Keep On Keeping On

If you had asked me 10 years ago what my biggest fear was, pretty high up on that list would be my children one day being in therapy. Before you right me off as utterly shallow, the bigger things like nuclear war and my child running out in front of a bus, would also have been on that list, but honestly? This would have been up there.

Of course we all make those silly jokes at our own expense, about our kids ‘one day being in therapy for x, y or z’  but that’s just what it is…a joke.  Until it isn’t.

Imperfect daisy

At the time, I thought that my children being in therapy when they were older, would be a sign that I had failed them. That someone else was having to undo the mess that I had created. I wonder if men think like that? Don’t bother pondering on that for long, we all know they don’t!

There’s something about being a mother that makes us feel as though we are solely responsible for their safety, comfort, education, happiness, health and wellbeing. Quite frankly, we put way too much pressure on ourselves and it stands to reason therefore that when one of our children requires assistance from an outsider because we cannot ‘fix’ them, we take it hard.

Or perhaps that’s just me.

As I sat in the therapist’s office last week, explaining that I was a good mum….one who had read all the books on motherhood…been to every parenting course available…someone that friends and family often come to for parenting advice…I suddenly realised that none of that mattered. Not that the time and commitment had been wasted as such, but that sometimes we simply cannot ‘fix’ our children. What a tough pill that is for a mum to swallow. One who has dedicated 16 years to building a loving family unit, hoping and praying that her fear (shallow or not), of her child one day ending up on a therapist’s couch, doesn’t come true.

Over the last few weeks, I’ve spent an unhealthy amount of time unpicking my eldest child’s last 16 years. Replaying events that have occurred in her life so far and wondering whether it was that extra 2 minutes on the naughty step that did it, or the time I shouted in her face because her defiance angered me, or when I picked up on the one mistake she had made on the front cover of her school project (I remember, she probably doesn’t).

The truth? We will all screw our children up. That might sound harsh but we are human beings who are imperfect and actually? I think our children need to know that. Some will learn that fact in more brutal ways than others, but I know for sure that every single one of us will make more than one parenting blunder and our children, when they are parents themselves, will do the same.

If there’s one thing I’ve learnt this week, it’s this: if we sit in those mistakes, none of us benefit.

Yes parents have the ability to affect their child’s life adversely but of far greater importance, is the fact that we have the power to build them up, encourage them, love them, inspire them, comfort them, empower them, create wonderful memories with them and dream big dreams together. If we dwell too long on past mistakes, we will lose confidence in our ability to be the parent that our child needs and we will miss the amazing opportunities that lie ahead.

My daughter has had therapy on and off for about 6 months; the likelihood is that she will continue to have therapy of one sort or another for a good while yet. The OH and I are currently spending our Wednesday afternoons with a family therapist. None of this means that I have failed as a parent and it is not something that any of us should be ashamed of.

The fact is, we are all trying our best with the little knowledge that we have. Our children do not come with an instruction manual and there’s definitely no chapter entitled ‘when your child is diagnosed with a mental illness’ (believe me, I’ve searched high and low). We are all writing our own manual as we go along and it stands to reason that some chapters will have a lot more crossings out and ripped pages than others.

Keep on keeping on.

And then the fun began...

28 Comments on Keep On Keeping On

  1. Helena Clarke
    May 30, 2016 at 10:16 am (9 months ago)

    I too am wrestling with the fact that my parenting seems to have gone wrong and I don’t know how to ‘fix’ it. The more it goes on, the more I am starting to realise that it is not ‘my daughter’s issue’ but a more complicated skewing of our family dynamic and that has made me feel increasingly to blame. I have been berating myself and feeling lost, but I have taken heart from this post, particularly from the idea that ‘if we sit in those mistakes, none of us will benefit.’ Going forward, I am going to try to remember this. I have made many mistakes, but guilt over those mistakes will not help us move on. Thank you for continuing to share your journey and I hope things are moving forward for you. x

    Reply
    • Suzanne W
      May 30, 2016 at 5:11 pm (9 months ago)

      I guess mistakes have a purpose if we learn from them, otherwise they are just mistakes. But we are all just doing our best Helena – ALL of us. Our children are all different and we all have different personalities. Don’t berate yourself, learn and help your children (and you) grow. And remember, you’re not alone! x

      Reply
  2. Louise Fairweather
    May 30, 2016 at 11:45 am (9 months ago)

    You are right, we do put too much pressure on ourselves. But this isn’t down to you. And yes we all screw up too! It must be frustrating that there is not a quick fix, but you will all get there xxxx
    Louise Fairweather recently posted…Disneyland Paris With Young ChildrenMy Profile

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    • Suzanne W
      May 30, 2016 at 5:08 pm (9 months ago)

