The reality is setting in: Aidan will be going to college in the Fall.
And following a weekend road trip to Illinois, it looks like she will be going to college roughly 6-1/2 hours away.
We could not be more excited for her.
But it’s gonna hurt just a little.
Okay, who am I kidding? It’s gonna hurt a lot. On so many levels.
I love this kid’s guts.
Literally. Her spleen, kidneys, pancreas—you name it—I love her right down to the very core of her mental and physical being.
And thanks to four years of therapy, I am connected to her in a way that I wasn’t for most of her life.
Oh sure, I fed her, clothed her, and occasionally brushed her hair when she would let me, but for most of her life I was a self-absorbed baby who was guided by a head full of ideas and beliefs, none of which had much to do with reality or what she actually needed.
That may sound like I’m being hard on myself. I’m not. In fact, my therapist will tell you that statement doesn’t go far enough. She would say it’s a good start. Maybe.
I posted a ton of shots to Instagram using the #zielskecollegeroadtrip hashtag. One person commented, “You are a good mom.”
Pictures on Instagram don’t always tell true stories. We live in a world that encourages us—Hell, it rewards us—to show ourselves in the best possible light.
The truth is that I am better now than I was. But I was previously pretty horrible.
Yes, she is a remarkable young woman but you have to understand she arrived here with some real goods from the get go. And, she had Dan. Yes, I did give her some things along the way. But not enough.
Today I am working to give her real acknowledgement. Today I am working to model responsible, grown up behaviors. Today I am working to overcome a lifetime of seeing one perspective only—mine. Today I am making up for wasted years as a big, hot, neurotic mess.
That’s one of the things that really hurts today: the regret of wasted time.
The regret of not reaching my potential as her mother.
Even this post, which has the title that makes you think it’s all about her ends up actually being all about me.
Story of my life.
A story I’m working to change.
I am so grateful for her grace and receptivity.
I am so grateful that I didn’t manage to blow this relationship completely.
It’s one thing to cling to that idea, an idea that the internet loves, and that is the idea of I am enough. But when you find out that you actually aren’t in the ways the matter the very most, change is not only possible, it is required.
I am done using that as an excuse for bad behavior.
I can do better is not laced with self-judgment. It is simply the truth.
I can. And I will.
And I am.
“The regret of wasted time”… oh so true. I think that could become a Mother’s forever lament. I certainly wish I could ‘beam’ myself back to those years & be that ‘more present’ Mom..
However, I did receive the best, sweetest compliment from my daughters last wkend on a ‘girls’ trip to Nashville… ‘We feel like we won the Mom lottery with you’. OMG… instant choke-up. (actually, now I’m trying to remember if that statement came after a few beers!) LOL
Ps…meant to add a big congrats to Aidan – assuming Knox College is school of choice. 🙂
My daughter is a freshman at Knox this year. Aidan has made a great choice! This daughter is my third kiddo and youngest…each letting go is filled with its own set of emotions and struggles. Good luck, Mom.
Katrina Simeck says
Hope is finishing up her 4th year (she’ll graduate in 5) at a university that is across the border & 15 hours away. It seemed impossible 4 years ago – but now it seems so normal. I can relate to the regret, but I also try to remind myself that I can begin again every day. My mother stopped mothering me in my teens – I don’t plan to ever stop mothering Hope.
Congrats to Aidan – and to you!!
this post stepped all over my toes!! My little girl is only 5 and I find myself guilt of every single thing you mentioned. I really needed to read this today!!
man i can totally relate to this…my only child (a daughter) is a junior in college. a friend of mine used to say that this is the time in a woman’s life when your chicken come home to roost. and it is normal (based on the experience of most of my friends in the same boat) to do this sort of reflecting as we get ready to see our babies fly the coop. this is not for sissies however. 😉 so good for you. and congrats to your girl for finding her place.
Congrats Aidan! Great post Cathy! My youngest is graduating from college in May. You can do this!
Cathy – just look at the beautiful, accomplished, confident young woman you are sending off into the world. You must have been doing something right all these years.
You are just a good mom- you are a great mom!
Umm, you are blowing the internet up this month with amazing posts. Seriously. Your honesty and candor is amazing. I think we aren’t as bad at mothering as we envision, but even if you were, you have actively changed and that teaches an amazing message.
