The hardest thing about parenting is when your child decides that you don’t have all the answers, and they decide that they have to learn on their own. There are classes to prepare us for childbirth, changing diapers, and balanced nutrition, but not for broken hearts and dreams. No new parent holds their precious baby in their arms anticipating that one day that child will be the cause of their greatest heartache. No one dreams that their child will spend even one night in jail, purchase even one ounce of illegal drugs let alone become an addict, or believe their child would ever be capable of uttering the words “I hate you”. But it happens every day. Every day there is a parent mourning the loss of what could have been. There is no funeral. No well wishers bringing food to comfort the grieving parents. No notice in the paper. Just anguished parents left behind usually suffering in silence and going through the motions of life. They say that growing up is hard, but I think they mean it is tough on the parents.
If it eventually happens to all of us well-intentioned parents, how do we make it through? It usually helps to have had one child experience the it’s-all-about-me teenage years and come out on the other side okay. I also take comfort in my younger children recognizing how foolish their older siblings are being and commit to never making the same stupid mistakes. I have never taken full credit for the awesome choices my children make, and therefore choose not to take all the blame for their poor choices. That takes some of the guilt out of parenting. And most of all, I recognize that along with my greatest sorrows, my children have also given me my greatest joys.