Parenting Experience Points

“The thing is, Peter, grown-ups don’t know what they’re doing any better than kids do. That’s the truth.”

Ask Again, Yes by Mary Beth Keane

This quote reminded me of the relationship between my stepdaughter and me. Let’s just say, I was not the ideal parent and I apologized a lot, but it never helped. I wish kids were born knowing the adults in their lives are doing the best they can with what they have.

She was my first child, even though I got her when she was five years old and only half the week. Parenting was new to me. Step-parenting was new to me. She was new to me. I wanted to do better than my parents did, but in a lot of ways I failed. We all fail. It’s how we learn to do better.

Our relationship was torture for both of us much of the time. There were great days, but I felt like I failed at every turn and she’d never forgive me for it, which only made me feel worse about myself, and then I’d get worse. It was a vicious cycle downward that only ended when she finally moved out forever. And at the bottom of my heart, I was glad she did, proud of her for getting away and doing what was best for her.

I haven’t seen her in six years and we only recently, carefully started texting each other. I still don’t know how to talk to her. I try to listen to my husband. He seems to have a better sense of these things. His advice stems from what he’d want, “Just leave her alone and let her come to you when she’s ready,” but I’m afraid. What if the day she comes to me when she’s ready, I am not? What if I screw it all up again?

I didn’t know what I was doing. I still don’t. Parenting is hard. Parenting someone else’s kid is harder.

The only difference between adults and children is experience points. The more experience you have in life, the more you know how much you don’t know, how much you still need to learn…and then we die, hoping our kids do better than we did.

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