The definition of sabbatical is, “a period of paid leave granted to a college teacher for study or travel, traditionally every seventh year.” I’m not a college teacher, but I would love to have a paid period of leave from parenting every seventh year. Sometimes, I just feel beat down and dejected…here’s what happened.
Today, I spent several hours talking to my eldest. She’s my college kid, forging her own path through the jungle of life. At first, it felt like our conversation started out well: we were talking about life, relationships, and then we started getting deep…like, Life Philosophical deep. And before I knew what was happening, I was crying and she was comforting me. What went wrong??
Well, it had to do with my parenting skills.
First, let me give you a little insight into my childhood…because that’s where “it” starts for all of us, right? I did not grow up in a happy household…in fact, it was downright joyless. My step-mother was mentally and emotionally abusive, my father was apathetic, and my birth mother was nowhere in sight. I grew up feeling alone, afraid, unloved and unwanted. I have worked hard over the years to understand that my parents and ex-stepmother are fallible human beings who were doing the best they could with what they had. That’s the closest I have come to forgiveness so far and I’m still a work in progress.
Through the years, I found healing through mothering. My motivation as a mother is one of love, protection, guidance and honesty. Like you, I don’t wake up every day to a perfect life with perfect perfect people, or my own perfect reflection. Each day, I face the challenge of doing the best I can while being the best I can. And I think that’s why today’s conversation with my eldest threw me for a loop. It turns out that despite my best efforts to overcome my childhood and be better than what I grew up with, I’m still not a perfect parent.
I realized a few things about myself today while listening to my kid–my adult kid– tell me how she and her siblings see me. I understand now that how I see myself is not necessarily how they see me. Maybe I over-corrected a few things…maybe I’ve projected a lot. Maybe I was trying to “fix” things that were not really concrete issues, rather they were my own phantom pains from a heartbreaking adolescence.
I see now that maybe it’s just how things are. No matter what kind of parent I am or could have been, my kids will see me as I see my own parents–as a fallible human being who is doing the best she can with what she has. My kids don’t see me as perfect, their kids will not see them as perfect, and so and so forth. I don’t think the point is to be perfect…I think the point is to learn. I’ll leave you with this insightful quote before I roll up my sleeves and continue parenting:
Sometimes, CJ Heath feels like a winner, and sometimes not. Today is one of those “not” days, but she will continue on, like all you loving and caring parents do.