him mature even now, certain childlike tendencies are slowly being replaced by new behaviors and patterns that correlate with his age. Do you ever wonder when you stopped believing in certain things, and just ‘lost’ that imagination and train of thought? When did reality take over for the magic of being a child? While it’s life, and I am trying to raise him to be smart and strong, I know it’s going to hurt when I can’t fix all the problems he encounters.
Judging by my own family, my sister, brother, and I all turned out different, raised by the same two people. This statement is sure to elicit some eye rolls and “duhs,” because we are all obviously different people. I get it – my point is that despite certain factors, I believe it really comes down to the mindset a person has. I know people who have battled circumstances and lived in environments that weren’t the healthiest, yet still went on to grow into normal, successful adults. I grew up in what most can only call a privileged environment – while not rich, we were well off, never wanted for anything, and certainly rich in many other ways. Still, I question myself every day if I am the definition of normal (the answer is no way – I’m weird and I like it that way. You can laugh at me, I certainly do).
What worries me most about everything above is that you never know how it will all turn out. One of my favorite quotes:
“I wanted a perfect ending. Now I’ve learned, the hard way, that some poems don’t rhyme, and some stories don’t have a clear beginning, middle, and end. Life is about not knowing, having to change, taking the moment and making the best of it, without knowing what’s going to happen next.
― Gilda Radner
That’s okay for me. I have learned from my twists and turns, and many stumbles through life. I’m grateful now because I’ve grown stronger as a result. My fear is, what if he doesn’t? What if each fall, each heartbreak, he chooses to let weigh him down instead of build him up? Happiness is a choice, and I can only hope he chooses correctly.
A turning point as a parent is realizing your parents likely embraced these same exact fears and hoped not to fuck you up (no matter your relationship with your parents, you appreciate them that much more upon this realization that they really were doing their best).
Parenting is not easy.
I don’t have a magic answer about all of this, and I don’t expect to find one, either. I am sure many experts have weighed in on every fear I’m laying out here, and many may even have a step-by-step guide on how to approach each topic. One lesson I’ve learned both as a mother – as well as an almost 35 year old woman – is that no one can give you advice on your life or your situation, no matter if they’ve been coined an “expert” or not. There is no such thing. You can be educated and well-versed on any given topic, but your advice is merely an opinion that will hopefully work and produce the desired results.
Success is never guaranteed. There is no magic formula.
The only real answer or thing you can do?
Love the hell out of your kid, and care (after all, the worry is there for a reason). Make sure they know how much you love them, and earn their trust. When they have a problem, no matter how big or small, tell them they can come to you – you are their safe place. Then, keep your promise. Try your best, every damn day.
Instill in them the values, hopes and dreams you have for them, and have faith that they will grow up to be a happy, successful adult.
I mean, I think so – I’m guessing, just like the rest of you. However, love is the common answer to many things in this world, and I think it definitely applies here. This is the “expert” strategy I intend to use.
Yup, parenting is fucking hard. Duh, squared.