      I guess people live many years with mystery illnesses and ones that go undiagnosed. They are all equally hard to understand. For some reason, I think it’s because we can all have an effect on one another’s mental health. x x

      Reply
    • Suzanne W
      May 30, 2016 at 5:07 pm (9 months ago)

      Off the scale! It’s just something I’m working through and I will come out the other side. All part of it I guess. x x

      Reply
  3. Sarah MumofThree World
    May 30, 2016 at 1:41 pm (9 months ago)

    You’re doing and great job and it definitely isn’t your fault! Whether nature or nurture, all of our kids are different. They feel differently, they perceive differently, they place importance on different things, they remember different things and forget different things.
    It’s amazing how different three kids from the same set of parents can be. They are their own people and although as parents we may make mistakes, normal/ good parents don’t ’cause’ mental illness or the need for therapy.
    And it’s good for kids to see us making mistakes – we learn from them too. I can think of a fair few times when I’ve shouted too loudly or acted in a more extreme way than I should. But I’m human, I have emotions and I make mistakes. Just like my kids.
    I may have gone off at a bit of a tangent there, but I’m pretty sure I knew what I meant at some point! x
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    • Suzanne W
      May 30, 2016 at 5:13 pm (9 months ago)

      I think the pressure we put ourselves under is too great. We are imperfect and therefore our kids are bound to be affected by some of those imperfections. As you say, every one of them is different. Interesting isn’t it? Some children are more sensitive to those around them and I guess that has positive and negative consequences. Oh and I get your point – you’re trying to reassure me that we’re all the same. x

      Reply
  4. Mother of Teenagers
    May 30, 2016 at 6:43 pm (9 months ago)

    As parents it is so natural to beat ourselves up on a daily basis as to whether we are to blame for what our children do or for what happens to them, but you right over analysing everything and dwelling on the mistakes is unhealthy and ultimately counter productive. Looking forward is the only way even if we sometimes can’t see that when we are in the midst of it all. Therapy clearly has a role to play in your daughter’s rehabilitation but it will never be more valuable than your love and support as a family unit. Wishing you all the best.
    Mother of Teenagers recently posted…The Toxic FriendshipMy Profile

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    • Suzanne W
      June 2, 2016 at 11:52 pm (9 months ago)

      That last sentiment really made me think. Thank you for reminding me. x

      Reply
  5. Natalie
    May 30, 2016 at 8:53 pm (9 months ago)

    Lovely this made me feel sad – I have been reading your blog for a while and there is no doubt in my mind that you’re an amazing Mum. It’s so easy when they are young to wipe their tears and to pick them up when they fall – but as they get older I guess they need to find their own path and sometimes they need a little more help. All we can do is love and support and be there for them.

    Look after yourself xxx
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  6. Carie
    May 30, 2016 at 10:46 pm (9 months ago)

    I know this is going to sound really strange but I think it is a testament to your painting that your daughter is in therapy. You have clearly raised a strong confident young woman who is sufficiently secure in who she is and what is right that she knew to ask for help when she needed it, and that is a lovely and wonderful thing. Keep on keeping on x
    Carie recently posted…My little adventurerMy Profile

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  7. Notmyyearoff
    May 31, 2016 at 1:33 pm (9 months ago)

    I think it’s such a complicated time to be raising children. It is true when our parents and grandparents say times have changed. I think going to family therapy is the best thing any family going through such a hard time can do. And some choose not to do it which must just add on more problems. I think of your girl often and of yoi. I hope you are all doing ok xx
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  8. GaikokuMama
    May 31, 2016 at 1:42 pm (9 months ago)

    I found myself nodding when you said “We will all screw our children up”. Yes – we are imperfect people, so how can we hope to perfectly raise children, who are also human beings with emotions, without blemish. I’m just a new Mum, but for me I think this is one hugely important fact we need to recognize – both within ourselves and publicly in front of our children. One of my goals is to be the kind of parent who is quick to humble myself in front of my kids and apologize and point out my mistakes when they happen. A big and lofty idealistic goal…
    GaikokuMama recently posted…An unexpected blessing of motherhood: reconnecting with my late MumMy Profile

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  9. Jean
    May 31, 2016 at 7:58 pm (9 months ago)

    We never get it right as parents do we? Don’t be too hard on yourself, the main thing is that you are there for your daughter and you love her. The rest will sort itself out. That’s what I’m hoping with my daughter too. Take care x
    Jean recently posted…Success happens one pound at a timeMy Profile

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  10. Liz Smith
    May 31, 2016 at 10:22 pm (9 months ago)

