Last week kicked my ass in a very emotional and mental way. I stepped back multiple times and felt like I was absolutely and utterly failing at this mother thing. I asked myself over, and over, and over, “What am I doing wrong? What can I be doing better? What am I not doing that I should be?”
Motherhood challenged me last week in ways that I have never been challenged before. I had to learn to communicate and process things in new ways. I had to dig deep, and figure out a way to address the single worst moment in my parenting history. I have a lot to sit and get comfortable with, things that I am right now still wholly uncomfortable with.
I had to learn how to absorb an immense level of disappointment.
I’m sure that this will pale in comparison to things I will experience in the future, but I hope to hell not.
I struggle to put into words what happened. I hesitated to share even with my closest friends because I was afraid of the pain of judgement. Judgement of me, judgement of my daughter, judgement of my family and my inability to parent in such a way that could have prevented this. But, the reality is that I couldn’t; we did all the right things, had all the right conversations, but it still wasn’t enough. I’m compelled to share, to help other mothers navigate through or possibly avoid the same experience.
To summarize what happened, I discovered that my daughter and her friends had created secret social media accounts and were pushing out messages about themselves that were disgraceful, derogatory and shocking; the captions under normal, every photos of my daughter, and those that she wrote about her friends, gut me. (I’ll be sharing a bit more of how this all went down in an upcoming Burlington VT Mom’s Blog post, hoping to help other parents wrap their arms around the challenges we’re all facing with our kids’ use of social media.)
Know that I have no illusions of teenage girls, however, it is one thing to know what they are capable of and entirely another to see it very publicly displayed, and to know that hundreds of other people saw it as well.
I don’t think, even after numerous conversations, that my daughter understands the gravity the posts carried. To her, and those involved, it was all just a big joke. People thought it was funny. That’s all it was, to them. We have some lessons to teach.
I have struggled with my personal emotions for a week. I feel like I let her down somehow. That I didn’t have the right conversations with her, didn’t build up her confidence or self-worth enough. I feel like I failed.
I keep repeating over and over to myself that if you’re not failing, you’re not learning. That failing does not define you, but how you handle it does. My heart is hardly appeased by my mind. However, I know that if I were the recipient of this story, the listener versus the teller, I would say the following to you.
There are things in life that will be beyond our control. We will kick ourselves, make ourselves feel irrationally responsible. We will let the voices of doubt and self-criticism rise from the depths within us, and we will believe their validity.
We are not our children’s mistakes. We are not their poor choices. We have already made ours; our action now is in how we address, how we course-correct, and help them learn through the challenges. Our value is in how we help them grow from mistakes. We cannot fix things; we can only be here to support our children while they work through and experience these things for themselves.
If you’re ever in a situation that makes you question the foundation of which you have built your parenthood, I hope that you remember this.
You are not a failure, and you are enough.