The So-Called “Parenting” Manual…Be Damned!

Have you ever wondered about the parenting programs, books, and special parenting classes you hear about? More so have you ever wondered about the people who write or teach them? Wondering and pondering about what makes these people the perfect authority on how you should parent your child. If these people are a great and mighty authority on how you and I should parent our children, then shouldn’t they all be on the same page? If they are on different pages, then which page is the correct one to follow?

It’s always baffled my sense how so many self-proclaimed “experts” can all say “this is what you should, must and will do if you want a perfect, well-adjusted child.

Recently I began to question these “experts” even more than usual after I experienced a mother’s worst nightmare. I discovered that I was horribly wrong and foolishly naive to believe I’d lived enough torment for ten mothers’ or that I’d lived through everything my children could toss at me.

You have to understand, and I might be alone in this, but even while I was growing up, the thought of having a child scared the hell out of me. I always thought of the worst case scenarios when I thought of having a child…never positive scenarios. Always playing in my head were the worst case scenarios;

 “What if I lost her and couldn’t find her?”

“What if I couldn’t protect him from things that were out of his control within his life?”

“How can I keep them safe and teach them everything they need to know, so they can spread their wings and soar above the clouds making all their dreams come true?”

“What if I failed as a parent?”

“What if my unique style and personality hindered them in life rather than assisted them in their lives?”

I felt like a screw-up as it was, and how could a screw-up like myself not screw-up my children?”

And yes, I’ve had some of my nightmares come true, almost like they walked straight out of my subconscious. Through the years and unforeseen circumstances, my children have placed me in a paralyzing state of fear repeatedly, although never intentionally.

As my children grew from toddlers to adolescents and two of them into teens, I tried my damnedest to raise them the best I could. I had guilt towards the first few years of their lives with my ex-husband. The physically and mental abuse they witness, as well as the mental abuse my son, had to endure at the hands of my ex-husband. My ex couldn’t handle having an autistic son; even a high functioning one, which meant he went from being the light of his life to a pesky nuisance he didn’t want to deal with anymore. Even when my ex was in my life, I raised my two children alone, to me my ex was just another grown child I had to support alone. When I was able to, I left him hoping that the children were young enough not to remember the abuse in the house and that it wouldn’t impact them as they started life anew.

Over the years, I have been called a strict but fair mom. I expect a lot from my children (mental and physical issues set aside because they were taught not to use them as a crutch), but I give a lot to them in return. My oldest son being a high functioning autistic teen has a special high school program that he attends. He has learned his place in school, how to fit it, and what works best for his learning requirements. Due to both my husbands and mine hard work over the years, our son has gone from a child with major issues to an amazing teen. When I got with my husband when my son was six-years-old, my son had serious anger issues. He was getting kicked out of school daily for fighting; he was defiant at home and overall belligerent to anyone and everyone who came into contact with him. These issues I could understand because of the way his bio-dad treated him, as well as the fact he was still not talking; therefore, unable to make friends. Add to that, the fact that he couldn’t grasp how the school was trying to teach him, which left him feeling out of place and confused continuously.

Although understanding is one thing, letting him away with it was an entirely different animal. I refused to let him use his handicaps as an excuse for not trying his hardest, and I was certainly not going to allow him to use the hardships they brought him as an excuse to act up. It took a lot of work, especially when he has limited short-term memory and almost no long-term memory to get him to understand what was allowed and expected of him. Over the years with the help of my amazing husband, we now have one of the most well-adjusted teens. He’s honor roll in his special program, helps at home, helps out an amazing amount with his baby brother and never talks back.  I swear he used up all his anger when he was a child because he doesn’t appear to have an angry bone in his body now, no aggression or hostility any longer.

While my daughter has some issues such as anxiety, she’s never been a handful other than directly after I left my ex-husband, and that was because she was his princess. It took her a while to come to terms with the fact that he was no longer a part of our lives. She did come to terms with it when both children embraced my husband as their dad (on their terms, not ours). She has always been an easy child, eating whatever was placed in front of her (although she would rather fruits and vegetables over meat). She’s honor roll in mostly advanced classes; she would rather spend time hanging out with her family over her friends. The fact that we are extremely close and she can talk to us about anything has helped in her anxiety issues. These issues stem from before I left her bio-dad, and a sense of abandonment issues from our family disappearing from our lives. Our daughter much like her brother never talk back to us, never second guess our decisions, never get mad, angry with us, yell or talk back to us.

One might assume with us having an extremely sick child at home and the amount of our time he consumes; the two oldest children would begrudge his birth, holding hostility towards us as parents. For some families, this is true; however, for our family it couldn’t be further from the truth. We find that many families tend to focus such enormous amounts of time and energy on their sick child that they almost take their healthy children for granted; placing them on the back burner. This is usually when we have heard the most complaints from parent’s that their other children are acting out, getting into trouble, have anger issues or much worse issues. These parents cannot figure out why their children are acting out in such deplorable ways when they should be understanding or even helpful because they know how much stress the sick sibling causes them. The problem is; they are children, they need just as much time and effort placed into them, or they will act out. They know and understand that you’re dealing with a lot, but that doesn’t mean they won’t naturally resent that child and eventually you for ignoring them.

We have worked extremely hard to find an equal balance between all of our children. This means we don’t have nearly as much time to spend alone with one another as we’d like, but it’s worth it if it means our children will be well-adjusted. This is not an easy task for parents to achieve, but you must learn to balance your time equally between all of your children. Goddess knows we are not perfect parents; we do make mistakes, but when we do make them, we will be the first ones to approach out children and apologize for our errors. We never say no without explaining our reasoning, and we provide a lot of trusts, to our children, but they have to work ten times harder to gain it back if they screw up.

There are a lot of tips and tricks to raising well-adjusted children especially ones with special needs (especially when there are more than one in the house). Which is why I never grasped all these people who swear by these so called “experts” on parenting, considering they all have something different to offer. If you have read all these parenting books, attended the classes, listened to the tapes, and they worked, great for you. But considering no two families are the same, I can’t comprehend how these “experts” can tell you the best way to raise your children. I can’t understand it any more than I can understand the school system that’s designed to teach one way only.

Sometimes being the best parent you can be is just going with your gut, making time for each child (even if it means less time for you). Most importantly, listen to your children, pay attention to what they are telling you either physically or verbally and adjust yourself to better help them. Most important, don’t forget what it felt like to be young and all the things you wish your parents hadn’t said or hated the way they handled things in your life and try to break free from repeating the same errors.

Sometimes the best form of parenting cannot be found in a book, tape, movie or seminar, but through trying your best to do what’s right for your children…your way.