We Can't Predict Who Our Children Will Be

Kristi Keller

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Photo by Robert Collins on Unsplash

Four days a week, I get to interact with a woman who I consider to be the perfect mother. Not only does she appear to be a perfect mom, but in my opinion, she comes across as pretty close to the perfect human.

She’s naturally beautiful, bright-faced, compassionate, trustworthy, has an exuberant personality, and she’s happily married to the only man she’s ever been with.

She has strong morals and principles and faithfully sticks to them, even in the face of unpopular opinion. She never uses profanity, yet she doesn’t judge those of us who liberally use it.

When she cracks G-rated jokes we all laugh anyway, because of the way she tells them. She doesn’t need to try fitting into our R-rated world as her G-rated self. She just fits because she’s a good person.

I feel privileged to have her as a friend and coworker. We’re not the huggy, get-togethery type of friends, but at work I spend more time with her each week than any of my other coworkers. And she’s the only one I feel safe enough to confide in.

I have a tremendous amount of respect for her.

On parenting, I’m not the type who jumps into conversations because…well…if you knew my back story, you’d understand. I don’t consider my parenting run to have been a big success so I don’t feel like I can add any enlightenment to a conversation about fresh, young lives.

I never planned on parenting and it happened long before I was ready. I was a single mother, and he was a challenging child who grew into a troubled adult. I never left my son’s side and always supported him as a human being, but I can’t help thinking that if I’d been a better, more able parent maybe things would have turned out differently.

Instead, we struggled for 28 years together. It was a long, rocky road and I didn’t carry enough spare tires.

I know in my heart that I was a good mother but still wonder, could I have done something more or something different?

Each day at work I get to hear hilarious stories about the antics of my coworker’s two sons. Her animated storytelling is highly engaging, to the point where I love hearing about her boys pooping their pants or playing sick so they don’t have to go to preschool.

There’s probably no story she could tell that I wouldn’t love hearing, simply because of the manner in which she delivers.

She comes across as a very intentional and proactive mother which I admire because I feel like I was fairly passive as a parent. She has a husband who shares the load, I was alone and working full-time during my son’s upbringing.

One thing I remember as clear as day, from many years ago is being told by my uncle that I wasn’t around enough for my son. Fair enough, maybe I wasn’t. I was working to provide for him.

The way I see it, I had two choices:

  1. Work full-time and set an example of what responsible people do, enabling us to live in decent neighborhoods and pay for extracurricular sports and activities.
  2. Or, sit on welfare so I could be there 24/7 for him. But that would severely limit his ability to participate in sports and blossom as a young boy.

Is there a right choice?

We can’t babysit our kids their entire lives. There comes a point where we need to have faith that what we’ve taught them has registered. We can be mildly or incredibly engaged parents all we want, but once they leave the home and come in contact with school, other kids, and society, we are no longer fully in control.

At that point, our best plan of attack is to continue to parent to the best of our ability, and hope they don’t latch on to bad influences outside the home.

When a mother gives birth and holds her tiny, untouched baby in her arms she’s not looking at him as a drug addict, a murderer, an abuser, a bank robber, or a homeless man. Nor does she even fathom that those are REAL options for his life.

Each new mother sees a pristine little human with all the wonderful possibilities in the world waiting for him. Mothers dream all the best dreams for our children and we do our best to nurture those dreams.

Now that I have been that new, hopeful mother and come out on the unpredictable side of it, I can say with certainty that we have absolutely no clue who our children will be when they grow up.

Sometimes it doesn’t matter how good of a parent we are, we can’t guarantee anything for our kids. We can’t guarantee their safety, or that they will only come across good people in their lives. And we can’t guarantee their end results will be successful.

My 73-year-old mother is devout in her faith and goes to church every single Sunday. She has church friends who lost a daughter to the streets and an eventual drug overdose. Those parents couldn’t have predicted that outcome for their brand new baby girl when she arrived on the planet.

Those same parents also have other children who have gone on to live normal, successful lives. So we can’t blame parenting. We can only know that we can never predict who our children will become, nor how.

This is something that’s taken me a long time to accept, but I now accept it and have stopped blaming myself.

Back to my amazing parent of a coworker now. When I watch her engage so heavily in the upbringing of her sons I can only wish the best things for them. I can only pray that she never has to endure what my family has.

But inevitably, some will still have to regardless of how stellar their parenting skills may be.

We all have to release our children at some point and it’s never easy to hold faith that it will come out sunshine and roses on the other side. But that shouldn’t stop us from doing our best. It also shouldn’t stop us from loving our kids if or when it doesn’t turn out ideal.

I used to have a long-time friend from teen-hood. We met when we were both pregnant at 18, and our sons were born within months of each other. She and I remained friends until a few years ago, and she was well aware of what I’d been going through with my son for so long.

One evening, we were having a heart-to-heart talk about it and I remember her saying that if her son had been in and out of trouble as many times as mine has, she would have walked away long ago and left him to fend for himself.

That really, and I mean REALLY did not compute for me. I couldn’t fathom the thought.

When we sign up as parents, we sign up for life. Our kids didn’t ask to be brought into this world, we chose to give them life so who are we to cut them loose just because they may not turn into who we thought they should be?

My child was always my child, no matter how old he got. It was my duty and privilege as a parent to stay on the path beside him, even in the most troubled of times.

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I'm an old school travel writer who's been flung into another writing world through life experience. I have a compassionate eye, a different opinion, and strong words for this world we live in. I also know a thing or two.

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