When your child has an addiction it rocks your world. I’m not talking about all of the things you might imagine, like how do I save my boy? Will he finish school? Can he still play baseball….the second two seem silly to me now. Really the most important thing when you have a child who has an addiction is -- will he live. But beyond that – what really rocked my world was how I defined myself as a mom.
I’ve wanted to be a mom since I was a little girl and the days of both my boys’ births were the happiest days of my life. If you could bottle up the joy I felt when I first held each one of them for the first time, you’d be a billionaire.
And then from that point on I questioned everything I did.
I didn’t trust my ability to be a mom. And good lord are people opinionated (me included). I tried hard, I read books, followed advice…..I made my own baby food, fed the kids low sugar diet, made sure they did sports, took them to school, dinner on the table every night, making sure we all ate together, I showed up and worked hard. Either Jason or I read to them every night. We went to church. I sent them to Christian camps – nice ones in the mountains. We’ve travelled all over the world together. One thing this experience has taught me is that all of this was surfacy -stuff. I really thought this is what society says makes me a good mom – but what probably made me a good mom were some of those things I was too embarrassed to admit to ever doing because of all the opinions of others – like yeah I did let my kids sleep in bed with me. Sometimes I was just too tired, or they were crying too much, or I just wanted to love on them. When they did scary things like jump off the fence on to the trampoline, I looked the other way, with my heart in my throat because they were having a blast. I let them jump in mud puddles, more than once, sometimes they would lose a shoe or a sock because of that weird mud-suction thing. I would hose them down in the front yard before letting them in the house. I yelled at them. I spanked them too. Then I realized I wasn’t spanking out of discipline, but out of my own frustration so I stopped doing that. I let them talk back to me, let them roll their eyes at me and laughed when they attempted sarcasm. When they were done acting out, I would tell them I didn’t like being treated that way. I was inconsistent. I changed things around because sometimes shit didn’t work – no matter how well it worked for the experts or other moms. I used guilt – a lot (and was sort of proud of that one). Sometimes things worked for my kids that didn’t work for others – sometimes not.
PARENTING IS FUCKING HARD – even when your kids are well adjusted (oh yeah, I sometimes cursed in front of them – no fucking wonder I have a drug addict as a son –right).
I won’t give advice on parenting, because I don’t know what the hell I’m doing. Well – that’s not entirely true – the advice I would give is to let go of taking advice and have fun with your kids. I wish I had done more of that and less worrying about ‘getting it right’
So for me, even though I wanted it more than anything, parenting was hard because I wanted to be perfect at it and I was constantly finding fault in my own ability to be a mother – the thing that should have been so easy.
And then one of my kids turned out to be an addict.
And I had proof that I didn’t just fail at being a mom but colossally failed. Like kicked out of the mom-club fail. Because what kind of a mom raises a drug addict (let me answer that – a bad mom).
I don’t think that debate between SAHM and Working moms is really the issue – if you look closely, it’s moms judging moms. SAHMs will judge another SAHMs just as much as they would a working mom, and don’t think working moms don’t judge other working moms – and then they all judge each other. Because each and everyone one of us are super freaked out we’re doing it wrong. And we are doing things wrong--- BUT and listen to me closely here – WE ARE ALSO DOING IT RIGHT.
In my Al Anon meetings, I’ve learned, “I didn’t cause it, I can’t cure it, and I can’t control it” – as hard as this is to believe, it’s so freeing. I did NOT hand my kid his first joint. I never even had that laissez fare attitude about any kind of drug or alcohol with them either. My expectations on this matter were pretty clear given the amount of addiction in my family. He chose to smoke that first joint and then he was lost for a year. I made some mistakes during that year. I thought we could help him, I thought we could bribe him, or punish him into quitting. It took us awhile to figure out this could not be willed away, he needed help and we got it for him. He did the hard work though – we just provided the resources.
So really, deep in my heart, I know I am a good mom. Not everyone is going to believe this about me. And I’m really beginning to not care. I know that I did everything in my power to help my son with a debilitating disease – a disease that most people think is just a character issue. And once I did what was in my power, I gave the rest over to God (which is what I call my higher-power).
Here’s my take-away – letting go is really the part that is making me a good mom for this particular kid, rather than all the things I ever did for him. It is also the hardest thing I’ve ever done.
What I want you to know – YOU’RE A GOOD MOM. Don’t let what others may think of you cloud your judgment on your mothering. You do not have to comply to the rules of society to prove your mom-worthiness. Let’s stop judging ourselves and those around us, and just enjoy the limited time we have with these miracles that have been entrusted to us.