Saturday, April 19, 2014

Failing/Succeeding as a Parent by Alicia Dean

I have had several jobs in my life, but none were as important as my job as a mother. I've experienced my share of successes and failures in many areas, but how do I measure success as a parent? I was a single parent for most of their growing up years, but I was lucky that their father was in their lives (every other weekend, which gave me some time to myself, and ensured they kept a connection with their dad), and I was especially lucky that my parents cared for the kids while I worked. I insisted on paying them, but I didn't pay them as much as I would have a day care, and I did not have to worry about my children being mistreated. They were in a loving, safe environment, which gave me a tremendous sense of peace of mind.

I have definitely dealt with some trials in raising my children, even once they became adults. I had an especially harrowing experience with one adult child, which made me seriously question my abilities as a parent. I asked myself over and over if it was my fault. But then I would think, if it’s my fault, why didn’t it happen with the other two? I don’t think there’s a good answer to these questions. I think sometimes, in spite of our best efforts, things happen with our children we can’t control. We just have to do the best we can and raise them with love and discipline. Thank God things are much better now.

This is Lana and Lacey, who are now 30 and 28, respectively.

This is Presley, who is 21.

Here they are all grown up (You might have seen this on my FB page. I use the same pic over and over because it’s the only one I have of the three of them together as adults)

And here is a picture that Presley drew for a third grade school assignment about “Looking into the Future”:

I’m not sure if you can read his childish scrawl, but it says:
I see myself robbing banks and putting grenades in mailboxes and chimneys.
(as you can see, he included a nice little drawing to represent his plans for the future. And, yes, he actually turned this in. Fortunately, his teachers knew of his wild imagination and that he was a well-behaved child and wasn’t a danger to society, so we had no Homeland Security issues to deal with.)

I am pleased to say that he did not, however, grow up to rob banks or put grenades in mailboxes and chimneys. I most definitely count that as a success. :) He had a slightly twisted mind-set as a young child, and kind of still does (myself and my three children love horror movies, serial killer stories, and all kinds of dark and creepy things). But, as my sister , Christi Robertson Perryman, pointed out, this is the same kid who goes to see his grandmother in the nursing home each week on his only day off and lies next to her on the bed and visits with her and pats her hand. So...I think we're certain that he's relatively harmless.

In spite of the hard work and trials (and mistakes and regrets), being a mother was a joy and I wouldn’t trade it for the world. As adults, all three of my children are healthy, happy, and well-adjusted (for the most part :)). They are respectful to me, we’re very close, and they still like to spend time with me. They are all hilarious and a blast to hang out with. I talk with all three of them on the phone, if not in person, pretty much daily. They come to me to vent, ask for advice, or to just talk about things going on in their lives. Can I count that as a sign of success? Or did I just get lucky? Whether it was any of my own doing or not, I’m very proud of the adults my children have become, and I treasure our relationship.

Parenting is the hardest job I’ve ever had, yet the most rewarding. I heard a saying once that a mother is only as happy as her unhappiest child, and I have found that to be painfully true.

What about you? How do you measure success as a parent?


Lynn Cahoon said...

What a great topic. My son's 32 this year. He just moved to NC to switch up his life. I think the fact he's willing to take a risk and move across the country shows a strength of character.

Of course, like all moms, I worry. And nag. Still. Lol

Patricia Kiyono said...

I would definitely say you're a success, Alicia! My daughters are 30 and 26, and I consider it a blessing that both are healthy and self-sufficient. Both have demanding careers (school psychologist and technical writer) and both see us regularly. My older daughter went through a stage when I was the dumbest person on the planet, but now trusts me to take care of her two children at least once a week. And I think that is the greatest validation as a parent!

Unknown said...

What an interesting topic. Like you, I was a single parent, and during their younger years, we most certainly had our trials. Luckily both seemed to have grown into functioning responsible adults,except when they're together, then they revert back to adolescence. And when I get on to them, they're response it "You raised us." So yeah, there are moments that mom can't win. lol

Alicia Dean said...

