This is the time of your life when you feel the most defiant and frustrated with your parents. “Their home, their rules” butting up against your desire to be an independent adult. You begin to notice they’re flawed and hypocritical. They only see you as a child and irresponsible when clearly you believe you are not.
From their end, they see a lack of ambition and autonomy. Poor choices on both sides fuel the arguments. They say that raising a teenager is like nailing jello to a tree. It really is.
In my experience which I have shared with you often enough, I kept a lot of of my frustrations in a journal form because voicing it would result in physical repercussions. I had always wanted to say the things to my parents that went into the journal, but over time, I had realized that it would not have been made a bit of difference to them and it would not change how I was raised.
What was done is done and cannot be undone.
Although, my experiences taught me what not to do as a parent. I stand by the belief that everything that happens to you is an opportunity for learning. When you look back on your childhood and your experience with us, I hope you too, can find a teachable moment.
Do not hang on to any bitterness and let it cloud your life. I did that for several years and it was a complete waste of time. Turn it toward something positive. List out all of the things you wished you had from us and resolve to model your parenting and relationships after that.
Parenting is hard. We think as parents we are approaching it in the best possible way, but we are human and we make mistakes. And let me tell you, the struggle with wanting to be a better parent than your own and resorting to the same tactics that were used on you is real.
Let me share my list of things I did my best to approach parenting you:
- If I promised something to you, I followed through.
- I was not going to Joan Crawford you with psycho expectations on how you kept your room, or how you dressed.
- If I was to resort to corporal punishment, it was only as an absolute last resort if you were about to harm yourself or others with your actions. I believe I spanked you only 3 times in your childhood and I did not want to do it.
- I was going to lead by example in terms of motivating toward a good work ethic and problem solving.
- I wasn’t going to spend time comparing you to others with “Why can’t you be more like…” or “Don’t be like…”
- I did not direct your behavior with “Don’ts” I would simply ask you to do what was desired or gave you limited choices to get you toward the parenting goal.
- I resolved to listen to you when you spoke and did not let the belief “Children should be seen not heard.” rule in this house.
- I was not going to go on surprise purges of your spaces with full on rants and corporal punishment in the aftermath.
- I would allow you to find your independence by encouraging, advising and supporting you in your effort to learn to drive, find a job and finish your school projects on your own.
- I made time to spend with just you instead of leaving you on your own all the time.
Some would say I was not strict enough. Maybe not. Maybe that was my big mistake as a parent to you. However, I did believe giving you the freedom to fall on your face and try to learn that the failure was yours and yours alone. (Not some outside force or the failure of someone else) Although, I do believe you are still learning that lesson today.
Know that some battles are not worth fighting. Only pursue the ones which are worth fighting. If after a day or week you cannot remember the reason for your anger, it was a battle not worth fighting.
With that said, I know you have tons to say to your father based on how he approached parenting you. And I am sure you have tons to say about whether or not I stood up to him enough. You’d be surprised to know, that when you were not around there were indeed shouty throw downs, I even dragged him to therapy (which did nothing to shake him out of it). And at some point, I expected him to ask for a divorce and I said, “bring it”. The reason you did not see it was because I resolved to limit parenting disputes if you were present. I know the kind of unrest that causes a child, seeing parents at each others’ throats over good cop/bad cop. It’s unhealthy. And at some point when you get older, it becomes a bargaining chip on your part to play one parent off the other and instigate the arguments in order to manipulate your way.
I know this because I did this. My family were openly fighting about parenting choices and at some point I found out how to make that benefit me.
With all you have to say, I encourage you to think about why you need to say it, what you expect from it and when you feel you need to say it. Personally, if you had something to say to me about parenting I would wish you would say it all now while I have the chance to be a better parent to you.
And lastly, the thing I have noticed about you with the contentious relationship you have with your father is that you are letting him rule your happiness in terms of earning his approval. The only person who should rule your happiness is you. You should set the standard of approval by what you want for yourself. If you feel you have done your best then you shouldn’t need to turn to others for affirmation. Self satisfaction should be enough.