CONGRATS AIDAN 🙂
*meant you are not just a good mom!
You are a great mom!
Today’s my birthday, Cathy, and we’ve got a teen son about to head off to college this fall,too. Aside from encroaching on the big 5-0 (today is number 49 and I don’t like it), I’m wrestling with feelings of sadness. Much like Aidan, he’s bright, and creative, and graduated from high school early. But, he’s struggling, trying to find his place, trying to make decisions that, really, can teens make at this stage? He’s wanting to go it on his own, but doesn’t have the means to do that. He’s frustrated, and doesn’t want to be parented anymore, but he also shows how much he wants to be guided. It’s that crappy land between leaning in and letting go – for him and for us. And we’re struggling to find the right “place” in this process of letting go – when to stand alongside, when to lead, and when to follow.
Your words bring tears to my eyes – I feel like I have a lot of regrets. I’m just hoping against hope that I’ll look back and the regrets will fade and the world will seem “right” again…
Thanks for keeping it honest and authentic. And for working hard at what really matters. I’m doing the same…
Christine K says
Congrats to Aidan! I jumped over and looked up this college. Sounds like a great place to learn. Their Peace Corp prep program was interesting to me as I have a daughter in the Peace Corps. The history Knox is also very interesting. Aiden will have the time of her life. As for Mom, change is hard but growth is good.
I think one of the best things we can teach our children is when you fall down, you get back up. Or as Maya Angelou says, “When you know better, you do better”. No one is the “perfect” parent. But if we are willing to acknowledge our faults, learn from them and love our kids, they will go away knowing that they can do the same things and be ok.
Well done Cathy, you are teaching her valuable life skills.
My daughter is leaving for college in the fall as well. It looks like she will only be 45 minutes away, but it’s still killing me. I am excited for her, she is going out and she will discover who she is and what life has to offer her, but I can’t help feeling I’m being forced into early retirement.
Andrea Grzech says
Just the fact that you acknowledge your faults and actively seek to become a better person gives more to your children than you know. You are teaching them that to be human is okay. That to fail sometimes is okay. You are teaching them that what is really important is how you pick yourself up and carry on. No one is a perfect parent. Goodness knows I have had to undergo a few transformations of my own. There are many things I’d like to go back and change. Rather than focus on the failings of the past, I’ve decided to seize the day and make our teen and older years the best they can be. Your openness is refreshing and appreciated. Thanks for sharing the good and the bad. Congratulations to both you and Aidan! Enjoy this next chapter in your lives together!
I remember when my oldest daughter left for college – I grieved like she had died. She had been my rock for years and then gone.
My youngest daughter still has trouble forgiving me for acting the way I did. Said it made her feel like she was a nobody. So regrets – many! Be very proud of her, look forward to your time together and have fun with your son!
Based on my own relationship with my mother, you still have lots of time to continue your role of being a good mom. Your relationship with her over the next 10, 20, 40 years will continue to be a joy to the both of you.
Sandra B. says
You say the trip took 6-1/2 hours, but actually it was much longer. Bravo for consciousness, even if its arrival was delayed.
Melissa O. says
Yet another post that leads me to wonder if we’re really sisters from another mister. I’ve been reading the Hands Free Mama blog & book for help with the connection thing. It’s hard when you’re 37 (or 48) and you’re trying to teach yourself to be different from how you’ve always been. It’s especially hard when you’re the only child of a single mom & never had to concern yourself w/ anyone else. However, I’m working on it, one baby step at a time. Any more posts you’re willing to share on how you’re making better connections & tackling the all-about-me issue would be most appreciated. 🙂
What Mom doesn’t feel this? “The truth is that I am better now than I was. But I was previously pretty horrible” There are times when I was previously pretty horrible but not on purpose but due to lack of knowledge and some selfishness tossed in…but never on purpose. Very few parents head into parenthood fully equipped or full of knowing all the right things to raise a child. She probably looks back and sees only the good and if she does she bad….that’s is when I apologize and show her that I am also human and never perfect. Parent/child love is so deep and can be full of foregiveness like no other!
