It’s that time of the year: award ceremony time. Kids across the country are being honored for their achievements in academics, athletics and character.
But not all kids.
And not mine. My kid doesn’t even get to go to field day. And I have NEVER stepped foot into an awards ceremony.
I guess that makes me a bad parent, right?
It’s not a competition though right? All kids are different right?
But you know as well as I do, that is empty and meaningless rhetoric because when kids are “bad” who do we blame? The parents. Every stinking time.
“It’s the parent’s fault!” said proudly by a parent who pats themselves on the back every time their kid does right, or by the non-parent who can comfortably say, “My (imaginary) kid would never do that.”
You have said it too I bet. A kid on the bus is mean to your kid, and you immediately blame the parents. You might have even said to yourself, “I’d like to give that parent a piece of my mind” (or worse) and you felt entitled to feel that way. After all, the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, right???
My goal is not to be defensive or self righteous, but if in explaining my perspective to you, I come across that way, I am sorry. But I have had enough.
Yes there are absentee parents. There are neglectful parents. There are abusive parents. And there are parents that teach their kids truly evil ways. But seeing a child who is struggling or misbehaving does not give us the right to diagnose the parenting of someone. It’s pompous, rude, and simply callous–because you have not walked a millimeter in that parent’s shoes. You have not seen their struggle. And you might not even care.
If you met my youngest child on a bad day, you might think he is raised in a barn, full of crazies. He can be rude, defiant, and even verbally abusive. He collects discipline points like baseball cards. Getting dressed in the mornings takes the patience of a saint, and doing homework at night takes 4 hours, a glass of wine, 5 Hail Marys (and I am not even Catholic), 6 moments of silence, and a cry for the filling of the Holy Spirit. Sometimes I am ready for the second coming of the Lord (kidding, kind of.)
I go to so many meetings for my son as his school, monthly doctors appointments, counseling sessions (for him and for me, oh and for my marriage), we medicate, we meditate, we do yoga, we go to church, we pray for and over our children, we read the Bible, I daily communicate with his various teachers, consult with various specialists, lose a lot of sleep, and do my best to trust in God’s plan. But he still misbehaves way more than most children.
While your child might have to work to make the honor roll, my child has to work to get through the day without a write up. While you might have to gently remind your child to start his homework by a reasonable time, I have to have consequences and rewards in place for basic behavior that most parents would take for granted.
When he flips out at school and gets sent to in school suspension, rest assured, it is not because of his parenting. And when your kid gets a character award, it may or may not have anything to do with you. Kids can be great in spite of their troubled upbringing, and kids can be difficult and troubled in spite a blessed upbringing.
You see, some of these “bad” kids have real issues that you don’t know about: mental or emotional issues that are difficult to understand and even more difficult to navigate. And while my son has some “labels” that are supposed to help him, there seems to be an ocean of what we and his educators just do not understand about him. I have heard, “We have tried everything,” from dozens of teachers and specialists. I have heard, “You are doing all you can,” more times that I can count (and it is little consolation) and I have even heard, “When they find out what is wrong with him, they will name it after him,” from one of his counselors. And she might be right.
Years ago, I saw a daytime talk show discussing the heartbreak of losing a child. One couple, who I will never forget, discussed how they dealt with the enormous pain. They said that even though they only had their little baby for a few hours, they knew that was the life that God had planned for her. It was a life without prom, graduating high school, a wedding or children; but it was HER life. It was no less precious or valuable because of that.
You see, each child has a different life and a different future. I cannot expect from my child what another parent expects from their child. I would like to think we are all just doing our best. And while YOUR best parenting might lead your child into West Point or into the NFL, my best parenting might lead my child into gainful employment at a local business. But it doesn’t mean I have failed as a parent.
We would never dream of blaming a parent for their child’s serious illness or their serious health condition at birth. But there are illnesses and issues that aren’t so obvious that we are quick to blame on “crappy” parenting.
I am not sure when it became so common to be so dang judgemental and full of pride. One day an honor student can turn into a criminal. And one day, a troubled teen can turn into a hero. We do not get to write our kid’s story or take credit for all they are or who they become. It is part parenting, part personal responsible and personality of the child, and part will of God. Let’s not get carried away with assigning blame or credit where is may not deserve to land.
And unless you have been through a parenting struggle with a truly difficult child, you have NO idea how hurtful that is or how isolated in makes parents like me feel to hear these prideful statements. I am already down (but not out!). Please take off your kicking boots. And if you are feeling generous, throw a prayer or an act of kindness our way.
“Bad parents” need love too.