Hindsight Parenting: Being the Parent a Child Truly Wants & Really Needs
If you read this column often, you will know that my relationship with my teenage sons has been contentious and nearly nonexistent at times, especially lately. There are oodles of reasons for the tension and problems, all that have been ruminated upon ad nauseum here in my previous column,”Snakes and Snails: Teenage Boys Tales,” and in my blog, Muddled Mother.
So you, dear readers, will probably be just as surprised as I was when one night last week, both of my sons with whom I hadn’t had contact with for months showed up in my living room (with the lovely and beautiful and always welcome, girlfriend extraordinaire.). Now some moms in this circumstance might have faltered. They may have lectured about all that had happened during their absence. They may have turned them away immediately, or worse accepted them out of duty, but never really let go of the mistakes that their children had made. In reality they hold on to those mistakes that the parents somehow imagine harmed them and continually bringing it up during later disappointments and disagreements literally branding the children with past digressions over and over held onto in a parental tight fist. I actually know parents like these who just can’t resist constantly pointing out and reminding children of their past disappointments. It is as if the child is the sum total of those mistakes. It is as if they are nothing but those mistakes, and once those mistakes are made the love the parents feel for their children is somehow diminished.
There was a time that I would have done everything wrong if those boys walked into my home after months of hostility. In fact, I would have mimicked those parents that I described above. But I have had much time to use hindsight to instead prepare for that moment when we finally would all be together again. A moment that I was sure (just to stay sane) would happen sooner than later. And I wanted to do it right. The time I have had to reflect using my friend, Hindsight, helped me to change perspective. Instead of thinking about all the wrongs (or perceived wrongs) done to me, I thought about what it was that a child with parents like the ones described above truly wants and really needs.
It was something I could answer easily. It was so simple. What a child with parents who drape disappointments around their necks like grotesque snakes, heck what ANY child wants from their parents is to know beyond a shadow of a doubt that they are loved, loved beyond all else. That is not to say that discussions can’t be had when blunders happen, that parents can’t be parents. But love, not conditional love, no, instead absolute love is really what every child needs. We all learn from the mistakes we make. And we sure as heck ALL make mistakes. The last thing a child needs is to be reminded of them or defined by them over and over and over. On the contrary, a child needs to know that no matter what they have done in the past, there will always be the comforting thought that they have their parents to love them unconditionally. During those pesky reflections, Hindsight always reminded me that in the past that isn’t what I had given to my sons. I am sure that there were times that my exasperation with them was all that they saw, and so I was determined that when they returned I would let them know that no matter what transpired…no matter what, I loved them. I loved them with a full heart.
My favorite author, Maya Angelou, once said in an interview with Oprah,
“Your eyes should light up when your child enters the room. We adults often feel let down when children don’t make the progress we wish they would. This eventually affects the relationship between the child and parent or teacher. After enough negative interactions, whenever the child and adult walk into a room and see each other their eyes roll in grief. How many of our students go from class to class, from teacher to teacher, consistently getting disapproval? Wouldn’t it make a huge difference in the lives of these students if instead of getting disapproval, they saw our eyes light up? Johnny, you’re here! I was hoping you would make it today!”
When the moment came, being a different kind of parent than the one that I was used to wasn’t a difficult task at all. Seeing those two beautiful faces nervously smiling in my living room, not only did my eyes light up, but my soul fluttered and my heart filled with a relief and a wonder that overwhelmed this mom and instantly put a quiver in my chin. The love I have for them radiated from every pore. I kissed them, hugged them and stole as many touches as I could in those subsequent hours, because when it came right down to it, each and every agonizing second that had passed during their absence was cloaked in amnesia and all that mattered was that my sons, my children were home.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Logan has lived in Glens Falls, NY all her life. By day, she is an educator with 20 years experience, a mom to Aidan and Gannan, her two teenage boys, a new mommy to a beautiful daughter, Ila, and wife to the love of her life, Jeffrey. By night, weekends and any spare time she can find, Logan writes. She loves memoir and also adores writing essays about the challenges of parenthood. This year she started a parenting blog called A Muddled Mother, an honest place where mothers aren’t afraid to speak of the complications and difficulties that we all inevitably experience. Logan has been published in various children’s and parenting magazines including Today’s Motherhood, Eye on Education, Faces, and Appleseed. Logan’s previous column for Hilltown Families, Snakes and Snails: Teenage Boys Tales ran bi-monthly from June 2010-Feb. 2011, sharing stories of her first time around as a parent of two teenage boys. — Check out Hindsight Parenting: Raising Kids the Second Time Around every first and third Tuesday of the month.
Amy, I absolutely do know what you mean. I am finding that that phenomenon that you speak of is happening to me quite often. Valuing the experience and valuing that I can value the experience. Age does have its perks.
I think at times, we realize how lucky we are two-fold– that we are lucky to be experiencing something, and luckier yet to know how lucky we are to be experiencing it. And I think it comes with maturity– a benefit of the aging process, perhaps? I didn’t say first part about being lucky very artfully, but I bet you know what I mean, and I am so happy for you that you were both kinds of lucky with your boys and had such a wonderful evening.