05 January 2011

Perfect Childhood?

Is there such a thing as a "perfect childhood"?  Is it possible to raise children who don't look back as adults and wish they had been raised differently?  I don't think so.  

Maybe some think their childhood was ok, maybe some think it was great, but I have never known an adult who didn't wish maybe something was different growing up.  Maybe it's in our wiring to never be completely happy, maybe we are always looking for something better, but whatever it is, I think striving to give our kids the "perfect childhood" with the hope that they will look back with stars in their eyes and nothing but wonderment is a waste of time. 

Now don't get me wrong, I don't think we as parents should slack off and not care about how we raise our children.  I still think we should love them like crazy and do our best, but I do think some of us need to surrender the idea that our kids might not hate us when they grow up (if they don't already hate us now!)  Of course I don't mean hate in that they'll kill us while we sleep, I mean hate as in they wish we had done things differently. 

I know many will disagree with me, and a few years ago I would have disagreed with myself.  I thought, a few years back, that I was doing such a bang up job that there was no way I was going to turn out kids who had nothing bad to say about their upbringing, hahahahaha.  I was so delusional then! 

When I became a mom I looked back on my childhood before I decided how I wanted to raise my children.  Of course I wanted to raise my girls completely opposite of how I was raised, because I thought my childhood sucked.  Overall I think I had a crappier than normal childhood.  My parents were pretty dysfunctional, selfish, and didn't really seem to like having kids.  As I have gotten older, had kids of my own, spoken with other adults about their childhood, I have come to realize my parents did close to the best they could for the time.  (Notice I said "close", because I do think if they had actually put a little thought into the job, they could have done better).  Both of my parents' came from childhoods way worse than mine, so if anything, they did do better in that mine was better than theirs.  Plus, 40+ years ago, parents didn't really analyze their parenting like we do now.  They didn't put thought into it, they just did it.   

So with that as my background, I put a lot of thought into my parenting.  Everything I have done in regards to raising my girls was thought out beforehand.  I chose to attachment parent and co-sleep, I chose Montessori, I chose homeschooling and then unschooling.  And I chose religion.  Each one of those things was mulled over very carefully before proceeding.  I read a lot of books, I sought out what I thought was sage advice, and I tried to make decisions that I thought would be the best in the long term.  

And yet, now I have teens who look back on their childhoods and wonder "why"?  Why did I make them go to "that church", why didn't I let them go to school, why this, why that?  They aren't happy with a lot of the decisions I made, and looking back, I am not happy with a lot of the decisions I made.  

But what I have come to realize is that being a parent doesn't make us a god.  I was learning right along with my girls.  I had to learn to be a mom, I had to learn who these little beings were.  I could only do for them what I thought was best based on my own experiences.  But I soon learned they weren't little Me's, and what was best for me wasn't necessarily best for them.  And unfortunately a lot of those lessons were learned by trial and error.  I did a lot of things that I thought was good for them, that now in hindsight I realize wasn't. 

I can't change the past.  So I don't mourn it.  Because I know I did the best I knew how.  And I'm not done.  My girls are teens, we're still growing together.  I may be an adult, but I am still growing and learning too.  And I think they forgive me, because I think they know my intentions were pure.  But it still doesn't change the fact that in spite of my intentions, I think my girls still wish things had been different.  And even if they had been different, and I had chosen a completely different path in raising them, maybe they wouldn't have liked that one either.  I can only hope, that in the future, when they have children of their own, they'll realize being a parent isn't such an easy job and maybe they'll realize I did the best I knew how to do.  

"You know, the only people who are always sure about the proper way to raise children?  Those who've never had any." 
~ Bill Cosby~


Katie said...

Hi there! Came across your blog today and loved, LOVED this post!

My childhood didn't suck, but there are a lot of things that I wish had been different. I didn't realize that it didn't suck however, until I had kids of my own.

I'm no expert on child rearing. Nor will I ever be. As you said, parenting is a constant lesson...there will we success and there will be failure. We just do what we can.

My boys are 11 and 6 and already there are things that I can look back on and wish I had done differently.

I especially liked what you said about "love them like crazy and do the best we can." Everything I do, I do out of love for my boys. That's my best. Sometimes my best isn't exactly what my kids think of as best for them, lol.

Like you, when my kids are grown I want them to look back at their childhood with fond memories. I'm not expecting them to look back and remember a "perfect" childhood. If they look back and know that I loved them with every fiber of my being and that I tried to do right by them, then I'm good. :)

Again,I really enjoyed reading this post and I'm looking forward to reading more! :)

WomanHonorThyself said...

love the Bill Cosby quote!