Yes, Lynn. That definitely shows strength of character. He sounds like a fine young man. Yep, I worry and nag, too. My daughter, Lacey, calls me every day. These past few days, Wednesday and Thursday, I believe it was, I texted her and called her with no response, and I started to worry. Everything was fine,and I suppose it was silly, but it was out of the norm, so it made me anxious. I guess that never changes for a parent. :)

Alicia Dean said...

Thanks, Patricia. Wow...very impressed with your daughters' success. And, that shows you were a successful parent. LOL. Yeah, my kids have definitely thought I was wrong/dumb/overprotective, but now they think I'm okay. (Although, they do think some of my jokes and actions are lame :))

Alicia Dean said...

Haha, Deb. Funny they pull the 'you raised us' thing on you. Do you get credit for raising them when something good happens? Definitely a lot of moments when we can't win. :)

Margo Hoornstra said...

Like most of us, motherhood is my most important success as well as most crushing failure. We have four, including a set of twins. All happy, healthy, successful (there's that word again) adults. I, too, got smarter in their eyes as the years went on. According to their children now, I'm an absolute genius. ;-)

Betsy Ashton said...

What an inspirational post, Alicia. My husband unfondly recalls the moment he went from being omniscient in his son's eyes to being dumber that a box of rocks. His son turned 13 and knew everything. Dad got smarter when son needed car keys...

Jannine Gallant said...

My girls are 15 and 17. They have major attitude and think I know NOTHING. But, as my oldest pointed out, she doesn't go to parties to drink and do drugs and gets straight A's, so why am I complaining? Hmm...I'm going to say the jury is still out on my parenting skills. Sounds like you did an excellent job with yours!

Leah St. James said...

I agree, terrific topic. When my older son was born, my husband and I teased that he was our prototype model, thinking we'd learn from him for number two. ... Hey, stop laughing! :-) Seriously, single parenthood is so hard. I'm the child of divorce, and I saw my mom struggle. Sounds like you did a wonderful job. I'd say you can count parenthood in your success column. :-)

RT Wolfe said...

Your kids sound positively wonderfully normal, Alicia. They are lucky to have such a kind woman to call their mother.
-R.T. Wolfe

Calisa Rhose said...

Beautiful kids, Alicia. I laughed at your sons drawing (and yes, I could read his scribbles--I've gotten a few similar). Good to know my mailbox is safe! :) I think, by what you said, you've done an amazing job raising your three. :)

Alicia Dean said...

Margo, it's great that you're a genius to your grandkids, right? Twins, yikes! I'm not sure I could have raised twins successfully.

Betsy, haha, isn't that the way of it? Yes, kids know how to kiss up when they want something.

Jannine, thanks for the kind words. I'm sure you're a great mother. I know you love your girls a LOT, so that's a big step. And, as your daughter pointed out, she's not on drugs, etc. :)

Leah, LOL - that's a good way to look at it. A prototype. Then, you have to be better tne next time, right? :) Thanks for the kind words. I adore my kiddos, so hopefully I did something right.

R.T. - What a sweet thing to say. I feel very lucky myself. Thanks for stopping by.

Calisa - Aw, thank you. I think they're beautiful, too, but then, I'm supposed to. Yes, your mailbox is safe...whew! :) Thanks for visiting!

Diane Burton said...

Parenting has to be the hardest and most rewarding job. Unfortunately, we have to wait a long time to see that we did a good job. After seeing my husband and I with our grandkids, our son asked his sister "who are these people?" LOL Yes, we are very different as grandparents than we were as parents. Being a grandparent is much more fun!

Alison Henderson said...

I also consider parenting to be the most important job I've ever had. My daughter is 27 and has been a joy to me every day of her life (don't hate me, she just came that way). We live hundreds of miles apart now, but she still calls me nearly every day. I have some regrets about her childhood, things I wish I could have protected her from, but she's grown up strong and responsible and I'm very proud. Congratulations on your successful parenting, too!

Unknown said...

OMG, Alicia! I think I would have freaked if one of my boy's (would have most likely been the youngest) had written this and turned it in!

Darcy Flynn said...

What a lovely post, Alicia! As I read it, I felt the love and warmth in your home, and your peace of mind knowing your children were safe with their grandparents while you worked outside the home.
One of the main things I wanted for my son, was that his dreams would come true and I joyfully gave my time and energy every chance I could to ensure he could follow his own path. Will all of his dreams come true? Of course not. But hopefully, many of them will.
Thanks for sharing your thoughts and the pictures of your three children. :)

Alicia Dean said...

