- Published on Tuesday, 10 May 2011 09:56
Today, I clicked over to read an article titled Memoir of an Alcoholic Parent. I had some very mixed feelings about this post, and the comments, as I'm sure many people did/do.
Scrolling through the comments on the above post (from Parenting.com) makes it clear: there's a lot of anger going on. Some parents feel they have a right to hate parenthood and the kids of neglectful parents hate that they grew up in such homes. Some of them are wise enough to seek counseling and to move past their anger and to let it go.
It doesn't have to get to that point, though, does it?
Most of you know by now that I got pregnant out of wedlock with my first son (I have three kids now). I knew I needed to take responsiblity for my choices and I made up my mind to do just that. I read every parenting book I could get my hands on; some were helpful and others were not. I learned something from all of them though - even what NOT to do. My years of nanny work certainly helped to prepare me, also. I knew that kids were hard work and I also knew that I had gotten myself pregnant and although I was completely freaked out, this was no fault of my childs. He needed me to be un-selfish and to consider his needs more important than my own. He deserved that.
That's what parenting boils down to for me: Caring more about the needs of my kids than I do about my own needs. If we are running low on food, my husband and I make sure the kids eat first. Then we eat. I have needed new underpants for months now. I finally got some for Mother's Day (whoot!). However, my kids always get new underpants when needed, without having to wait for long. My socks all have holes in them but that's okay - I'll live. I would have liked to have gotten all of my teeth fixed but we don't have the money and dental work costs too much. So...I had some teeth fixed and pulled the rest.
My parents did the same things for us, when I was growing up. It was second nature. If we kids needed something, we came first. I'm not talking about being spoiled - we were not spoiled. I'm talking about NEEDS.
When we cover our kid's needs, we feel good about ourselves, right? If our kids are safe, loved, warm, cozy, content, fed and listened to...they will grow up to know how to parent their own kids this way - if they choose to have children.
Parenting isn't a race. It's not about being perfect. In fact, I sometimes cry from the sheer frustration of mothering and from utter exhaustion. I do drink now and again, too, when I need to unwind. I love putting my 2-year-old to bed because that finally means - QUIET TIME. During the day, however, my kids get to play, sing, dance, twirl around, make crafts, make messes, watch some TV, go for walks, look for animals, collect pine cones, go to the park or for a drive and more. This tires me out but again - they NEED it.
They NEED these things more than I NEED to focus on me. I would love to sleep in every day, watch more TV at night, go for a drive without the screaming, have LESS messes to clean up, etc. This time will go by so quickly, though. One of my kids is already 12 years old. He tires me out, too, but in other ways. Yet I attempt to push through knowing...he NEEDS us to show him how to be a kind, honest, hard working grown-up.
How can I teach my kids these things if I'm drunk or too focused on my own wants/needs to care about theirs? I have to remind myself of this on the days that really get to me: "My kids matter MORE than my desire to drink right now. My kids matter MORE than my desire to get into the car and drive away for a month." I have to self talk - but it works.
What about the hurting kids?
Kids from around our town often show up at our home because we make it known: we care. They show up to eat, because they are not getting enough food at home. Their folks may be on free assistance but they eat the food before the kids get it. Some of the kids are looking to work for us because they need money - to buy food or to pay for their own sporting events. Sometimes their parents steal their money and we have to think of creative ways to help them spend it, before it gets stolen at home. Most of the kids who come here have never played a board game at home. Their parents are too busy watching TV, drinking, smoking dope or sleeping around.
So think this through, okay? If you are a parent who hates your kid - chances are - your kid will show up at a home like mine. We attempt to pick up some of the pieces and to help your child feel valued, wanted and loved. We don't mind doing it. But your kid minds. Your kid minds that you care more about other things than you do about their needs. And that should matter to your heart.
Do you like the parent you are? If yes, great! Keep on, keep'n on.
If not, change it.
ABOUT the Author:
Shara Lawrence-Weiss is the owner of Mommy Perks, Personal Child Stories, Early Childhood News and Resources and Kids Perks. She and her husband co-own Pine Media. Shara has a background in education, early childhood, nanny work, published freelance, marketing and special needs.