When I found out I was pregnant, I was young, and I had many endless naive egotistical fantasies about what it would be like to be a mother. I had all of the television show and movie “mother-son” relationships to start dreaming from. Mine would be just like those, but better.
I’d see mistakes other parents were making in the grocery store, people scaring their children left and right. I’d see children misbehaving and parents struggling to control them. I had constant judging thoughts of “if that were my child…” I’d hear stories about teenagers giving their parents hell and remembered what a pain in the ass I was. My child would never be like that. I remembered what it was like to be a teenager, and I would use that relatability as leverage and connect with my child.
We would be best friends, share hobbies, talk about everything, and never fight. My child would come to me in times of need; he would ask for my advice when things got tough. I would share the wisdom, and he’d gladly follow it, and avoid the pain I endured. When I told stories about my life, he would feel close to me, we’d bond, he’d relate and know that I understood where he was coming from. I wouldn’t be the embarrassing parents mine were, I’d be understanding, it would all go as planned.
I didn’t think his father would turn out to be a mean drunk, and leave his son with a black eye at 10 years old. I didn’t think I’d end up with a drinking problem of my own that I could not control. I didn’t think I’d have to work harder than I had in my whole life to finally get myself sober when my son was 13. I thought once I got sober that everything would fall into place, but life as a single mom just kept happening.
I thought I’d be a strong independent woman. I didn’t anticipate how lonely it would feel to raise a child alone, with no one else to try talking to him when I felt like I was talking to a wall. I didn’t think my son would shut me out and stay in his room with the door closed for hours upon hours. I didn’t think he’d refuse to come to the dinner table. I didn’t think he’d have a hard time making friends and have difficulties with kids at school. I didn’t think my son would be depressed and hold it all inside. I didn’t think it was possible to see someone every day, and feel like they were a complete stranger. I didn’t think he’d refuse to talk to me or be suicidal.
I didn’t think I would spend Thanksgiving with my son in a mental hospital. I didn’t think my son would be in counseling, on medication that I needed to keep locked up. I didn’t think I’d be on a texting basis with my son’s guidance counselor. I didn’t think I’d be crying at work from getting calls on a daily basis that he wasn’t showing up. I didn’t anticipate how foolish I’d feel for not being able to control my child. I didn’t think something as simple as my son going to school everyday would be something precious that I took for granted.
I didn’t think I’d be making up stories about why my son missed two weeks of practice so that other kids on his team didn’t know he was in a mental hospital. I didn’t think I’d want to crawl out of my skin every time I talked to another parent when they asked me where my son had applied to college. I didn’t think my main concern would be whether or not he got up and went to school in the morning.
I didn’t think it was possible to love someone so much and be so angry with them at the same time. I didn’t understand until now that sadness and fear really are the underlying emotions of anger. I’m sad that my son feels like he can’t confide in me. I’m afraid that I look bad as a parent, and of what other people will say. I’m afraid I’m doing it wrong. I’m afraid he will spiral out in depression and never experience happiness. I’m afraid of the fact that I have no control over any of this. I’m afraid that my baby is hurting and is all alone in the dark, and there is nothing I can do to save him. I’m afraid this is all my fault.
I’m aware we can let our egos get in the way, which stops us from connecting with others and ultimately blocks our growth as individuals. What if we do the same thing as parents? Do you only talk about the things that make you look good as a parent? Do you let your parent-ego get in the way of allowing a genuine connection between you and another parent? What if we were honest and unafraid to discuss the truth that we all struggle as parents at times? Maybe if we allowed some vulnerability between ourselves and other parents, there would be room for connection and growth. I imagine we’d be better parents if we were being honest and reaching out for help, just like we advise our children to do.
The more I talk about the struggles with my son, the more I find I’m not alone in my struggles. The more I share the more I find that I’m not the only mom who feels like she’s living with a stranger. I’m not the only parent who mourns the loss of their child’s younger memories and wonders where they went wrong.
I’m writing this today to let you know that you’re not alone. I need you to be honest because I need to know I’m not alone either. More importantly, our children need us to set the example we wish for them to follow. If we let our egos get in the way of our parenting, we’ll intuitively pass down the idea that it’s more important to look and sound good than it is to be real.
Emily Ann (pseudonym)