Single Mom Slice Of Life:
Sins Of The Mother.. I Try So Hard
“I try so hard to do a good job, to stand out, to be the best, and it seems like no one sees it!”
It wasn’t just his words that tore at my heart, it was the gut wrenching sob that went along with it. As Justin found out that despite all of his awards, honors, and certificates, he for some reason hadn’t been picked to help with Field Day activities. With tears that still make my heart stop, he explained that he just doesn’t understand how he goes to school early, gets good grades, joined clubs, stayed late after school to help teachers but still can’t do Field Day.
There are certain times in a parent’s life when they look upon their child, smile and say, “Yep, that’s all me!” and others when a parent holds their teenage child, crying with them, frowns and thinks, “Oh my God, that’s all me.”
I realized in that moment that this was one of those times I had truly failed as a parent in leading by example. This wasn’t easy like ‘respect other people’, or ‘don’t drink straight out of the carton’… this is something I myself struggle with and simply don’t have an answer for.
My parents often roll their eyes and scoff when I say that as the oldest of seven children, I suffer from Out of Sight, Out of Mind Syndrome – but I find I have to call days after my birthday has passed and they didn’t call. At work I cringe when I hear that I’m overpaid – as in I bust my hump to go above and beyond, to constantly strive to do more, to earn my title; but it’s still not enough to justify the amount of my paycheck? My friends know I will drop everything (and have), at any time, but get told ‘no’ more often than not the few times I myself reach out for help.
I sat there with my own insecurities and self-doubt about my value as a person, daughter, friend, employee, and parent and realized this was one area of life I simply wasn’t qualified to give advice on.
So after stalling, and releasing Nick into the public with his friends (scary no matter the night or situation), Justin and I headed to his favorite restaurant where over many plates of sushi and while we were both still crying (which made our waitress extremely nervous), I explained the following:
“I don’t know how to help you, but I can tell you that you are not alone, and not the only one that feels this way. What I can tell you is that in two weeks, this will not seem like that big of a deal and you can have a different goal to strive for, a different problem to solve. In two weeks you will have fifteen better memories to replace this single bad one.
Nick hates that you keep getting honor roll, so you know he sees you. Miss Lynda was willing to come to your school during a work day to talk to your class because you asked her to, so you know she sees you. Your friends called to check on you when you were home sick one day, so you know they see you. Your teachers have asked you to stop turning down extra credit because you felt it should have been considered part of the assignment anyway, so you know they see you.
In two weeks you will look back, and use whatever lesson we can get from today to make your life better, to make your world better. I think that one day you will figure out how not to worry about making everyone else happy, but how to make yourself happy. Because, when you are happy, you won’t worry about what you think others have that you don’t have, or what you think others don’t appreciate about you.
You are an amazing kid, with a thirst for knowledge, a desire to help those around you, and an ability to make people feel safe, calm, and happy – I promise you not a lot of people have those gifts. I can promise that you will find something that you love, that you take satisfaction in knowing you do well, and that will help you realize that it doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks, what anyone else feels, or what anyone else says.”
Was it the best parental speech? Probably not, but again, I suffer from the same affliction he does, so I was really telling him words that comfort me when I feel the way he does.
In another example of kids teaching parents, Justin has taught me that just like caring for others, respecting others, and not drinking directly out of the carton, this was something I would have to lead by example for both of us to benefit. I have to find what makes me happy, how to be content within myself so that it is not what others think about me that defines me, it’s how I feel about myself. In my late 30’s it will be a hard change to make within myself, but I’m willing to try.
What has Justin learned? Well, in less than 12 hours, and in true little brother form, he has learned that he is better at driving Nick insane than anyone else, and already has three plans in place to annoy the crap out of his big brother upon his return home, stating, “This is what I’m really good at, I can make this work. I already feel better!”
Sigh. Welcome to my world.
What are you working on that your children have incorporated into their personalities? Does it break your heart to see them struggle like you do or did? How are you working with them? How are you working with yourself?
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Wendy Syler Woodward has been a single parent since 2002, with two boys ages 13 and 18. Originally from southern California, Wendy moved her family to Phoenix where she manages a law firm for work, writes for fun, and has returned to college for her B.A. Follow her on Twitter @WendySyler .