I can. And I will. And I am ..sounds like you’re pretty determined cathy… It is only when we risk losing something that we truly find its value. We ALL have regrets …I know I do as I look back as my role as a mom but something I tell myself everyday is.. Life is Now … and it appears you’ve made that choice to create what CAN BE. You’ve made the right choice and I have no doubt you will fulfill that potential as a mother that you so desire and I certainly look forward to seeing you achieve it.
Tami F. says
Beautiful! You know the greatest thing of all is that you admitted to your problem and have worked hard to correct it. It takes a special person to do so because as we know not every one does so. Rejoice in the fact that you changed/are changing to develop a great bond and relationship with your daughter. Motherhood is hard and we are human loaded with faults we let consume us. I give you the utmost respect for knowing that you needed to change and did so! You are an amazing role model to both your children! Congrats to your Aidan!!
Tami F. says
PS… I’m a mother who struggles and continually tries to figure out how to be better than just “good enough” to my kiddos. The hardest job I’ve ever had, yet the most emotionally rewarding (at times…lol)!
Can we have coffee? Seriously. I’d love to pick the parenting side of your brain. This is one of my greatest parenting fears. I want to be the best mom to my kids I can. I want to have the kind of relationship where my kids feel they can talk to me about any thing. Any time. That I will be their rock. And yet I fear every day that I am failing. (Luckily my kids are only 4 and 7, so I have some time…)
Congrats to Aidan. She is a phenomenal young woman and this next step will be such a wonderful adventure. For both of you.
I’ve read your blog for years and find incredible inspiration from your “keep it real” perspective, outrageous humor and “peel the onion” honesty.
Our son is in his first year of college, about 6 hours from home. Taking your kid to college is much harder than dropping them off for kindergarten!
Aiden will probably surprise you with how often she will be in touch. I was relying on my own experience in terms of expectations, but staying in touch is so much better than I thought it would be. Heck, I miss him so much, but he’s also thriving, which is best of all.
Marina @ Heartmix says
Thank you for jerking out those tears first thing this morning. I am a mother to a 6-year-old and a 1 year old and I am struggling. It is posts like these and my therapist as well that remind me that tomorrow we wake up and we can try again. We can wholeheartedly apologize and try again. Thank you for your raw honesty. Life is a journey and you it seems like you are fully immersed in improving and enjoying yours now. Congrats to Aidan and to you! And thank you again for all you do.
Yes, absolutely. That is something that makes me happy. That i get to build with her for a lifetime. : )
I do love that Maya Angelou quote and I really feel like Im embracing it on every level. Working with my therapist, however, has really enabled me to look at hard truths and actually work to change the me that I didnt like so much. Shes helped me to understand the whys behind all of it. So grateful for that.
Amy K says
Thank you for sharing. My oldest daughter is also leaving for colleg in the Fall, 3 hours away. I’m going to miss her so much. I also have been a hot mess most of her life and I am so lucky and grateful she loves me as much as she does.
I’ve taken to living in the present with her and appreciating every moment.
Congratulations 2 both of you!
I have a 3 year old and a 10 month old, and at times I am overwhelmed to the point of tears, hoping that I raise them to be good, thoughtful, happy people. I worry about a slow build of parental errors and ineptitude on my (our) part that will prevent that. I worry that worrying will not be good for all us. 🙂
Dropping my son off at college was one of the hardest things I had to do in my life. He has 2 weeks left of his first year and we will be moving him back home. I miss him so much I can’t wait. I’m so proud of him and he did very well. So many of his friends have already quit and moved home. Its very hard to let go but keeping your children close is not the best thing for them. Your lucky your daughter will hopefully text or call you, my son is not a communicator. Encourage her, be there for her and simply relate to her issues. I know you will your a great mom. It also brought my husband and I closer. We had to lean on each other for support during the first few weeks. And my younger son was kissed and hugged so much! He runs from me now! This is a great chance to reconnect with hubby. Peace Cynthia
Katrina of Southern California says
My son graduated this past year from a college many states away. The only way we could visit was an airplane ride. I too felt the pain of missing my first born and how hard it was for him not to be present in our home. My youngest son, who is nine….that’s another story for months would tell us we are not a family with Austin gone. It just broke my heart. I too ended up in therapy due to the fact I could not control what he was doing and how I felt he should live his life. When he graduated from school I was so happy to have him home and we felt like a family once again. It was not soon after that he found a job two hours away. I think the hardest part besides the day he left for college was the day he took his bed and things and was gone. I knew in my heart he was never coming back. He broke up with his girlfriend which I thought was going to be apart of our life forever (After three years…in which she followed him many states away). I loved this girl and could not control what was happening. It gets better…this past weekend he asked his Dad and I to co-sign for a Harley because he had no credit. I was against this for I have such a fear of motorcycles. I shook from the time we entered the Harley store until we left. Was I making the right decision? I realized these were my fears and not his. He is a grown man now and it is time for me to let go and watch him become a man. I still want to be in control but am starting to realize where I was at his age and the freedom that I desired. I was now a parent who would be there to advice instead of control. Counceling has helped but it is something I deal with on a daily basis. This post could not of come at a better time. Thank you for your honesty and learn just to take this one day at a time. It’s not easy but I know you can do this!!!!
