You know how sometimes (everyday) we get stuck on generational biases.
Oh they’re so lazy and entitled.
They don’t know how to write a complete word, let alone a sentence.
These kids don’t know how to take responsibility for anything.
They’re bored too easily.
They’re so disconnected.
They don’t care about the things that matter.
They were held too long, fed too often, not smiled at enough, sat too long in the high chair, ate too many bananas, didn’t eat enough kale, ate too much bread, didn’t get enough time on their tummies, or their backs, crawled too long, didn’t crawl enough, and smiled at too many puppies before the age of three.
Like sometimes, I just can’t.
Here’s the thing. We’ve all screwed up. Right. You’ve got your list of the things you blame your parents for. I’m already preparing Lily’s list of the things she’ll blame us for… But that’s the thing. That list, that mental list, it haunts me. It’s still present day, and yet it haunts me. She’ll say I was too busy. She’ll say she felt like I rushed her and didn’t take time to listen, that I copped out when it came to making meals, that I sat her in front of the iPad for too long, that I was impatient, restless, and honestly quite self-centered. I mean, she will. And I’m ready.
But I have listened to the parents of the kids of this generation. I’ve spent hours and hours hearing about their wishes for their children, about the things they hope to do differently, legacies they hope to both implement and change. I’ve listened to parents of every race, religion, and socio-economic status share their hardcore parenting hopes with me.
And you would be surprised. If you had been able to read some of the quotations I took from new moms and dads over these years, both at work and in my personal life; if I removed the names and the demographics, you would have no idea who’s voices they were. And that’s not shame, how could any of us really know what someone else is thinking. We look out and we make assumptions. I know, I do it too. And somewhere we cluster it all together and we get this thing we love to refer to as the (blank) generation.
And it’s really never a flattering thing. It’s always kind of tongue in cheek, isn’t it. But, it’s OUR kids. I mean it’s OUR hearts. And yeah they can be brutal. But was there ever a day that you woke up and felt like, I’m going to do the worst possible job as a parent today. I’m going to suck as badly as I can, and when they cry, I’m going to be even meaner.
Because, no. That’s not our plan. That’s never been ANY of our plans. Not our generation, not our parents’, not our grandparents’. It’s never been the intention of ANY of the parents I’ve talked to, even and especially those who ended up losing custody.
So. Why, then? Why? Where do they lose their way, where do we lose ours?
I believe that we lose our way when we realize that parenting never stops. In those first few months (years) of sleepless (at least partially) nights, all of the planning it suddenly takes to get this human out of the house, all of the logistics it takes to keep your own life going. It is staggering. It is an adjustment. It is the most incredible and confusing cluster of fucks.
So when I get home and I’m worn out because life keeps rolling and rolling and the little one needs a thousand things immediately, that’s when it surprises us. That’s when we start weighing their needs against our sanity. That’s when we start feeling the guilt.
“This is not the kind of mom I thought I’d be.”
“I’m not the kind of dad I should be.”
That’s when it gets slippery, when those thoughts rise up to the surface. That’s when we turn on the television because we need to sit down before we crash. They need us 100%, and we do the best we can with what we know. But put on your oxygen mask before helping others.
And gosh, attachment parenting. I believe in it. I lived and breathed it. I’m not sorry for an instant. But I was so tired. I was so sore and so spent and my expectations of myself were so high. Nothing ever felt like it was good enough.
So what will our kids say about us after all? Maybe not at 16, but at 36?
They carried the weight of generations of moms before them, upon their backs.
They read the research and tried so hard to do everything just right.
They were critical of themselves, and of us, when we didn’t show up perfectly.
Do what you can. Love how you do. And go to bed knowing it’s enough. Because they’ll give us a couple more chances (to screw up again) tomorrow.
And maybe, the kids are alright.