Our guest blogger, Emily Lane is mother of five, and Nana of fifteen. She writes about the issues she’s imperfectly dealt with in raising her imperfect kids at MamaConfidential.net.
The Blame Game
When I was little, I dreamed of being the perfect mom, with the perfect little family. But anyone who has kids knows there is no such thing. That dream is a fairytale, told by people who either don’t have children, or are camouflage experts.
My oldest daughter, Erin, became pregnant at sixteen, right under our noses, even though we watched her like hawks. I feared she’d be tainted with the searing brand of teenage motherhood. Would I also be tainted? People jumping to the conclusion that I’d failed in my job? This didn’t happen to good mothers; this just didn’t happen to good little girls who were brought up right.
But I did raise her right! I did!
“I hope you’ll do what’s right for the baby,” one of my closest friends pronounced in a tone of superiority, the judgment clear as crystal.
Anger raised its ugly head in my second daughter, Natalie, at age ten. Initially, we believed her explanations for her behavior, but then her defenses became eerily twisted. I knew they were lies, but she told them with such strong conviction, as if she really believed them. I later learned this was a hallmark of the mental instability that would take seven years to diagnose.
I tried to share my grief over Natalie’s outrageous behavior with my sister. Although she had no children of her own, she was a teacher; she was supposed to know kids. “Did you discipline Natalie when she was little?” she asked me condescendingly. The implication hit me in the head like a sledgehammer, then sank to my stomach where it has stayed for years. Even my own sister thought I was to blame.
Natalie also became pregnant at sixteen and her relationship with the baby’s daddy was explosive, like two volatile chemicals, always on the verge of an atomic blast. One November evening, Natalie became outraged and uncontrollable; the police once again took her to the emergency room.
I sat motionless in the ER hallway, turning the pages of a novel that I couldn’t seem to read. It was more like a prop used to bring a small sense of normalcy to what was going on around me. My beautiful daughter was tied to a bed.
I tried so hard to concentrate on the words, to drown the sounds coming from her room. But my tenuous focus was constantly interrupted by Natalie’s screams and loud ranting as she cursed her captors, trying to escape from the ties that bound her to the place she didn’t want to be.
I knew other people in that hallway wondered what would cause such a young, beautiful girl to spew venom as if she were possessed. And how had she gotten that way? Were her parents to blame? What must they all think of me, trying to read quietly, as if nothing eventful were happening? Did I not care?
Was it not painful for me? Were her outbursts so normal that they didn’t even cause me to pause in my reading? I sat there in that chair, willing myself to look at those pages. Not because I didn’t hurt or care, but because I just didn’t know what else to do.
Even children seem to blame their parents when things go wrong. We’re the fall guys. I know I’m not perfect, but I also know I’ve tried my very hardest to be the best mother I could be. I believe I’ve been a caring, engaged and connected mother. But then the guilt seeps into my brain like a slow drip, soaking into my maternal self-esteem.
What if my child is right? What if the whispers behind my back, coming from those mothers with angels for kids – what if they’re right? But did I force my daughters to have sex at sixteen?
And with the second, I even made sure she was taking birth control, but she still became pregnant. And how was I to blame for her mental health issues? I’ve always been there for her, loved her, and cared for her.
How does a mother defend herself against girls gone wild, and boys gone crazy?
How does she pull herself away from the blame and guilt?
It takes time, but you learn to remind yourself that your child is a person – their own person. And yes, their personalities and outlooks are partially shaped by their parents. But the rest is nature. And even with a parent’s guidance and concern, they still make their own choices.
When I’m caught in The Blame Game, I tell myself three things, which I ask you to consider as well:
- Try not to get discouraged – you are not alone!
- All parents make mistakes. Just because other parents don’t talk about their children’s issues doesn’t mean they don’t have any. There are always issues – some are just easier to hide.
- Live by the fundamental truth I learned years ago – if we’re all alive, we can deal with it. :o)