I've been the worst mother.
No...really. It's as if I bought some 'how to' manuals from the most highly respected parenting experts and deliberately set out to perform the exact opposite of each and every suggestion.
When she was born I didn't breast feed. That's been 'proven' to somehow result in all the little Einsteins in the world. I laid her on her stomach to sleep and somehow she managed not to die a sudden infant death. I never bundled her up, if I only needed a sweater, then that's all she got. Oh the looks of child abuse that were heaped on me for that one. Let's not dwell on the fact that the child didn't miss a sick day of school until chicken pox in the 8th grade.
I returned to work when she was but two weeks old. I did not stay at home and nurture her constantly but placed her in the hands of a baby sitter and went on my greedy way to collect my paycheck. I often changed baby sitters as my and her needs changed. No consistency here, no chance to develop a comfortable environment, a safe haven.
I started her on solid foods too soon. I dropped her. I dropped her more than once. I did not have a nap schedule. I potty trained her soon after her first birthday, nay nay say the experts.
I let her watch cartoons and eat too much candy. I bought her entirely too many toys. She had her own phone line, her own TV and VCR.
I allowed her to see me angry, I allowed her to see me express displeasure. I did not discipline her much, allowing her to 'slide' when perhaps I shouldn't have glossed over the minor things. After all...'give em an inch and they'll take a mile!' She had a pacifier, she ran in the house. I did not place breakable objects up high and out of reach. Her room was/is always a mess.
She played video games and stayed up too late. She watched soap operas. She watched frightening scary horror movies. She listened to MTV and sang Rap. She watched South Park. She watched David Letterman and Saturday Night Live.
There was alcohol in our house, and we had guns.
I bought her way way too many clothes. I denied her little if we could afford it. I spoiled her.
She was given a car at 16 and a liberal and sensible but pretty much self defined curfew based on the activity of the evening. Use your own judgement I said, trusting her to do so. I'm sure her friends wished they had such an idiot for a parent.
I did not set a good example as a mother, my behavior was often a bit on the reckless side. Not bad, mind you, but I do like to have fun and enjoy life.
I rarely told her 'no'. Then again, she rarely asked questions she knew would elicit such a response.
I didn't help her with her homework very often, other than grilling her for tests when she asked. Advice, suggestions...yes, but she had to do her own school projects.
And quite possibly, the very worst of all...I sent her to ... *gasp* ... PUBLIC SCHOOL!!! Whew...had to duck a few stones on that one! Yes, I forced her to endure the horrors of public education rather than sending her to private school.
She spent a lot of time on the internet... a LOT of time, an incredible amount of time, mostly unsupervised time.
According to the 'experts', she should be a deviate, a depressed semi-suicidal pregnant-or-soon-to-be, violence prone drug using school dropout, a failure, a societal reject.
She graduated June 3rd. She's senior class president, vice-president of the National Honor Society, Valedictorian, and Prom Queen. She's been awarded every merit from Technology to Journalism, Social Studies to English. She lettered in tennis, plays in the pep, jazz, concert, and marching bands, playing both clarinet and piano. (No visuals on marching down the street carrying a piano please) On graduation night she won every award that was presented except the one that could only go to male students. But even the Marines came to school to recognize her. They're looking for a few good women.
She was accepted at every school to which she applied, receiving prestigious academic scholarships at some, being one of mere hundreds accepted out of the near 7000 that applied at others. She was the editor of the school paper, the webmaster of their homepage.
She's so pretty you just break out in a smile when you see her, and so sweet you can't believe it. She's alcohol and drug free, and has chosen not to date yet at the tender age of 18.
All her school life she's won spelling bees, statewide awards, local awards, and maintained a screaming 4.0 GPA. She's volunteered at church, elementary schools and parks, and held a job at our marina.
So what happened here? Have the 'pro's been laying the guilt trip thing on parents who aren't there 24/7 with manual in hand for nothing? Have we been led to believe that simply loving them and supporting them and trusting them .. you know .. kinda like the 'old way of child rearing' isn't enough for no good reason?
Have we succumbed to the theories that whatever goes wrong with our children is someone's fault? Have we too easily allowed ourselves to lay blame on outside influences or to believe that the blame lies with ourselves? Why this need to 'blame'? One study tells us we don't punish enough, another that we punish too much. Parents are constantly in this struggle to stay with the latest 'proven' methods. Unfortunately the kids are caught up in the same struggle.
She wasn't born with instructions tattooed on her nor any warning labels; "By breaking the seal on this creature you agree to the terms of the parenting agreement, do not store in temperatures over 110 degrees". There was no warranty or money back guarantee if she didn't work correctly. No rebooting. I remember initially fearing her, thinking she'd never last a year with the mistakes I knew I was making. I plundered through every day always in the back of my mind thinking at the very least to do everything the exact opposite of what my mother had done. To be sure that was the secret, above all else, make her better than me.
I don't think my daughter is an anomaly, or special. I neither take the blame or the credit for who she is today. She's been loved and guided but allowed to figure herself and life out on her own. She's been allowed to make mistakes for they teach far more. She's not perfect but she's perfect for me.
People tell me all the time how very wonderful she is, and I don't know how to respond. "Thank you" says I did it, "I know" says conceit; I usually say, "Yes, I'm quite fortunate".....as if I won her in a lottery.
I was a bad mother, I did everything 'wrong'.
Is it just possible that the experts as well are wrong?
Maybe we parents need to just lighten up. Let's give ourselves credit for knowing what to do, teach the kids the difference between right and wrong, then give them credit for utilizing that information. Children are a gift to be loved, cared for, and enjoyed, not used as test cases for the latest installment in the parenting book of the month club.