I have failed.

If parenting can be measured in school years, I have failed this year. It’s only April, but the failure is so pronounced that I am giving up. Maybe I’ll try again in the fall when school starts up again, but for now I feel like I might as well write this year off as a loss.

I’ve blogged before about my third daughter, whom I’ll call Emily, and how we have argued repeatedly because I won’t “gift” her a car. In the last few weeks we’ve spoken once—in a five minute phone conversation that had the two of us yelling over each other. We’ve exchanged a few text messages and a couple of emails. A week or so ago Emily left me a two-minute voice mail in which she used the f-word 14 times as adjective, verb, and pronoun. She called me a bitch a couple of times as well, which seems ridiculously simple in comparison to the other word. Another issue came to light this morning and I felt forced to draw a line in the sand. It was a horrible realization—that I had no other choices but to lay down an ultimatum. Even before I did, I knew what her response would be. And yes, she reacted just as I thought. We are now officially “estranged.”

And then this afternoon, I received word that my fourth daughter, Bri, is no longer considered a student at her high school. Bri was shocked at the news and I was shocked at her surprise. She hasn’t been to school in two weeks. What did she expect?! Honestly, she naively thought they would just let her continue to show up whenever she wanted without consequences.

I want to go on record and scream to the world that I did not raise my children to be this way. I didn’t allow swearing in my home when they were younger. At least three of the four have tasted soap in their mouths and learned not to talk to people disrespectfully and not to swear. I have placed great value on education my whole life, and so did my parents before me, and their parents before them. My children were raised from birth with the belief that they will get an education and make a difference in the world. My children were taught right from wrong. They understood that they were accountable to themselves and to God.

And then they reached a point when they made their own choices, when they had to stand on their own feet and be accountable for those choices. When they made good choices, life went smoothly. When they didn’t, well, sometimes life became sandpaper.

I am frustrated that one of my daughters believes she is entitled to anything she wants just because I brought her into this world, and who considers me the worst parent on the planet because I say no. And I am thoroughly disappointed that another cannot get out of bed to show up for school. I hate the powerlessness that comes with being the parent of an adult child who makes poor choices. And I despise myself for feeling that I have failed as a parent because they made those bad choices. The logical part of my brain knows I am not a failure. But my heart aches in hindsight at the different choices I could have made and the different lessons I could have taught my daughters so we could be looking at different outcomes today.

I have four daughters and two are grown and on their own and are absolutely remarkable women. I am so proud of them and what they have done with their lives. It’s the other two daughters who have brought about my feelings of failure. So in that regard, I’ve failed only half my “classes” this year. It isn’t any consolation at all. Failing is failing.

I’ve had a sticky note on my desk for the last four years—three of which I spent deep in the depths of despair in unemployment. Scribbled on the note is: There is no failure except in no longer trying.

I have overcome quite a few ugly challenges in my life. I consider myself a survivor—of abuse, of loss so great it’s unimaginable. I’ve fallen down many times, but I’ve always found a way to stand up and try again. Tonight I have nothing left to try. I have no answers. I have no more questions to ask to find answers. I’ve offered all the suggestions and advice I had to give. I have failed.

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7 thoughts on “I have failed.

  1. I am so sorry As a parent of three (16 to 26) I can relate to much of what you have written. I hit similar walls with our middle child. I wish I could give you pat answers, but I can’t, of course. The only thing that seemed to tilt things in a good direction during those tumultuous years was when I realized – and confided in him – how much we were alike, and how some of the mistakes he was making were triggering gut-wrenching reactions in me precisely because I saw myself doing similar things. Once he realized I wasn’t going to compare him (unfavorably) to his siblings, and that I really did accept and love him for him, things gradually got better. I didn’t approve of all his choices and we still have our rocky moments from time to time but we slowly made progress and he is now preparing to graduate with a business degree. On his terms, and after he stubbed his toes a few times. Hang in there and hang on to your convictions.

  2. Pingback: Love Shak, Baby » Parental Despair

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