All the graduation posts. Full of parental bragging and congratulatory compliments. Then there’s the one that punched me in the stomach. “You’ve done such a great job with your girls!”
Whoa. Does this mean we haven’t done a good job parenting when our kids don’t get the same kinds of accolades?
This is what has filled much of my social media feed in the last couple of weeks. And the more and more posts like this I see, the more I can’t help but wonder if I have done a good job too. I’m pretty sure that there are plenty of you who wonder the same.
Yes, those parents have amazing children. High achievers with bright futures. The parents have every right to be proud. And the compliments are fitting and true. In fact, I also have one of those children. She’s the one I write brag posts about often. I get it.
But what about us moms who can’t brag about our child or children that way? Have we done a good job too? I have one of these children also. I see both sides completely clear. I do know the feeling of pride that I have when I want to share a brag post with the world.
And I also know how it feels to be shamed by other moms when I am asked about my other child. Because he isn’t doing what society says he should be doing. And even worse, those shaming moms try to suggest ways to fix it as though it is broken. As though they haven’t already made me feel inferior.
Some of it is envy. Because having one of these high achieving children looks so much easier to those on the outside. But that is not always what it’s like on the inside.
Some of it is anger. Because you know you’ve done everything to lead your child to the path to success. No, you’ve done MORE than those parents who have the kids who make parenting look easy.
Some children we tried to lead to a certain path didn’t want to go that way. And we wonder what we did wrong. Read that first sentence again.
Some children we tried to lead to a certain path didn’t want to go that way.
Why should we try to force our children to become people they aren’t? And if they choose to go a different way, why should moms feel bad about it? Why is this something wrong? This is something that I have struggled with. A lot.
I know that we can all agree that we just want what’s best for our children. We want them to have an easy, happy life. We have lived, so we know how hard things can be. But the reality is that life is hard sometimes. I often wonder why we try to shield our children from reality when it is inevitable that they will discover it. They need to know how to handle the curveballs that will be thrown at them. Why sugar coat it?
The best path to success isn’t the same for everyone. What is success anyway? For some moms, success might be as simple as seeing their child get out of bed and go to school that day. Because sometimes, depression doesn’t allow them to do that. Or maybe success is when their child was able to present a project to the class without their anxiety crippling them.
Or what about those children who are taking care of a parent? Or grandparent? Or younger sibling? Or even a baby of their own? Success for these kids is being able to attend school at all because they have the burden of adulthood fighting for first place against their last bits of childhood.
How about the child who is bullied? Or left alone in the lunchroom to eat without any friends? Or spends the day so anxious that he doesn’t speak to anyone all day? Success to moms of these children might look like a day when someone speaks to their child. A day when they receive some kindness.
What about those average children? You know the ones who glide through high school virtually unnoticed outside of their small circle of friends. Mediocre grades, average scores on the ACT. Maybe a hobby or two. Some have plans for after graduation. Some aren’t really sure what to do. Success for these kids might not be obvious right away. And that is okay.
Kids aren’t made in cookie cutter shapes, so neither should our parenting be expected to be that way. Different kids, different parenting styles, trials and errors, different outcomes. Different definition of success. We aren’t supposed to roll the dough out to the exact thickness for the perfect cookie. We just aren’t.
So why is there so much shaming of other moms going on when their child doesn’t choose the best path? I wish I knew. If I knew, I would put a stop to it. Stop thinking your way is the best way. Stop making your kids feel like they are less if they don’t take the path that is considered the best way.
I am a mom of two. Two completely and beautifully opposite children. In some ways, I think it is a blessing that I have been able to experience both extremes in parenting. I can speak to you from a position of truth based on experience. It is not easy either way. The worry is the same. The exhaustion is the same.
The difference is that one of my children is looked upon as a model child on the best path. And the other one is not. Because he doesn’t go to college and he hasn’t found the right job, I am shamed sometimes by others. Perhaps it isn’t intentional, but it happens. The looks I get, accompanied by the, Oh. The choices he makes are his to make. It is not because I didn’t do a good job. I did.
So the next time someone asks you how your child is doing, don’t be ashamed to tell the truth. That your child is taking some time off to figure life out. Or if you ask someone about their child, to find out that they, too, aren’t quite sure which path to take, be kind. Remember that there is nothing to fault mom for. Congratulations to all of the graduates and to those who have earned special recognition. Just don’t forget that there is real life outside of social media.
Did you do everything that was expected of you from society? I tried, but I didn’t. Why? Because that wasn’t the best path for me. I chose my path, just like you chose yours. So let your kids do the same. We should teach them that they are okay if they aren’t in the top of their class. They are okay if they don’t know what they want to be when they grow up. They are okay if they don’t want to go to college. They are okay if they need to take a little time to find their way.
Because eventually, everyone finds their way. Even if it takes a lifetime.