Days of Our Lives Episode Three: Raising Children
A Little Background
I’ve said it before…
I won the adoption lottery!
There is no other way to describe it. I’ve heard horror stories of other foster care kids, and I was tossed around nine foster homes while a baby, but bottom line is I won the lottery. I was finally adopted by two incredibly supportive and loving human beings, and a kid could not ask for a better childhood.
The thing is, though, my parents were not perfect parents. They had their faults. They had Herculean faults and at times those faults were glaring. There were dark secrets. There were indiscretions. There was proof almost daily that they were, in fact, human beings and not gods sent to alleviate my loneliness and abandoned hope.
It would serve no purpose to list their frailties. Suffice it to say they were imperfect and at times their parenting skills were imperfect as well.
And Then There Is Bev
I really don’t like to speak for other people so I’ll refrain from any particulars about Bev’s childhood or her parents. You’ll just have to trust me when I tell you she had to basically raise herself with practically no parental supervision or guidance.
More Background Before We Get to the Point
The only other tidbits of information you need to know is I ended up adopting a child, Tyler, and raising him pretty much on my own for fifteen years. Bev, on the other hand, gave birth to four children….Matt, Andrew, Leo and Allora….and for many years was the single parent.
Now We Can Get to the Nitty Gritty
As all of you who have ever done this parenting gig know, there is no book of instructions handed to you when you leave the hospital with that burping, puking, crying, giggling bundle of love. When your child misbehaves you can’t go to the table of contents and turn to that magical page where the answer will appear. When your child gets his or her heart broken, there is no elixir that will give you exactly the right words to soothe their pain. How to handle bullying, how to make sure chores and homework are done, how to act like a functional member of society, how to handle any of a thousand daily crises, none of that is handed to you in a “Parenting for Dummies” volume.
The best you can do is the best you can do.
It’s funny what we remember. I remember holding my son for the very first time…he was three days old when we adopted him….and thinking “I am so over my head.” And then something my dad told me entered my brain….”fake it till you make it.” I suspect that’s what he did as a parent and I know damned well that’s what I did.
Even faking it, though, one has to base the decisions upon something. I mean, we as parents don’t put a dartboard up on the wall and toss darts for answers to parenting problems. And that is, finally, the point of this article.
For me it was a conscious decision. I suspect for many it is something they do as parents but have never really thought about why they do it.
Early on in my parenting venture I sat myself down and had a talk with me. Nobody saw me so there was no danger of me being locked up in a padded room, the crazy guy talking to the crazy guy and only one guy there talking. Let’s say I spent some time in introspection. That sounds much less crazy, doesn’t it?
I spent time thinking about how my parents raised me. What did they do correctly? What did they fail miserably at? I tried to be as honest as possible which isn’t always easy when practicing introspection. We have a tendency to want to sugar-coat everything, to see things from a distance as “not being as bad” as they actually were, or “being much more glorious” than they actually were, or in some cases seeing things as much worse. So I tried to be honest.
It wasn’t easy. I idolized my parents while growing up, so I’m glad I was in my late twenties when I tried that little mental and emotional exercise.
What They Did Correctly
First and foremost, they never let me forget that I was loved. I think this is mandatory for any parent. Through words, through actions and even through unspoken communication, love must be transmitted from parent to child daily.
There must be a sense of safety for the child. A young one must always feel like home is a sanctuary where there is freedom to grow without fear.
There must be reasonable expectations. I can’t thank my parents enough for this. They held the bar reasonably high for me but it was reachable. They made it known that life is a gift and wasting that gift was unacceptable. I was given chores, I was given standards to live by and I was given the independence that allowed me, in later years, to stand alone if necessary and handle anything that came my way. In other words, I was given support and yet understood that the support given would never be offered as a crutch.
I was taught to respect others, to treat others with compassion and empathy and to demand that respect be given to me. I was told I was as good as anyone else but never better than anyone else. I was raised to fight for my principles and to fight for those who couldn’t fight for themselves.
All were crucial lessons in molding me to be an upstanding, reliable and functioning human being, and I tried to pass those same lessons on to my son.
What They Failed Miserably At
If this little lesson was to have any validity, I had to take off the rose-colored glasses and see my parents’ warts. It was painful to do so, but it was also mandatory and enlightening.
My parents were intolerant in many ways. They were prejudiced. They kept secrets locked up, never spoke of them and allowed them, by doing so, to fester and infect the very lifeblood of our family. My father could be unbending and unwilling to listen to reason. My mother was emotionally unstable and often weak-willed.
I sliced and diced my parents. I placed them under the microscope and inspected every fiber of their being. I did not allow my love for them to cut them slack.
And When I Was All Done
I had a framework to work with. I had that parenting manual I desperately needed. I borrowed from the good and rejected the bad, and I suspect Bev did the same.
And the end result?
Between the two of us we have five children who are, above all else, good people.
Between the two of us we have five children who know they are loved and who are capable of giving love in return.
Between the two of us we have five children and we are proud of each and every one of them.
And we are proud of ourselves.
We did a good job, and when the final tally is taken, and our final days have arrived, that will be our greatest legacy…..we raised loving human beings with love.
2015 William D. Holland (aka billybuc)