Yep. You can try again. I will tell you that my therapist has helped me to understand the whys behind all of my behaviors. The reason this is so critical for me is that its not just the way I am. That has been transformational, in terms of leaving certain things behind. : )
Mary R says
I think we are all selfish in one way or another. Glad you are finding away to be both. You and a mom. My Hayden is in his first year of college and although it is just up the road from my office I already feel like I had to left go, let him make his own path (whether I think it is right or wrong) and quit making him feel guilty for making decisions that aren’t about me. Man it is tough. I am hardheaded, and single minded sometimes, but everyone seems to love him, so I must have done something right.
He just got back from a 10 day cruise with friends and their parents. The first text message I get after they get back home was from my friend JoAnn who asked if she could keep my son and thanked me for letting him go. My response, ummm no. We kinda like him and missed him like crazy.
and so, even when I make so much of everything about me, I did do something right and I am sure you did too!! Congrats on the many years ahead of this wonderful relationship you have with Aiden!
Kirsten J says
Oh my Dear….you are so lucky to have perspective. Two things I’ll share with you, although I think you are somewhat prepared. Be ready for those nights when you prowl, or tuck in, or whatever, and for the dark, empty room. And. Embrace your boy. It flies by. I’ve been in a pity party for too long now. And my mind f#%$ is that my college kid is only an hour away. “Dunno….might come hone this weekend, might not….” It’s taken 4+ years and I finally! FINALLY! Don’t whine and tweak out over it. I’m happy it’s not a plane trip, but it is a puzzle.
Tara Whitney says
This post was so lovely, my friend. Tears in my eyes.
This was so raw and real. I had one leave for college this year and it really is hard. He is own his own now and I feel like that chapter os 24/7 is over… there are many regrets here too.
I seriously, legit style, repsect your honesty. it’s not all sunshine and rainbows and i just appreciate the truth. she is lucky to have you as a mama in the same way you are privliged to have her as your daughter. xoxo
Katrina, can it be?! Really? Finishing 4th year? How did time go by so quickly?
(As for the mothering part, I am in the midst of mothering preteen/teenaged boys and am grateful for a strong support network of friends and therapists who keep me on track and guide me through some of the darker, more challenging periods of our lives.)
I know. You know.
Cathy, I’m continually surprised by how much your words could be my words. I am only a year behind you, and experiencing so many of the same thoughts and feelings. I have a remarkable daughter that I sometimes feel so disconnected with because of her remarkableness, you know? At times I feel as if I’m doing everything wrong. But looking at her, I know that I must have been doing something right some of the time!
You are a good mom. Believe it.
becky h says
I have had the opposite happen with me. My husband was in the Navy for 26 years and I had to be present for my 3 kids seeing as I was the only one around and gave birth to the last two when he was out to sea. In the last few years I had found myself coming home and going to my bedroom to hang out by myself and not interacting with the family. I have in the last 6-9 months turned things around because I didn’t want my kids in the future to say that I wasn’t around for them.
Britiney @ Consider the Lilies says
What an amazing gift you’re giving Aiden by becoming who you want to be. She is spectacular.
