Parenting adult children is difficult enough, but add into the mix a divorce and things really get hard. Parenting in all cases is not an easy thing. We worry about doing what is best for our children, providing for their needs and wants, and raising successful members of society. And I did my share of worrying when each of my children came along, and then at every new stage they went through. And even when your second or third child reaches a stage you have already gone through with prior children, you still worry as each child is totally different.
During my 24 year marriage we had three amazing children come into our lives, each one their own unique person. I remember when our oldest was getting ready to go to high school, I panicked. How was I going to get this kiddo through all that high school entails? Not just the school work, but the social pressures, the peer pressure, and puberty…I mean, really, he was a boy and I was not. What did I know about those things? His dad wasn’t much help; his response was, “my dad never talked to me about those things” (in hindsight that tells me A LOT).
I read some books, talked to friends, but since all of my friends had kids much younger than mine, they weren’t much help. This was when I decided I needed more help than I could muster on my own to get my first born through high school successfully and with as little “pain” as possible.
I was not raised going to church. My dad was as close to an atheist as I could see (this changed later in part due to my life changes) and even though my mom told stories of going to church as a child, that did not continue into our family. But at this point in my life, knowing I couldn’t do this alone, I started looking for a church to attend. In hindsight, God led me where I needed to be.
Fast forward now 16 years. Why do I think this parenting thing should be any easier, or that I should be able to do it alone?
My children were 22, 14, and 5 when my husband left. A year and a half later, the divorce was final. I never ever thought I would be a single parent, ever. And even though my children have two parents, although separate, I say single parent because there is no cooperation or help from my ex. Oh, he has partial custody and parenting time, but he does not co-parent.
Now besides the ordinary worries and concerns of parenting, I have the need, the desire, the guilt of making up for what they lack from their father or from no longer being in a nuclear family unit.
Deep down, I do know that I can never fill those voids or make up for what they don’t get from their father or what they have to deal with having two separate homes and families. But nonetheless, it does not stop me from feeling the pressure and the guilt to make it all right.
I add the pressure to myself, that although many things have changed and circumstances are different, that if I did for one child I must do for the other child. That in itself as a now single parent is enough to kill you. Because my oldest was given a vehicle at 16, I had to get a vehicle for my middle child. In the divorce, we agreed that one of the many vehicles we had wouId go to said child. All seemed good until my ex got pissed at me for something and took that vehicle back and sold it to buy his girlfriend (now wife) a car, God forbid she be seen in a Honda. In his mind, he was punishing me, not our son. So to add insult to injury, once said vehicle was gone, he stopped providing transportation for our son. He claimed he could walk to and from school, and to and from swim practices, and other than that he didn’t need to go anywhere. When I expressed my concern that it was 3 miles each way to school, his response was our son was a swimmer he should have no problem walking that far!
So I drove to the home of my ex on parenting days that were NOT mine and picked up our son and drove him to school. I picked him up after school or swim and drove him back to his father’s house. Lots more to that story, but we will leave it there.
I borrowed a car for my son to drive while he was at my house (This was the beginning of the end of our son spending any time at his dads. He took him to court to change the parenting plan and was awarded 100% parenting time at my house).
As if my helping of guilt wasn’t big enough now, add on no father interaction, and in my mind i had to make it better.
I managed to get our middle son through high school (and no, his dad didn’t even come to his graduation) and off to college.
Next weight on myself… “We” in my former life set up a college fund and a money market for our first son to get through college. Therefore, our first son got his degree with no student loans to pay back. Now, how to accomplish this as a single parent for my second child. There was still some money in the college fund that was for our oldest, and some in a college fund for our middle. I did my research and found out that I could roll the fund from our oldest into the one for our middle child – yay, that will help a little! Right up until my ex heard of my plan… then he took me to court to take back half of each college fund account. Since legally the money belongs to whoever deposits it, he was within his rights to take half. He then had the nerve to “inform” me that I could roll those accounts to our daughter or even our grandchildren! Um, hello, WE still have a child in college who needs the money! Errrrrrrr. So i used my half and pulled money from investments, sold a car, all in hopes to give the same experience to each child.
And even though I realize the pressure I put on myself to keep things “even” is mine and mine alone, I can’t break away from it. Even though I realize I am enabling my kids to be the generation of entitled brats, I can’t break away from it. Even though my heart is broken and bruised time after time from lack of gratitude from my children, I can’t break away from it.
Now as my middle son decides to leave college and pursue his “career” with no degree, I ponder all my efforts for naught. I am left tending a bruised, if not broken heart because not only have my plans for my son been left behind, but all of my efforts have been tossed, gone unnoticed, perhaps. As hard as I am finding it to accept his decision, I think the bigger hurt for me is feeling used. Does he not know what I have done for him? Does he not appreciate my sacrifices? Does he not care?
I pray for God’s direction as to how to handle this new stage in our lives. I pray for answers. I pray for God to work in the heart of my children. As I pray these prayers I am reminded that we cannot change others, only ourselves.
So not only do I pray for me to find a way to accept and support my child when I don’t necessarily agree with his decisions, I pray for me to stop accepting guilt that is not mine for things that should not be my end all. Things change, people change, time moves on, circumstances get better or worse, so why can I not allow ME to change along with them? I love all my children the same even if I cannot GIVE them exactly the same things and experiences. I need to adjust to each child just as each child is different. Perhaps college was not meant for my middle child; perhaps he was meant for something different in this life.
I must return to my faith in God having this all under control and stop blaming myself for the detours in this road map of life. I must trust in God and my children to realize that no matter what I love my children with all my heart and would go to the ends of the earth for them all. But know in my heart of hearts that I don’t need to, unless it is a road trip with one of my children!
If you are holding onto guilt the same way that I do trying to keep things ‘even,’ remind yourself that we do what we can with what we have. Give it to God.
Do you find yourself struggling with guilt? How do you deal with it?