Parenting is hard. Whether you’re a single parent, working parent, stay-at-home parent—it’s hard. There is no wrong way or right way to do this job. You must do the best you can, learn from your mistakes, and learn from other people’s mistakes. And then on top of that, once you think you have it figured out you realize not all kids are the same and your parenting strategy must change from one kid to another. You learn different children need different rules, boundaries, and forms of encouragement.
My brother and I, for example, were both good kids but needed a different level of rules. He was the extrovert who would sometimes make bad choices because he wanted to see what would happen. I was the introvert riddled with anxiety and always scared to make a mistake or get in trouble (you know, the kid who would break down and cry because she forgot her homework or made a bad grade).
For the most part, while my parents were married I made friends with those who were similar to me. My parents had no problems with my friends of choice and I was permitted to go to each respective friend’s house. However, when my parents divorced and I moved school districts, my group of friends shifted.
For a long time, I was lost.
I didn’t have one single friend in this new town. Then, gradually, I started making friends, but not necessarily the kind my parents approved of. One, in particular, my mother strictly forbade me being around. My friend was a little wild—was involved in drugs and had sex, was pregnant as a teenager. Try as she might though, my mother was never able to keep us apart because when it came down to it, she couldn’t be everywhere I was at all times.
My mom was scared that I was going to go down a path I might not be able to come back from. Drugs are a big problem where I’m from; teenagers using in the bathrooms at school or making their own. There wasn’t much else to do.
But what my mom seemed to forget was who I was.
I was the good kid who liked getting good grades and held myself to a certain standard. I was the kid who wanted to go to college and put myself on a path of financial stability. I was the kid with goals and dreams; the one who knew what a bad decision could cost.
Was I offered drugs on a daily basis? Yes, I was. Was I around drugs on a daily basis? Yes, I was. Did I partake in those that were offered to me? No, I did not.
I was a good enough kid to know I didn’t want to be a bad kid, someone I wasn’t. I was smart enough to understand that drugs aren’t easy to step away from once you start, and I was courageous enough to believe in myself and my friendship. Because while I may have been offered things and dangerous situations, my friend was truly my friend and once I would say “no thanks” that was the end of the discussion. She wouldn’t offer again and she wouldn’t try to pressure me into anything that I didn’t want to do. She never held our friendship over my head and made me feel childish for my decisions; she simply accepted my answer and we went on with our lives.
I had faith in myself to make the best decision for me. I wish my mom would have, too.
Because while, yes, I was placed in tough situations where I had to make hard choices, I was able to experience life and learn for myself what the world was like. I didn’t place myself in a protective bubble and pretend that the harsh realities didn’t exist like my mom was trying to do. And while yes, it is true that most teenagers may not be able to turn down hard drugs or situations that come with it, I could, others can, and the fact that my mom didn’t trust me to be my own person made our relationship strained.
Parenting is hard and what works for one family may not work for another.
Sometimes, we must listen to our children and see them for who they are, not who we are afraid of them being.
We can’t protect them from everything and we must have faith that they can learn and choose things for themselves. If they make a mistake, and we as parents are vigilant, we can give them both their freedom of choice and their guidance when they made the wrong choice.
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