Yes, Diane. I'm sure grandparenting is more fun, although I am not a grandmother yet. Maybe some day! :)

Alison, I'm sure all parents have regrets, we're not perfect but it sounds like you were close. I don't 'hate' you, LOL, but you are very fortunate. I can't say my children were all a joy every day of their lives, but I will take the bad since that means I also get the good. :)

LOL. I know, Darlene. He was a bit 'dark' for a child. He was funny and precious, too, though (for the most part), so we were relatively certain he wouldn't grow up to be a serial killer.

Lovely thing to say, Darcy, thank you. Yes, wouldn't it be wonderful as parents to see our kids' dreams come true? You know, just the fact that they have dreams and work toward them is pretty rewarding. Thanks for stopping by!

Rolynn Anderson said...

Alicia, you should pat yourself on the back...well done! Your son's weekly visits to his grandmother moved me. He's a great guy! The fact that your kids still interact with you on a regular basis is proof positive of your success as a parent.

Alicia Dean said...

Thank you, Rolynn. But I'm not sure how much credit I should get. Sometimes we're just lucky. :) Yes, he's a great guy. Not many guys his age would make weekly nursing home visits to their grandmother. He's pretty much done it since she's been in there. And, he doesn't do it out of a sense of duty. He really loves her and misses her if he doesn't see her often. He's very family-oriented and tender-hearted, yet he's not girlie, if that makes any sense, LOL. Thanks again, I'm very proud of him, of all my kids, actually. :)

Winona Cross said...

I enjoyed this post about your children and parenting more than you can know. It came on a lonely Easter afternoon with neither of my sons home.

Your children sound wonderful and loving. I think you have every reason to be proud and to feel successful.

Our sweet sons are 42 and 38. Both are healthy and happy but live in other cities. In June, however my youngest son will be retiring from the US Navy and will be moving home with his wife and my only two grandchildren--my two blonde, blue-eyed girls.

Oh, yes, a mother is only as happy as her unhappiest child. I think we've all experienced that.

Susan Coryell said...

Alicia: As the mother of 3 myself, I can certainly relate to your blog! The best news is that the arrival of grand kids is even more rewarding and exciting--no kidding! Watching all those little personalities grow and develop is fascinating. Of course, I especially look for the writing gene to emerge--and it is there, so far, in 4 of 7. Not bad, eh? Thanks for the thoughtful post!

MJ Schiller said...

Thanks for sharing this, Alicia! My oldest is 19 and I have 17-year-old triplets. We are in that difficult stage where we get to see some of the rewards of our parenting, as they have grown into wonderful young men and women, but also experience the painful part of watching them struggle as they head out on their own. Yes, being a mother is hard. Every bad thing that happens to them hurts us more because we have to sit back and watch and often can't do anything to help them. We can't always make the boo-boos go away like we did when they were little and that can be agonizing.

There are days when I measure my success as a parent by the mere fact that they have survived the day. Since kids don't come with a manual we bumble through as best we can and have to cut ourselves slack when we make mistakes.

I agree with the others that the love your son is capable of showing to his grandma is the ultimate sign of success.

Kara Ashley Dey said...

I don't have kids. Yours have grown up beautifully!

Alicia Dean said...

Winona, I'm sorry your Easter was lonely, but I'm glad you enjoyed the post. Yes, you do seem to have wonderful sons. I'm SO thrilled your son and his family will be moving back soon. I know you will love that.

Hi Susan, thank you for stopping by. Yes, I keep hearing how much more rewarding grandchildren are. Can't wait to find out! 4 in 7? Those are excellent numbers! :) My son took an interest in writing when he was younger, but that went away. With his imagination, he should have kept at it. LOL.

Hi MJ,

I keep forgetting you have triplets, I think I'm trying to block the very idea. :) I can't imagine raising three at the same stages at once, yikes! But, I'm sure it is an amazing experience. Yes, we do bumble our way through the best we can. Thanks for visiting, and for the kind words!

Hi Kara, thanks so much. I'm pretty pleased with the way they've turned out. :)