Sixteen years ago, my husband and I were thrown into the role of Mom and Dad somewhat unexpectedly. We were young, naïve and petrified, while trying to appear confident and optimistic. Like other first-time parents, we didn't know much about parenting and often secretly wondered what we'd gotten ourselves into. We had no idea what an impact a seemingly endless period of sleep deprivation can have on a marriage. We never expected the resulting marital discord, the depression, or the bankruptcy.
We trudged along, not really sure of how to survive the journey. Looking back, it seems as though the introduction of table food, the potty training and the removal of the training wheels all happened a lifetime ago. We were different people then. We probably didn't do any of those parenting tasks perfectly in those early years, but I can honestly say I think we did our best, considering that no one really knows what they're doing. We all just try.
Now, with 16 years of parenting experience on our transcript, we usually feel we have most things under control. The household chores get done eventually. We get compliments from others on our girls' behavior. They have friends. They're enthusiastic about their hobbies and interests. We set limits and they usually don't try to push those limits. Life with our girls is unpredictable but wonderful, and we know we are truly blessed.
And yet recently, our first born, now a teenager, seems to have morphed into an unfamiliar creature and it feels as though we're learning how to be a parent all over again. We are now challenged on a deeper level by the drive to raise a determined, independently-thinking woman who can contribute much to society. At the same time, we expect her to remain respectful to her family members, her elders and all those in authority. Finding that balance in today's world, we are discovering, is more difficult than perhaps we'd expected.
These days I'm again wondering what exactly we've gotten ourselves into. We're confused and, in many ways, struggling.
A significant contributing factor, I think, to our confusion in all this is the way my husband and I were both parented -- or not -- as teenagers. We each came from homes with one parent absent in one way or another, and we both instinctively feel the need to do it all ourselves, rather than work together as teammates. Watching one parent struggle to be both a mom and a dad is what we lived, and so, it is what we learned.
As adults, the two of us are trying to re-learn it all. We're once again trying to navigate through unfamiliar territory and learn how to be effective co-workers in this massive task of parenting a teen.
If history repeats itself, we'll someday look back on these days and say we did our best. Maybe we won't handle everything perfectly, but good enough. All we can do is try.
Patti is mom to three daughters.