Love your post (as I always do) but also so makes me wonder what I’m screwing up right now…. in their little six and eight year old lives. I mean, I know the really bad moments like when I’m shouting or angry or afraid. But I’m not quite sure of the smaller, subtler stuff that I’m doing that might be injuring my children, their wholeness or our relationship. How do you figure that out? so hard.
Thanks for your honesty…not that you owe me anything! But I do think that change takes an enormous amount of courage. Be brave, be very brave. She deserves it.
Ps. You are doing it. Don’t look back.
Ali C. says
Maya Angelou says “When you know better, you do better.” You know better and from the sounds of things you are doing awesome! What was is what was. Acknowledge it. Apologize for it (if necessary). Then be better because of it. This next phase/journey is gonna be your best yet!
cindy b says
Alright.. I know I’m PMS’n and all but am I the only one that cried when I read this post?! 🙁 It’s because you touched on the good ol’ “MOM GUILT” heartstrings that’s why. DAMN YOU WOMAN!! My only daughter is halfway done with high school and it scares the hell out of me to think she could not be around in few years! *sigh*… ((HUG)) to you Cathy!! You will survive just like all the other moms… 🙂
Some people never realize what you realized. Four years, it’s still four-not-wasted-years, right? At least that’s how I’m learning to think with my own therapist. 🙂
This was lovely and honest. Thank you for sharing it.
Jenny B. says
Wow. Powerful. The days are long, but the years are short. Bittersweet, for sure.
i am inspired and motivated by these types of posts Cathy. I want to examine my life that objectively and come out knowing what I have to work on. Maybe I need a therapist, but certainly reading these posts makes me ask myself “what aren’t I doing well enough?” thanks for the honesty.
Molly Mcpherson says
So what, you sucked as a mom and now you feel the need to compensate in the other direction. Get over it or you will continue to, just like mine. This may seem like a hateful comment to you, but its actually a favor to your daughter. The curiosity is whether you’re therapist actually did enough good for you not to delete it.
Veronica Zwiers says
I know exactly how you feel. This past year I gave my “baby” up to the same university his brothers attend. One school has all my boys….I don’t….. I have an empty home and an empty heart. They too spend most of their year 6-6.5 hours away from me. I suppose the idea of having the boys close in age sounded good back then … but back fires when they all head off to University one year after the other.
WoW! You are really putting it out there…thank you!
Not sure I understand the comment, but hey, all are welcome. This isnt about compensating. Its about taking responsibility and doing what is needed. I feel really confident in the shit Im working on. So, you know, that.
I am sending you hugs! It was fun following your #zielskecollegeroadtrip. I was wondering if the sweatshirt meant it was Knox for sure. Congrats to Aidan. Another chapter of the great adventure (for both of you) is about to begin. Having launched one and getting ready to launch another, I definitely agree that the hardest part of parenting is the letting go. And so, please know that I am sending vibes!
jennifer mcguire says
i hope you will consider – if you can or feel you want to – some of your insights that helped you get to this good place. it may help some of us who are worried about how we are doing. xo
Sue P says
Cathy, we all have stumbles as we parent and thank God our children are resilient and forgiving. You seem to have a pretty awesome young lady who will remember both the good and the not so good, but mostly the good! Try not to be so hard on yourself and let yourself heal. I am sure Adian would want that for you too. Now here’s the best secret..in time, when those grandbabies come (who you will love with such a wonderfully different love!)you will be the most awesome grandmother and a true support/role model for your kid due to your amazing growth!!
Knox College…how cool is that! I work a couple of blocks from Knox College for a group of locally owned radio stations! It’s a great school. I have followed your work for several years and have watched your kids grow via those pages. Hope she has a great time…I mean studies hard…should she choose Knox. Maybe you could hold a workshop here! 😉
Wow. I am a Knox alumnus from 1971 ! My first child was born in Galesburg in 1969 — it was the height of the hippie era. I’ve not met anyone else who has gone there ! The LIncoln-Douglas debate was a big PR thing — I remember taking pictures of the steps they stood on. If you’ve never seen brick roads, you’ll see lots — they are amazing. Loved my time there. At the time we only allowed to take 3 classes each semester and that was very much a big load !
