While we were in Jamaica, we had the opportunity to visit a home for teenage girls. These young women all have sad stories. Many have been abused. Due to inconsistent schooling, it’s not uncommon for girls to go there who are 11, 13, 15 years old , but functioning academically on a 2nd grade level. None of it is ok. Fortunately, at the home they are being well taken care of and many have made amazing progress, both academically and socially. My Aunt has been volunteering at this home for a long time and as such we wanted to bring some goodies for “her girls”.
One of the things she told us was that one girl who she has taken a particular interest in was having a hard time lately because she didn’t understand why her mother didn’t even come to visit her, as is allowed. She was so disgusted with her mother that she didn’t want to use her last name anymore. My heart broke for her.
As someone who was raised by her Grandparents I have a small understanding of what this young girl is feeling. I had a great life. I’ve said it at least 100 times that I could not have asked for a better childhood. There was nothing more my Grandma and Grandad could have done. Yet, there was still, that part of me that wished if I was being raised by my parents and not my Grands.
I used to make excuses for other people’s crap parenting, but once I had my own children, I was no longer able to do so. I couldn’t look my baby in the face and rationalize a way out of his life.
I have no interest in anyone who puts a spouse above their child. No acceptance or understanding for parents who treat one child with TLC and another child with disdain. Don’t even get me started on anyone who stays in an abusive relationship that their child then has to witness or worse, get drawn into. There’s no tolerance for anyone who sees their child hurting or in need of help and stands idly by. I don’t get, on any level, parents who do not want to play an active role in their childrens lives and by extension their grandchildrens lives.
I’ve heard all the “reasons” why someone might not be the kind of parent they should be.
They’re too busy.
They don’t know better because they themselves had a bad parent.
The child stopped reaching out or the child did something to anger the parent.
They are doing the best they c an and loving the best way they can.
One kid needs them more than another.
There may be some truth to some of those – But they still don’t carry much weight with me.
The minute you made that baby, you had one job. One. To love and be there for your child no matter what and in whatever way is necessary.
It doesn’t matter what your expectations were or what your financial situation is or how big your childs support system outside of you is.
In addition, the moment you chose to marry someone who had children you made the decision to swallow your pride and treat their child as your own and do whatever it takes to love and support that child.
Being a stand up parent isn’t glamorous. It’s not about the days when you dress up and take professional family pictures. It isn’t about the funny things you get to post on Facebook. It isn’t showing up on graduation day when you haven’t shown up to one parent teacher meeting. It isn’t buying Christmas presents or spending big for a fancy new drone. It’s about the throw up you cleaned and the nights you didn’t sleep and the days when you were too tired to say yes but said yes anyway. It’s about making sure that any new person you introduce into your childs life is going to love them and be a positive influence. It’s about calling just to say hi and to see how their first day on the new job went. It’s about making them feel like they always have a home where you are. As they get older, it’s about including them in what’s happening in your life – good or bad. It’s about being a shoulder and a cheerleader and a relentless truth teller when they are about to make a bad decision; even if you have made the same speech too many times before.
It’s about showing up in all ways. I know Websters disagrees but “Parenting“, much like “love”, is a verb. An action word.
My boys are not always happy with us. Sometimes we’re the bad guys. That’s ok. We’re here and involved and active and we go on field trips and we plan trips to amusement parks and we make study guides and we enforce rules and we get angry and we get silly and we make fart jokes and we do last minute school projects and we buy books at fairs and we practice bike riding and we suffer through movies we don’t like and we hang bad art on our office walls. We give medicine and we talk puberty and we listen to endless stories about Nexo Knights and we make birthday hats for stuffed toys. We get annoyed about lost items but we buy new ones. Even though we already know the way and it takes them too long to find it, we allow them the space and time to read the electronic monitor at the airport so they can figure out which gate our airplane is leaving from. We celebrate every milestone and achievement and good report card.
I’m sure the parents of the girls in the home have their own sad stories. I am sorry about that. I assume in many ways where the girls are now is the best place for them – just as my Grandparents were for me – But that doesn’t make it any less unfortunate for them.
As inconvenient and aggravating as parenting can be, there is no way to describe the rewards of seeing – up close – your child grow and learn and struggle and overcome and slip and succeed and cry and find their way.
The young girls at the home are understandably feeling pain over their situation, and they can’t see it now, but from where I sit today, it’s their parents who are losing out.