I have never been the conventional mother.
I have tattoos. I have piercings. I color my hair. I parent my children differently than some. I am not you.
I became a single mother 9 days before turning 22 with the birth of my daughter. For the majority of her first 18 months, we lived on our own, but still had a plethora of people willing to watch her at almost a moment’s notice so I could take a break. I wish I could say they were all much-needed, but that would not necessarily be true. The truth is, her first two years were a struggle, as I tried to learn and balance single motherhood with whoever it was that I was supposed to be. Most of the mothers I knew around me had it all together, and had their own lives too, and I just couldn’t seem to figure out how to do both without pissing off someone else around me, or worse, pissing myself off. I could not find a decent enough job to support us without having to rely on the free help of someone else. I refused to settle and let my sperm donor take off with her for a day just so that I would not have to fight in court anymore, or get a break, but at times, I honestly resented that it was not an option. I wanted to do better for the little angel that I had been so blessed with protecting for the next season of our lives, but I could not figure it out. At all!
Of course, this did not seem to surprise anyone who had known me since my childhood. It certainly did not surprise me, it just killed me. I had always been the one who did not always seem to be “all there”. In short, I suffered from ADD as a child, and still do severely even into my adulthood, but nothing was ever done about it, and I had no idea that was the reason I suffered until my daughter was about 6 months old. Instead, I frustrated everyone around me, to say the very least. And going into my new life as a parent, I did not have the greatest image or idea of myself at all, and it greatly affected everything I did, and who I was. Some might say that statement is ridiculous, and there is no way something as insignificant and “fixable” as ADD can do that to a person – they would be deathly wrong. Literally. I struggled, alone, torn between what my soul believed, knowing I had a purpose and was created for something incredible, and what my heart had begun to believe over the course of my life, that I was always going to be the black sheep of my world; that I clearly had something “wrong” with me; that I was incredibly intelligent but that my brain would never be able to keep up; that I just was not fit for “real life”.
And so I lived, as if under a constant storm cloud, much like an exaggerated Eeyore, reminded by every area of my life that I would always live this way, and that the people in my life would never see me as more than missed potential, wasted potential, the black sheep.
My daughter is now three years old. I am married, with two incredible step-sons and a baby on the way. The sperm donor battle over my daughter is finished, and it is replaced with a waiting game as my husband completes a step-parent adoption. My ADD is managed (however, not so much during this pregnancy), and my children are thriving. We are not perfect parents by a long stretch of the imagination, and our family is still learning to stand on our own and make our own way in life. But we are always moving forward. If there is one thing I have learned recently, it is that I refuse to let other’s tell me how I am, because that just pushes me back.
You will not tell me that I am not a good enough person, or woman or wife or parent. I know who I used to be. I know where I come from. I know the dark that I have walked out of, and I know the lightness in which I now walk. I know that battles I have won, and the ones that I am still fighting, and even the ones that I have not quite found the strength to fight.
I know who I am, and who I have become. I know the road it took to get here, and the pain and scars it took to get here. Though it may not be who you have wanted me to become, I am who I chose to be, and I will claim that identity as my own. Some days, that is easier than others, and some days I do wonder if I should just be what all of you want from me instead. But the thing is, if I became that person, I would become you. And then it would not be me… and it would be someone I have chosen NOT to be.
I am not a perfect parent. But it was I that was chosen to be the parent of these children that are now in my care. They were given to me precisely because of who I am, what I have been through, and who they are going to become, because no one else on this planet could do the job of being their parent as well as I could. I was chosen. I was given these children specifically, at this exact time, in this exact place, for a reason. They are my children. I am the only one who can fulfill this role and destiny in their little lives, and I have embraced that with my whole heart. I was chosen, and no one else.
So when you feel the need to interject your thoughts into our lives without the prior invitation to do so; when you feel the need to correct me or their father in the presence of their little ears whether it be parenting or otherwise; when you feel the need to oppose my decisions, or undermine that which I have already told them, or talk to us or direct us as if we were children ourselves; when you feel the need the say something that would in any way lessen my role of authority in their lives, remember this:
No. You do not get to tell me how to raise my children, nor correct my parenting while they are present, nor tell them to do or not to do the opposite of what I have just instructed or allowed. I am their parent. I don’t care if you are a family member, close friend or stranger. If I need advice, I ask. Otherwise, please keep your comments, opinions and input to yourself. You were not chosen for this role. We were. And I will not allow my place of authority to be lessened because you feel my ways are incorrect. If we are doing something differently than the way you would wish or do yourself, it is probably because we saw how that played out for you and have chosen to do it differently on purpose. If my children can respect what I have to say, I expect the same from an adult.