A little piece of trivia: In 1969 3 of my friends decided to ‘take over’ Old Main (a hippy trend of the era). I barely talked my husband out of joining them ! They left after a weekend — with little press coverage and smoothed over PR. One of them later became Clinton’s Chief of Staff. They refused to wear caps and gowns at graduation — quite a scandal.
I wonder if the Gizmo is still the social center — I remember countless games of Hearts and Pinocle.
One day in the library at a table right in the middle of the largest room there there was an earthquake that rattled the windows and freaked us all out a bit.
What memories you have triggered — guess I have some things to scrap about now !
THankyou. You will love it — the ‘townies’ are a little condescending however.
This post was amazing. As someone not much older than your daughter, and with a less than nurturing mom, (who has no concept of her impact on others) I found this post to be so heartfelt and honest and powerful. I am sure it wasn’t the easiest thing you’ve ever written, but I want to say thank you…thank you and bravo. It takes a ton of courage to recognize and mend the most meaningful relationships in our lives when they become broken. Thank you for speaking so openly about your journey of putting the pieces together again. Cheers!
Missus Wookie says
My youngest has been away at a university only a couple of hours away but I have been so grateful for Skype and texting – it has kept us close and in some ways that intentional connection has meant we are closer than we were.
As a daughter who didn’t have a great relationship with my Mom until later in life for similar reasons – I want to tell you two things. One you do have the rest of your life to deepen and strengthen that relationship and two that you may have helped Aiden (and Cole) to be better parents. One of the things that Wookie & I agreed was ‘we’re doing it differently…’
Glad you are able to work with the therapist and deal with stuff – doing that is enough for right now, working at being better is also enough.
Love this Cathy!! Honest and from the heart! She is one lucky girl to have you and as you to have her! It was so nice to see those pictures of you two on the trip. Congrats to Aidan!
Hey Jen, Im thinking about it. I mean, some of this post honestly felt weird to put out there without explanation, you know? I dont know. Its not about mommy guilt at all. Its about some very unconscious stuff that is no longer just reactive behaviors etc. Id be happy to email you and explain a bit more. : )
How fun that you live close!
Wow. What a great, great story. : ) Love it.
Nicole Geiger says
This is so spot on. My daughter got her college id on Sunday when we visited for admitted student day and it really, really hit me. This is it. I vacillate between being heartbroken that she is leaving me (with a house of 3 males, no less), and being ridiculously excited for her to spread her wings and become her best true self. And I am constantly questioning “have I done enough?”. And saying lots of “I wish…”. I wish I could turn it off. It’s just so, so hard!!
WOW, Cathy. So beautiful. I LOVE this part: “It’s one thing to cling to that idea, an idea that the internet loves, and that is the idea of I am enough. But when you find out that you actually aren’t in the ways the matter the very most, change is not only possible, it is required.”
I was so touched by this post. And I know it sounds weird, but I found myself feeling PROUD of you. Like, way to GO Cathy! Way to open up and be real. Way to give other people permission to acknowledge their own imperfections. We all do paint ourselves in the very best light publicly on the Internet, and none of us are. This was so important and honest. Go you.
So well said! “It’s that crappy land between leaning in and letting go…” Great comment.
Thanks, Ahng. xo.
Wendy Smedley says
Well said my friend. If I let my motherhood regrets live with me daily I wouldn’t get out of bed.
Oh sweet friend, you know, acknowledging regrets and staying connected to them, for me, is such a huge motivator. This is not about mommy guilt, you know? Mommy guilt has a whole other level of things that arent real, things like expectations and ideas and fantasies about being the perfect mom. This is more about personal stuff. Stuff that I really needed to understand so I could actually start to do the things that she really needed. : )
No joke: the most honest & self-reflecting post I’ve read from (anyone) in a long, long time. It’s not easy to put the parts of ourselves that aren’t “pretty” out there, but you’ve showcased your vulnerability in such a courageous way. What a tremendous gift to bestow upon you daughter.
Erica Hettwer says
The fact that these awesome people still love you enough to give you more chances to do better makes me think that maybe you weren’t as bad as you fear you were. ❤️
I love your honesty and I sincerely applaud you for working on doing better. I think Aidan being able to witness you working so hard on improving yourself will be one of the greatest lessons you could ever teach her- that we are all constantly growing and evolving, and when we know better it is possible to do better. You rock!
