I never expected being a parent to be easy. We’ve made mistakes along the way. Starting out as a 17-year-old mom puts everybody involved at an immediate disadvantage. It was rough trying to learn how to grow up and be a wife and mom at the same time. Losing my childhood… and realizing that I had essentially sacrificed the rest of my life to motherhood was a jagged pill to swallow. It was, however, a pill I swallowed quickly and without question. I never convinced myself it would be all cutesy dresses and pinned up hair with bows and the happily ever after that some teen moms imagine. I’ve always been somewhat of a realist, even though I do have a bit of optimist in my bones. I looked forward to making the best and the most of what I knew would be difficult.
There have been many things in my life that could have — and perhaps should have — gone differently. But they didn’t. I am where I am and thankfully my life turned out to be a fairy tale of sorts. I’m with my high school sweetheart. We’ve been together almost 15 years and are more in love than ever. We have a bunch of gorgeous kids — seven to be exact! Both of us are pretty damn gorgeous too if I do say so myself ;) My husband makes a good living, we live a good life… we don’t want or need for anything. We’re all healthy. We don’t have to ask anyone for anything. But it took a long, LONG time to get to this point and we traveled a dark and twisted, dirt-covered back road for most of those years. I would never want the life we’ve had for any of my kids. Why would I ever wish for them to endure years of unnecessary struggle in order to arrive at a good place?
We endured years of unnecessary struggle because neither of us were raised like we should have been. Our parents did their best… I don’t knock any of them. My dad isn’t included in that statement whatsoever. My mom did it alone. But Barry and I … neither of us had an upbringing that consisted of really being RAISED past a certain point. We can both look back and know exactly what we will do differently with our children because it’s pretty simple to pinpoint what we needed and didn’t have in our own rearing. I had way too little discipline, way too much freedom, and much less supervision than I should have. I dictated more in my household than I should have been allowed and made more decisions for myself without intervention from anyone else. I remember leaving home and staying gone for days on end when I was barely a teenager without any real repercussion. I think about things I did as a preteen/teen and I’m almost shocked … I would literally not think twice about beating the hell out of one of my kids for most of what I got away with. (I’m being emphatic — no, I don’t abuse my children. Figured that needed to be said.)
I was spending nights with Barry when I was only 15 years old. Anyone surprised that I ended up pregnant with our oldest child when I was 16? Didn’t think so. Why was I spending nights with him when I was not even old enough to DRIVE? Because my mom lost control of me before I even hit 13 and she never regained it. I’m not trying to offend her by any means — the facts are what they are and my life went the way it did for a reason. If I wanted to be bitter, I could look back and blame my mother for many of the mistakes I was allowed to make between age 12 and age 16.
I was smoking weed when I was 12. Got expelled from school in 7th grade for “possession and distribution of a controlled substance” and was put on probation, ordered to do community service, and had to attend private school. Then I got kicked out of the private school. I was stealing my mom’s car and going into the next county 45 minutes away when I was 14. I got pulled over one night when I was 15 (no license), high, on the other side of town and my mom had to come get me from jail. I got grounded for a couple of weeks but I was still allowed to have company… I smoked cigarettes from the time I was 12 until I was 16 and my mom bought them for me by the carton starting just before I turned 14. She was doing what she thought she needed to do to stay close to me, I suppose… thinking that I would do it anyway… and I can understand her mentality at the time. She wasn’t sure what to do. I was much stronger willed and more physically intimidating than she had ever been and I honestly think she was maybe afraid of me to a certain extent. My mom has always been rather timid and I’ve always been extremely stubborn.
While I can try to understand the way I was — or wasn’t — raised, I can’t condone or excuse it. Even moreso, I certainly can’t adopt it because I know from my own experience growing up that it didn’t work. I’m much the opposite with my own kids. I try to be as understanding and lenient as I can. I guide them. I teach them. I correct them. But at the same time, I know that it’s also my job to make sure that they know beyond a shadow of a doubt that poor decisions will have unpleasant consequences. It’s a hard balance to figure out — to be easy, light-hearted, and fun with them and then in the blink of an eye, to have to scold, discipline, and punish them. I expect greatness from them. I demand respect from them. I refuse to allow them to be out of control or defiant.
My oldest daughter, Briyana (12 years old) got in trouble tonight, got punished, and feels that I’m unfair… As I explained to her, she’s always going to feel like I’m unfair if she continues to try to compare her situation to that of her younger siblings. She didn’t get in trouble for the things she gets in trouble for now when she was their ages… and they won’t get in trouble for the things she gets in trouble for now until they are her age. My 9 year old (Talia) gets upset because my 6 year old (Ava) doesn’t get in trouble for the same things she gets in trouble for. The 6 year old feels the same way about the 4 year old (Zoe). So it makes perfect sense that my 12 year old thinks I’m evil because I don’t get onto the 9 year old for the things I get onto her about. It’s a constant struggle… and I’m not going to defend myself to a child so the only explanation she gets from me is that if I did it, said it, started it, stopped it, or made it a rule, it’s fair. Period. Understand it or not. Like it or not. It’s your reality until you’re old enough, prepared enough, and logically able to take care of yourself.
My 12 year old hates me tonight… and I’m fine with that because if there is one thing that I know for a fact, it’s that when she is pushing my age she will NEVER be able to look back and blame me for any of her mistakes. She will never be able to look back and say that her mother was uninvolved; she will never be able to say that she made poor decisions because her mother wasn’t there to teach her, correct her, or support her. She will never be able to say that she did things that weren’t wise because her mother didn’t offer her guidance or because her mother was unavailable to talk to her about life — about ANYTHING. She will never be able to say I’m at fault if her life turns out differently than she plans. She will never be able to say that she got away with too much, had too much freedom, or had too little supervision. She will never be able to say I gave up because I feared her or that she needed anything from me that I wasn’t equipped to provide.
Whether she takes advantage of the fact that she has an involved, available, loving, supportive mother who teaches, guides, and corrects is completely up to her… but if she doesn’t she can only blame herself because she has all the resources she needs to make good, wise, responsible decisions. She can hate me now for correcting, reprimanding, interfering, punishing, and disciplining. She will thank me 15 years from now when she’s successful, happy, and safe. If she’s not those things, she will only have herself to blame for wherever else she ends up. Raising children is not easy, especially for a mother. It’s much different for my husband… they respond differently to Daddy. There isn’t as much of a power struggle between them and him. They don’t like everything he does or says either, but there is much less reflection of their opinion with him than there is with me. We’re remedying that situation right now :) I’ll be publishing another article on that very, very soon …
Bri doesn’t have it easy — she has to learn lessons that none of the other kids have had to learn. She has to experience life first while she looks with jealousy at each of them in all their younger sibling innocence and sighs as she leaves each year behind. I know it’s rough on her being the oldest and I do take that into consideration when dealing with her, but I can’t let that sway me from making sure that she is growing up with everything I didn’t have — everything I needed. Bri and the rest of our kids will never know how blessed they are to have such a great father — Lord only knows what my life would have been like if I had a dad like Barry to support and back up my mother as she navigated through the murky swamp of parenting me… perhaps if that had been the case, she would have been more like I am — more strict, more comfortable challenging me and asserting her parental authority, more sure of her decisions since she would have someone to make them with. Who knows?
For now, that’s all I have to say. I just wanted to get it off my chest and out of my head. One day, my babies will all be grown and they will look back at these writings of mine and know how important they are to me, how much I want for their lives, and how I was willing to sacrifice everything — right down to my sanity to make sure that they are raised correctly. For now, that’s what I take comfort in as we enter the teen years over, and over, and over, and over, and over, and over again ;)