Of course, I’ve worked hard to be a good parent, but like so many there are countless things I have done, still do, and probably forever will do wrong.
And by wrong, I mean, I effed up, and added more trauma and drama to the mix. I did my best with what I knew at the time, but like many things, more days of living leads to more knowledge–usually about the ways you effed up, but still more knowledge.
I came across this video on TikTok recently.
It was almost always a stomach ache that triggered the visits. Consistently, the diagnosis was dehydration or no diagnosis at all. It was always an unfulfilling medical visit–for her, no diagnosis meant no sympathy attention and for me no diagnosis meant here we go again.
I’m a GenXer with numerous medical conditions that I just grin and bear it through. I admit, like the video–I have adapted to my limitations, accepted them, and found ways around them. I could never understand why Hope wouldn’t just push through.
Eventually, it became easier to dismiss the tummy ache or encourage her to shake it off. Then she actually had kidney stones, but she was unwilling to make a few modifications to prevent future attacks. It was frustrating–she was finally legitimately sick and wouldn’t do anything to help herself.
Then the pandemic hit and drove through the two of us like a buzzsaw. So many traumatic things have happened during these three years; ironically none of them were COVID-related. She got very sick a few times during this time and tests revealed some truly serious medical issues. I was always frustrated because Hope was unwilling to pursue treatments, and of course, I took that to mean maybe it wasn’t so bad.
But it was. All of it fed into our upheaval this year, and I bear the bulk of the guilt around why. Try as I might, I wasn’t able to consistently be the mom she needed. I was dismissive. I couldn’t understand why she couldn’t meet the challenges. I was angered by her refusal to see her part in her health improvement.
She made a few videos about me and my lack of empathy, which initially made me double down in my own foolishness. Now, many months later, I see my own role in our struggles so differently.
I thought I was meeting her where she was, but I wasn’t. The expectations were definitely not aligned with her capacity levels. Not at all. I kick myself often about how I stopped taking her complaints seriously and then wasn’t able to respond the way she needed. Sure, she was trying to get my attention with the medical shenanigans, but I was so wrong to expect her to behave completely rationally when she was really testing my ability and willingness to embrace her as she was and is. And, well, those tests were completely rational to her.
I’ve been working on my own alignments this last month in particular. It’s like I had some awakenings on things that just were not working in my parenting. It’s all resulted in a nice list of things to work on in therapy, like why does that attention-seeking behavior trigger me so? What daily things can I do to reduce her need for such behavior?
Even with Hope being a young adult; I’m still actively parenting. I’m realizing that there was a part of me that assumed the heavy lift would be over with Hope nicely ensconced in college somewhere. I did so much of my growing away from my parents’ watchful eyes while away at school. Hope is home; I’m seeing it all from the front row. It’s difficult to know when to intervene and when not to because the “adulting” line can be so murky at this age. It’s like jumping into a double dutch jumping session; and I have trouble jumping rope with one rope, much less two.
I’m continuing to work on being a better parent and I’m fortunate that Hope notes my efforts; even when I fail miserably, which is invariably often. All these years later, I’m still figuring this parenting thing out. I’m hopeful that I will continue to grow and break cycles of dysfunction for myself and my daughter. None of this is easy, but it is necessary.