You Just Never Know.

Do you suffer from guilt or worry as a parent? Do you read articles telling you how you SHOULD parent to keep from screwing up your kid and immediately panic because you have been doing it ALL WRONG? Do you get frustrated by how there are parenting articles justifying 100 completely opposite views and techniques and you don’t know which one is right? Do you see your friends post statuses about their amazing kids and think: Is my kid the only little shit around? Well…sit back, I’m about to take all of your worries away.

How, Kim? By telling us about the differences in your three kids and how no one technique works for every kid? 

No. By telling you about ME.

I started thinking yesterday about how there are so many ways someone could have looked at me in my teen/young adult years and thought: Her Dad must have done something wrong because I was screwing shit up left and right. But eventually I found the right path and he died loved and I have a well-set life. I even wrote a Facebook post saying, “I turned out fine! Relax if you feel like your kids are shits! I wouldn’t sit at a movie theater with my Dad because I found him too embarrassing but I got over that and he was my best friend the day he died!” 

But then I started thinking about how there’s an entirely DIFFERENT way my childhood could help make others feel better. Because I was the PERFECT CHILD. If my Dad had Facebook – and if he used it like I use it now – his statuses would all say stuff like:

“Kim got straight As again!”
“Kim was put in the math honor society!”
“Kim had fun at the math competition this weekend!”
“Kim really enjoyed working for meals on wheels!”
“Kim did a great job reading a church this morning!”
“Kim was chosen to be a leader at the SEARCH retreat! She is so excited!”
“Kim was elected Most Dependable!”
“Kim was president of Y-Teens!”
“Kim got a scholarship to UAH!”

I mean, as far as Facebook statuses go? My childhood and teenage years would reflect all of those statuses that make us all hate ourselves as parents. So, I want you to think about that person in YOUR circle who is constantly posting about their kid’s achievements (Maybe it’s ME) which has you doubt yourself and let me tell you about this shit my Dad would NOT have posted because A) He didn’t know or B) It was not something to be proud of. (Most of this stuff he actually didn’t know. I was a sneaky little shitter.)

“Kim wouldn’t sit with me at the theater today because she was too embarrassed.”
“Kim lied about where she was at tonight. AGAIN.”
“I found cigarettes in Kim’s backpack.”
“Kim is dating a creepy older guy and she keeps ignoring my attempts to prohibit it.” 
“Kim stays in her room all night and never talks to me.”
“Every time I try to get Kim to go somewhere with me she says she has ‘homework’ and then the second I leave she gets on the phone.”
“Kim sneaks and talks on the phone at night while I’m sleeping.”
“KIM IS ADDICTED TO TALKING ON THE PHONE. MAKE IT STOP.”

So, in one way, you can look at me and get insight to all of those statuses people post about their kids. Honestly, I could do the same thing telling you the things I don’t post about MY kids but they’d kill me so using ME and it hit me recently: WAIT. I CAN USE MY OWN CHILDHOOD AS AN EXAMPLE.

I think that’s why when I start scrolling through instagram thinking, Uggg…that kid must be perfect. Mine are not. I’m a terrible Mom…looking at people’s pictures or something, I always remember: Oh, yeah. On the surface I looked great too and look how shitty I was and most of the time my Dad didn’t even know. 

I used to apologize to my Dad a lot for being a shitty kid and he would always say, “I don’t know why you always say that. YOU WERE GREAT!” and I think, Ummmm….maybe I did a better job at hiding my shittiness than I realized….

But then there’s the YOUG ADULT years of Kim’s which – if documented on social media – would have looked TERRIBLE. I got pregnant at 18. I married someone I barely knew. I smoked a lot of pot. I lost my scholarship. I failed a lot of classes. I made out with my best friend’s husband. I terminated another surprise pregnancy.  I alienated just about every friend I made from age 19 to age 23 by just being a giant piece of shit. I accumulated a ton of credit card debt because I was too embarrassed to use government assistance. I used my extra student loan money to buy Doc Marten’s instead of paying rent. I used cash to fuel my pack-a-day even cigarette habit while using WIC vouchers to buy milk.

AND A LOT OF THIS WAS OVERLAPPING E’S FIRST 4 YEARS OF LIFE. SO I WAS A TERRIBLE MOTHER ON TOP OF BEING A TERRIBLE HUMAN.

So if you have a kid ages 4-11 struggling in school, or a teenager treating you like shit, or a young adult racking up constant screw-ups and failures…please know that ALL OF THESE THINGS HAPPENED TO ME TOO. And you know what? My Dad was perfect. Who knows if parenting experts would have led him differently but he let me make mistakes and never EVER stopped making sure I knew he loved me. I never doubted his love for me even once. I was scared to tell him a lot of things, but he always responded with love. Every single time. 

Parenting experts today might have shamed him for buying me a participation trophy just because I took a gymnastics class at the YMCA. They may would have made him ground me more when he caught me lying. I definitely spent too much time sneaking TV when he wasn’t around and talking on the phone when he was asleep. There are 100 different ways with 1,000 different metrics that someone would say he was doing something wrong. But in the end? He died knowing he was adored by his daughter and knowing she was going to be fine. She was happy and loved and supported. I am proud of who I am as an adult and 99% of that is because of who he was as a parent. 

I just worry that we’re all spending too much time overanalyzing every decision we make as a parent and picturing how it’s going to have a negative impact on them as an adult but the truth is: We are raising unique humans who we can not predict what they’ll need. I took my excellent grades and advanced private school education and lost my scholarship in college and ended up with student loans I didn’t pay off until I was 40. YOU JUST NEVER KNOW.

Do the best you can. Make sure your kids know they are loved. There’s so much you won’t be able to control and so much you won’t be able to predict or prepare for. And you’ll never REALLY know what kind of person your kid will be because they could be a total piece of shit for 24 years before finally start getting their act together. 

Hang in there. You’re doing great. Don’t let other people’s parenting articles or instagram photos of kids winning awards and looking clean make you feel like a shitty parent.

At least your kid doesn’t refuse to sit with you at the movie theater because they find you embarrassing. That’s the metric we should all measure ourselves by. If your kid doesn’t do that? You’re doing better than my Dad was doing and he was THE BEST DAD EVER.

4 Comments

  • gingermog

    Wow Miss Zoot, you don’t give yourself enough credit. You are a success story. You got your life sorted out and back on track, and you hold yourself accountable for your mis steps. You know some people never do that, right? and play the victim all their life? I never hear that from you.

    Maybe ease off at yourself for what you term your “shitty years” having a surprise pregnancy and getting married so young is enough to derail any young person and make them act out. Additionally ,I look back at my early 20s whilst I was in college and think how “shittily” my supposed friends treated each other, just by being young and thoughtless. Not realising the lasting damage we were doing to each other.

    I admire the relationship you had with your Dad. As a child free person, I think so much blame is aimed at parents heads these days, “Dammed if you do, dammed if you don’t”.

  • Susie H

    Wow, did I need to read this. My daughter is 15 and every word of this is her. But it was also me. What an eye-opener! Thank you for your thoughtful posts, today and always.

  • Jen

    Another thank you coming from the mom of
    a 17 year old. I’m always preaching how the social media stuff is harming their generation and who am I kidding—I’m a sucker for the same trap. This is a really smart post. You made a difference today. Thank you for writing such honest pieces. It’s truly Refreshing!