My wishes for the future: 1) I can become as self actualized as CZ 2) my 2 girls will be as awesome teens as Aidan certainly seems to be. Such confidence, wisdom and beauty. 3) I have the kind of relationship with my girls as you do with your girl. You inspire me frequently and amuse me often. (Long time blog reader first time blog commenter)
Amy, thanks for commenting today. : ) And dont give me too much credit. Im just working to be more responsible in my life for everything. It helps on so many levels. : )
Thanks for sharing this story Cathy – it’s awesome that you have been able to realize, recognize, change and keep on trying. I think as children that’s all we can ask of our parents. On a lighter note (ha! not really!) my daughter went to college in Oregon (I’m in MN like you). She’s my only child so it was tough but I thought I was doing really well adapting to her absence until it was about two weeks before she was coming home for Christmas her freshman year. Once it got that close I let myself really feel the pain of missing her and I laid on the living room floor, crying like a baby! I survived, she graduated and now she’s in Uptown. YAY! Anyway, congrats to Aidan. It’s such an exciting time for her!
You sound like a GREAT mom! None of us is perfect. All we can do is our best. My son is one year from college. I’m excited for him but also sad he’s not a baby anymore. I’m going to miss that kid. I can imagine how hard/exciting it will be to see your child head off to college. Exciting and scary and sad and wonderful!
I have a couple of questions:
1) Do you think it is possible that carefully contrived ‘confessional’ posts like this one, which result in a predictable barrage of ego-stroking “You sound like a GREAT mom!” and “…I found myself feeling PROUD of you. Like, way to GO Cathy!” comments, are actually validating and enabling an attitude of self-preoccupation?
2) Do you think they could be providing easy and unhealthy fixes for deficits in self-esteem?
I don’t know you or your children so wouldn’t comment on your actual parenting skills or your personal development. However, I will stand and stomp and whistle and applaud your willingness to be honest and straight up. No self-deprecating humour, no excuses, clear repetition of the fact this is not about mommy-guilt but is about personal responsibility. Honesty is perhaps the hardest thing for any human to deal with, we so much prefer the easier, softer way. There is a Chinese saying that there are three sides to every story – yours, mine and the truth. Bravo to anyone willing to look at the other sides.
You know, we all have regrets about our parenting no matter what we do (my ‘children’ are 28 and 31 now) Children are pretty resilient. If you act in love, apologise when you are wrong, teach them to take responsibility and reward rather than punish you are going to get it pretty right. In my opinion, with the benefit of hindsight, I think children need your time rather than things. I wish I had spent less time at work and more just talking with them. One thing you can guarantee is that they will imitate your behaviour. So let them see you make mistakes and apologise, actually change a behaviour, be honest, work hard, read, love, communicate. Whatever you wish for them – show don’t tell.
I would love it if my girls were 6.5 hours away as opposed to half way around the world. They’re based in Houston, TX, USA, I’m way down south and then a few hours flight east … in Johannesburg, South Africa.
Its interesting, as I’m sure many other scrapbookers/bloggers would feel the same, as we’ve watched her grow in your layouts and on your blog. The time has flown by.
Have a magical week
Oh man, there is part of me that really hopes she makes her life here, after college, but… shes got her eyes on medical school and I dont know where that will take her. : )
Thanks. And yes, some things. But the things I didnt do, Im changing. : )
Thank you, Jules. For this comment. It is NOT about mommy guilt. I even had my therapist read the post and she said I redeemed myself. (She thought the post I did about two beds the week before was self serving and not honest at all. Yep. So theres that.) But honesty seems to be very hard, maybe the hardest when looking at ourselves. Im working with her to see myself accurately—strengths and weaknesses. Its hard work. Its worth it to me and I believe to my family.
Cindy (Junque Art) says
Thanks so much for this post! I sit in the same boat. My first born is also going to college in the fall. I’m still trying to wrap my head around that. Feeling and knowing I could have done better to connect with her. We are definitely in a much better place than we were a few years ago, but I feel like I didn’t pay attention or work hard enough. She is such a great kid, and I’m so very proud of her. But I feel like I have failed her in some ways…feeling like I just muddled through a lot of the years. I’m in such a weird place in my life right now. Mid life crisis I’m guessing. Trying hard to pull myself out of the black hole. Realizing just in the last year that life is short, and I need to embrace every day! Thanks Cathy for your insight, I needed to hear it!
