The death of Bobbi Kristina hit me hard. I took it personal. Not because I really know anything about her life. But because I know everything about it.
I was a young adult woman with a strained relationship with my father. I don’t know her circumstances but I know mine. I know that everyone had an opinion whether they knew me or not. The chatter was not helpful but it existed nonetheless. I also had a mama who was my entire world — even when I said some pretty cruel things to her and could not hear her loving words encouraging me to see my faith as a place of strength.
I am also the mama of young adult children. Their journeys are theirs to tell. As a parent I can say that I have made LOTS of mistakes with them. Mistakes that made it difficult for them to come talk to me. Mistakes that made them feel like I didn’t support them. Even though I know my intention, I cannot negate their feelings about how they have viewed our relationship.
So I have a few things I want to say to imperfect parents of struggling young adult children.
1. Try. Do NOT say, you’re ‘done’ or that ‘you’ve done all you can.’ Keep the lines of communication open via dinner, letter, phone, text, email…by any means necessary keep trying. [bctt tweet=”Keep the lines of communication open via dinner, letter, phone, text, email…”]
2. Say I love you often. Then back it up with actions. Our children always need to know that we love them enough to say it AND show it. Yes, sometimes that is buying groceries or a meal 🙂 They may act like they don’t care. They do.
3. Take responsibility. That means you must accept the feedback. My children had young parents. Inexperienced. We have learned on the job and probably sometimes at our children’s expense. We have been open to therapy and talking but that does not mean our children always felt free to express themselves. [bctt tweet=”As a parent, it totally sucks to hear your kids say you failed. Take it and try to move forward.”]
4. Hold them accountable. I do not buy into the Freudian-type theories that everything is the parent’s fault. My children have minds of their own. They also have resources that others children did/do not have. And even if they didn’t, I have always told my children that my mistakes are not an excuse to tank their lives. Don’t be the scapegoat as you own your failures.
5. Forgive. Forgiveness is hard. On. Every. Level. Forgive yourself for your shortcomings. Pray that your children will forgive you as well. Life means little if you cannot see past the hurt. [bctt tweet=”Forgiveness is everything. It does not mean damage was not done. It does mean that the damage does not rule you and your/your children’s future. “]
6. Share. Your story matters. Whether you write it in a journal to yourself or share with a group of other parents, telling your story helps. Your story liberates you. It frees you from shame, guilt, and anger. Your story helps someone else who cannot see a way out. Your story can also help your children see your contrition in a way that is honest and not manipulative.
7. Love. Love yourself. All relationships may not be restored. You can pray and work and wish but things do not always come to pass the way you dreamed. Do not let the damage stop you from loving yourself and your children. You have value beyond your failures, what you experienced and what you lost. Most of all continue demonstrating love for your children by hearing them and supporting them as best you can.
8. Peace. Most parents are flawed but not monsters. That means in many instances peace is possible. Peace may not mean nightly calls or texts but it can mean warm, holiday gatherings. Seek peace because it means having a level of understanding. As adults, we can have different relationships with our children. These relationships can be based on sharing and caring for each other as humans.
9. Boundaries. Sometimes anger is bigger than love. In those moments you must have boundaries. Speaking to each other with kindness. Respecting privacy. Rejecting shame. Boundaries are important, even when our children are still mad about things that happened in their childhood. [bctt tweet=”You can hear anger without taking it on. Listen and love. “]
10. The power of no. As open as you try to be as a parent sometimes your child’s struggles are bigger than your shortcomings. Addiction is real. Self-harm is real. Sometimes your child is experiencing things bigger than you. [bctt tweet=”Sometimes your child is experiencing things bigger than you.”] In those instances you may have to say ‘no’ to what they are asking for. These situations are bigger than boundaries. These situations are about allowing them to accept responsibility for where they are in life because they will not hear you. That does not mean you walk away. It means that while you will take responsibility for your shortcomings you will not take responsibility for theirs. In those moments you say ‘no’ to blame and yes to being on their support system. Be present.
I do not profess to be an expert on anyone’s life other than my own. I’m trying to walk these 10 points out daily. It is a struggle on so many levels. But I keep at it because I know I am bigger than my shortcomings as a parent and that my kids are more than I can or ever will be. I believe that in my core. I believe that our family will be stronger because of every adversity and lesson learned. Anything less would devastate me.
This struggling mama is praying for the family of Bobbi Kristina. I pray because it could be me. I pray because her daddy is left behind with other children to raise. May he find the strength to wake up and show up for them each day.