Did I mention that the old man and I have been going to Bad Parents Group recently, or as we like to call it, ‘support for really shit parents’?
The sessions have been an eye-opener. It turns out that kids don’t just need love after all, and you can actually give too much of it and turn your little monkeys into very bad big monkeys who may flounder and flail if you don’t give them big, scary boundaries.
I blame the old man…
Actually, I don’t. The thing about going to ‘Bad Parents Anonymous’ is that we’ve learnt that although you never stop caring for your kids, at some point in your parenting journey, when their poor behavior begins to affect your health, happiness and the quantity of wine you drink on a daily basis, you have to stop blaming yourself if they don’t turn out quite as planned.
And there is a kind of grieving period for the child you expected to have.
Johnny may not have turned out to be the medical graduate with the ridiculously high ATAR, have the beautiful girlfriend or be paying rent yet, but that’s ok. Because Johnny is who he is – created from all those complicated strands of DNA that were handed down to him through you and your partner’s different lines.
And when his strands knitted together in your womb, the likelihood is that they might be very different to your own makeup.
Or not so different, which can make those disappointments rub even more.
So apparently we need to make Kurt responsible for his own actions now. Hmmm! Yes, we can still support and scaffold him, but ultimately, as a young adult, he is responsible for his own destiny and so any behavior that doesn’t meet the rules of living under our roof is unacceptable, no matter what his difficulties.
It turns out that we are not guilty really but have been guilty (confused yet?) of enabling our son, rather than empowering him, which has not helped him at all, even though we naively thought it was the best way to demonstrate our love and parent him at the time.
Which means we’ve had to become seriously badass cops over the past few weeks and I think Kurt is reeling from the shock of it.
I’ve admitted many times on this blog that I am a helicopter mum. And I was proud of that approach, because I love my son. Sure, I could probably excuse my over-protection towards my children with some psychobabble about not having a mother, being sent to boarding school etc, etc but I now realize that I’ve probably excused Kurt’s oppositional behavior on his ADHD.
But ADHD is not an excuse to behave badly. It’s a lack of boundaries that makes you behave like that and some children need more help with that than others.
I admit that I was that parent who would phone the school to excuse lateness and homework, because I knew he found school hard; I would do anything in my power to get him through life. And somewhere along the line of growing up he suddenly thought that there were no boundaries or rules for someone like him, and that he was the force to be reckoned with in our family.
And fear of standing up to him made us weak and for a short time we allowed him to take on that power and we set aside the importance of our own lives and our relationships.
Thank God for Bad Parents Group.
We’re badass parents now. We know we will have to take two steps back for every one step back forward and there will be a power struggle to get our son back on track, but because we love him we will be victorious.