Since you have replied to the comments of others but have not replied to my questions it appears you didn’t appreciate them. That’s a shame because they were honest questions.
You’ve said you’re working with your therapist to see yourself accurately “strengths and weaknesses”. Surely to be able to do so successfully you need others to care enough to give you their honest feedback, even if it’s not flattering or easy to hear?
I feel like I am still not really an adult, but I am slowly getting there — at the age of almost 48! Therapy, especially ACT (acceptance comittment therapy) has helped me too. Best wishes.
BTW, my son is only 7 years old. Most people my age have kids that are almost ready to leave the It feels a little weird sometimes. That may also be a reason why I have a hard time getting older.
GREAT question, actually.
People who are saying you’re a great mom are basing it on an incomplete picture. I used to think my therapist was crazy, that she was just after me, that I wasn’t so bad, I mean, come on! The truth is that I have not been a great mom. That’s what this post was about.
That is not a jab at commenters who said, “Oh, you’re terrific!”
It’s NOT about ego stroking or self validation. Self esteem absolutely does not come from having people tell you, “Good job! You’re awesome! Way to go! How brave of you!”
It comes from competency as an adult. Being responsible for everything in your life: your pain, your joys, your responses, your caring, your development.
I totally missed this comment and am glad to see it now.
Believe me, comments like this get me thinking and I thank you for that.
Also, this post was carefully crafted around the truth. Not contrived. Everything I write is crafted. This just happened to be the truth.
For what it’s worth, I hope that helps you understand where I’m trying to come from and I apologize for missing this comment.
I don’t always respond to every comment, though I read them all. Believe me, this one somehow slipped through the Typepad cracks. For what it’s worth.
Nicola, response is above. I missed the original comment. I hope you didn’t feel slighted and I apologize if you did. I don’t always reply to each comment, but I see every one and honestly did NOT see this one come into my inbox from Typepad.
That’s a long ways away. Wow.
Thanks for your considered response.
I hear that you’re saying this post was about you not having been a great mom, that it was not about ego-stroking or self-validation, and that self-esteem does not come from having people praise you.
To be honest, though, I’m having difficulty reconciling this with some of the other things you’ve said recently.
You told one commenter who went as far as to call you a star for publishing your post about your sleeping arrangements “Okay, im having a rough morning, and you just made me weepy. In the best of ways…”, you told another woman who just wanted to tell you she thought you’re awesome “Thanks. Ill take that today. For sure”, and you spoke in another post of experiencing a “compassion hangover” caused by the comments left on the preceding post.
Given comments like these it sounded like your self-esteem had been boosted and that you felt validated for your self-disclosures.
I also found myself questioning whether your ‘confessional’ self-disclosure rich posts might be inappropriate because self-disclosure is an important building block for intimacy; we cannot achieve intimacy without it. We also expect self-disclosure to be reciprocal and appropriate. So I wondered whether it might be unhealthy to be trying to build intimacy with the people you don’t otherwise know who might read your posts.
For what it’s worth, my dictionary defines contrived as “deliberately created rather than arising naturally or spontaneously” and crafted as “exercised skill in making (an object), typically by hand”. In the context of your recent posts in a similar vein, and comments you’ve made like “Combining the strength of sharing a story about my weaknesses has some real potential to do something”, this post didn’t seem spontaneous or naturally arising. For what it’s worth.
Jules – wonderful words of wisdom! Thank you
I loved your response here almost as much as the actual post.
I would love a future post on the difference between mommy-guilt and being aware of your failures as a parent. I get that one is self-defeating (the way feeling guilty about a cookie just makes me want to eat three more) and the other is motivating (the way counting calories helps me see the difference between unconscious eating and conscious eating).
Okay…I think in asking the question, I just got it:)
Deirdre, I think my therapist would say you have to look at your life and the facts, without judgment. Mommy-guilt, and this is my opinion, is a cultural construct. But what Ive been doing is just looking at the facts and connecting to the sadness and the pain of them, and working to change my response to life. Period. Its VERY hard to do this without judging it. : )