A mother is a selfless, loving, caring human who sacrifices her wants and needs for the wants and needs of her child. Or something like that, right?
That’s what comes to mind when I think of the role of a mom.
I became a mom at the age of 16. A single mom to a son whose father ended up in jail.
A Hispanic male son, raised by a single mom, living in a city with a high crime rate.
I was naive!
I will work really hard to provide and make sure he grows up to be a successful man. A man of good.
Those are just some of the promises moms make.
I worked really hard, as promised. Many times double shifts, and two jobs. Managed a few stores by the age of 18. Not bad for a high school drop-out who was kicked out from home. Or so I thought.
However, as the years went by my biggest fears became true. My long shifts at work and multiple jobs were creating a distant relationship with my son. Along with the biggest depression and financial crisis a person can face.
I had accumulated debt through bills, bad money managing, followed years later by a gambling addiction.
The guilt, financial crisis, and the feeling of hurting the most precious jewel (my son) led me to depression and suicidal thoughts.
Not too many friends, no dating, just my addiction, my depression and a damaged relationship with my son. He went from a sweet boy to a boy full of rage and hate.
Today, I want to share a few tips on how I healed the most important relationship in my life.
There is no doubt it is easier to just be a “good parent”. Whatever that means! But for those of us who have damaged relationships, and made parenting mistakes there is still much we can do.
Work on Yourself
The only way to continuously bring value to others is by improving yourself. Some of the tools I used were group meetings, videos, and books. Books on everything I can think of. Books on how addictions and triggers work. (Addictive drugs and behaviors provide a shortcut, flooding the brain with dopamine and other neurotransmitters). Books on parenting and self-improvement. Just to mention a few. Goal setting, writing down your parenting and life goals and learning how to follow through on them.
Stop pretending to the outside world. I looked like a girl who had it all together. My son was the perfect, well-behaved, respectful kid (which he is). However, the reality was that I was in pain and constantly planning the details of who I would leave my son with when I was gone. ( Who can I trust to do a better job at parenting?) Then afterward, feeling petty for not ever having the courage to do that. Just never feeling good enough. It now amazes me how much energy goes into faking a perfect life. The people who truly want to love you will help and support you. Not “fix you”, but help you get out of your situation. (Fixing yourself is your responsibility).
Get Rid of Guilt
Having guilt as a parent is not only exhausting but is keeping you from parenting. Buying things for your kids to make up for the lost time is irresponsible and expensive. Not disciplining your kid because of the guilt of past mistakes is hurting and sending the wrong message to your child. You can’t make up time. Start building from now and heal the relationship.
Surround yourself with positive people. Perhaps by parents, you admire who you can follow in their footsteps. Friends, not the party girlfriends who sugarcoat everything, but friends who care and give you some tough love.
Understand that if a relationship is hurt there might be some resistance and pushback. This was definitely my case. It wasn’t until he felt safe and saw consistency that the relationship healed. Until then, keep loving and giving lots of kisses.
Find a Mentor
Find a mentor for yourself and your kid(s). My son needed a male figure. Thinking I can do it all on my own was naive. Find a mentor perhaps a couple at church or in your family. People who you know will be a good influence on you and your kid.
It might seem scary to realize you are the only one responsible for your situation. For me It was a time of guilt, and self-harming, the pain to know it was all on me and nobody else to blame. However, there is power in knowing that you have full responsibility for your situation. If you got yourself into a situation, then you have the full potential to get out of it. Use it to empower yourself knowing the power is within!
Apologize and Heal
Apologizing to my son and letting him know mom made a mistake created an unbreakable bond between us. Be genuine with your apology. I viewed this as a weakness as a mom, because as parents we are supposed to have it all figured out, right? Not!!!
Schedule dates with your kid. Just the two of you. One of our favorites is a trip to the library and cooking a meal together. Not only does it help you bond, but teaches him skills he will later use in life. Another one is playing a “Would You Rather” card game, and end up arguing about each other’s opinions.
Accept your child for who he is
Figure out what things make your kid feel loved, not what your idea of loving your kid is, but what makes him or her feel loved and understood.
Get rid of the idea of “the perfect kid.” I thought my son would grow up to like sports and want to be an athlete. I pictured and created an image of what my son should be like and how he should behave before he was born, without giving him a chance to create his own path in life. This was one of the most selfish acts I have done. My son Angel couldn’t be farther from my original image of him. He has no interest in playing any sports. His life is his guitars and creating music.
All areas of my life are a continuous work in progress. I can, however, now say that I have a better relationship with my teenage son. And it continues to improve as I work on myself.