The Award For “Worst Parent Ever” Goes To….

Don't cry, Joan. You can win it back next year.

Don’t cry, Joan. You can win it back next year.

Me. *accepts Wire Hanger trophy and smiles pretty for the cameras.* “It’s a surprise winning over the people you see on the news every night that have whipped, tortured, drowned, beaten, abandoned, neglected and otherwise endangered their children. I’m sure there is a someone out there allowing their children to be molested by their stepfather who would completely embody everything this award is about.  I don’t deserve this, I really don’t….”

At least according to my 13 year old son, I do. So, if I really were making an acceptance speech for this coveted prize, I guess I’d have to thank everyone who participated in my long decline to the worst parent EVER. To my former ob-gyn, who saw me through preeclampsia and induced labor before my son and I died a horrible death almost 14 years ago, thank you.  To my ex husband, who tries his hardest to be involved with our son on a daily basis, even though it’s rough with 3,000 miles and a time difference, who pays his child support and helps with the premiums on the boy’s health insurance and most of all, for ensuring that on some small level, our son will always blame me for the fact that you moved away and not the crappy economy and your girlfriend trying to keep you from being homeless in this state, thank you. I could go on and on, but…the band is staring to play me offstage, so it’s time to get back to the blog….

My son and I seem to have a misunderstanding about priorities, and I guess I can’t blame him. It sucks being thirteen. Especially in today’s day and age.  Especially when you’re a kid that is as compelled instinctively to rebel as he is.  It’s a reflex, like breathing. I get that living in that twilight time between childhood and adulthood can be horrible.  Navigating hormones, social pressure of being popular,  struggling to become your own person and a changing world view is confusing and frustrating. It’s hard.  I certainly wouldn’t trade with him and I had a whole set of different problems at that age.

It sucks being a single parent, too. It sucks being a single parent that works full time AND has to try to be both father and mother to a kid that would rather be raised by wolves. I am a bad parent because I work, because I won’t call out sick to take him shopping for clothes he will refuse to wear in two months for reasons that completely elude me, even though I was home from work in time to do so for the past two days, but HE was with his friends and wanted to stay out past curfew (and wasn’t allowed to, by the way).  I’m the worst parent ever because I want him sticking to curfews, to do the minimal chores he’s asked to,  won’t allow him to get facial piercings and tattoos and worst of all, I cannot financially keep up with his appetite for expensive clothes. This isn’t even taking the battles over his academic performance, life goals and overall behavior into consideration. Dealing with all of this alone is the hardest thing I’ve ever done. Oh, and did I mention that I don’t have a social life, ensuring that I will continue to be a single parent for a very LOOOOONG time? Yes, in addition to not being an alcoholic or addicted to drugs, I’m not unemployed, I do not have a revolving bedroom door with one of those ‘Take A Number’ machines next to it so the constant stream of men I sleep with keep the line moving.  I realize these are massive failings on my part, but we all have our shortcomings, I guess. The main problems with me, as near as I can interpret, are that I am micromanaging, controlling and bossy while being selfish and uncaring. This is fascinating to me because the whole function of a parent is to micromanage, instruct, teach limits while preserving the security and stability of the house. So, it sounds like I’m doing the right things but not doing them all at the same time.

This is the stuff that people mean when they give you that knowing smile as you hold your precious newborn in your arms, when they say, “Oh, enjoy it now, drink it all in and never forget it.”  No one wants to tell you that a decade and some years later, you’re going to be standing face to face with the seething semi-adult your beautiful infant grew into and they are screaming at you, wishing you dead in no uncertain terms.  Those well meaning non party poopers at your baby’s christening party won’t tell you that someday you’ll be sitting in the middle school principal’s office, surrounded by teachers, guidance counselors, behavior specialists and maybe a police officer in a meeting to discuss your son’s behavior in school.  Nope. No one says a word about any of that.  Oh, sure, later, there are books, audiobooks, lecture series on cd and dvd about how to get your problem kid to act like a reasonable human being.  There are psychiatrists that make a FORTUNE on prescriptions and give kids labels to justify their rotten behavior. We’re creating a whole generation of children that become programmed to believe they can’t function without medication when all they have to do is shut up, listen to what their parents and teachers have to say and then DO IT. I acknowledge that there are children with real obstacles, emotionally, mentally or physically that are too challenging to circumvent without prescription medication, too. But, they are not as common as you might think, either.

The consolations are few, but worthwhile. Hearing that he spent the day with my parents, being helpful, polite and pleasant to have around, for example. I wish they’d recorded it, because I’m not sure I believe it. Watching him with smaller children – seeing how patient he is with them, how attentive and how much they love him is definitely a good thing. Even listening to him be angry with me because I enforced a curfew even though he was worried about his girlfriend (yes, we’re there already, too…) who was upset about something is a bittersweet thing. I get these little glimpses of the man I hope he’ll grow up to be and feel like the war isn’t in vain.

And then, I say something stupid like, “Hey, it’s getting late.Time to pack it in.” and ruin everything.

God, I’m the worst parent ever….

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