    Suzanne, I think as parents we try to do the best for our children, but we are not superhuman. We make mistakes, we find ourselves shouting when no one listens, we use the naughty step(honestly five minutes more than the recommended time is not responsible!) and they make wrong choices too. It is society who exerts the pressures on our chikdren…got to have an iphone six….have to have the same pocket money as…. So and so went to Rome for their holidays……why cant you buy me clothes like someone elses Mum….. You and your husband brought your children up in a Godly environment with good values and walked the path of righteousness for them. Our God doesnt change, His heart bleeds for the situation you find yourself in but the difference is He is always there, He changes not, He is carrying you now there is only one set of footprints, and He has promised He will bring you through this as a family. Mental illness is just as much an illness as the common cold but society does not see it that way. I know what you are going through. Youngest spent six weeks in a rehab centre after confessing he was addicted to drugs and alcohol and my world fell apart. It took five years for him to get to a place where he could function again and it took almost as long for me to remember that when we dedicated him to the Lord when he was a baby, we knew God would have His hand on him for the rest of his life. We did not know the path he would tread but we knew the God who would bring him through. And the same Loving Father will bring her through, and right now there are not the answers to all the questions you both have because now you do see “through the glass darkly” but you will understand, and you will rejoice again, and she will experience the “behold I make all things new” in her life.

    Reply
    • Suzanne W
      June 2, 2016 at 11:53 pm (9 months ago)

      Lovely reminder and testimony Liz, thank you. I will hang on to this for sure. x

      Reply
  11. John Adams
    June 1, 2016 at 5:33 am (9 months ago)

    I think if you had failed as a parent you wouldn’t be in the family therapy sessions. That would suggest you didn’t care which is clearly far from the truth. I hope you daughter recovers soon and that you as a family come closer as a result.

    You statements about the way guys think did make me wince, if I can be honest. Do I have fears about making mistakes that have a long term, detrimental impact on my kids? Those thoughts cross my mind every single day. A fascinating report was published last year by an organisation called MenCare. Written by feminists and men’s rights campaigners, it studied academic data from 30 countries. It concluded that men are as “genetically hardwired” to care for their offspring as women. As most societies operate in a man works / women looks after kids model, most men don’t get the opportunities to demonstrate their true caring potential. On that note, I’ll get my coat!
    John Adams recently posted…Five top tips for moving with toddlersMy Profile

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    • Suzanne W
      June 4, 2016 at 11:57 pm (9 months ago)

      Apologies John, that was a very sexist remark! It was frivolous really. I’m sure dads do consider the serious side of parenting but I was lumping all fathers in the ‘full-time working outside of the home’ category. I think it’s easier to shut off from stuff like that if you’re out of the home a lot.

      Reply
  12. https://angela10551.wordpress.com/
    June 1, 2016 at 1:31 pm (9 months ago)

    Can’t add any more that others haven’t already said,but sending you big hugs as the mother of two (not always sane teens!) girls.

    You’re doing the best you can – just by BEING THERE! I find that’s the hardest part, as a parent!! xxx

    Reply
  13. Sam
    June 1, 2016 at 10:16 pm (9 months ago)

    This made me think about a lot of different things Suzanne. That poem by Philip Lsrkin “They F**k you up, your mum and dad” (a particularly pessimistic and unforgiving version of family life!), nature vs. nurture and the fact that surely therapy is so much more a part of the landscape these days than it ever was before? I think it’s actually a great thing that therapy is available to the teenagers who suffer the worst with anxiety and depression and the fact that you are supporting your daughter to go down this road shows a really loving, caring, responsible attitude on the part of you and your husband. I certainly don’t think you can blame yourself, although as a parent myself I can totally see where you’re coming from – it just feels like such a massive, massive, overwhelming responsibility sometimes doesn’t it? No wonder parenthood is often referred to as the most difficult job you could ever do. I read about people in the course of my job who have ended up with criminal records, real, serious behavioural problems from a young age and it’s down to proper bad childhoods, neglect, abuse, etc. and the thing you realise is that those parents, the ones who should feel guilty and responsible and blame themselves – they’re the ones who don’t give a toss.
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  14. Ram
    June 2, 2016 at 1:41 pm (9 months ago)

    What an inspiring blog! I truly agree with you..everybody screws up..and dealing with it and rising..is what i call life..I usually never read whole blog..but this time i read each and every word..I hope whatever issue your child has will be resolved..Glad you shared!

    Reply
  15. Lauranne
    June 2, 2016 at 4:27 pm (9 months ago)

    I don’t think your daughter needs fixing, there is nothing about this that means she is broken. She is brave and strong enough to admit she needs help – it’s not something I would be looking to fix.

    Also I don’t think that the fact that she is in counselling now reflects on your parenting skills. My folks are the greatest parents in the world, yet I have ended up in counselling twice as a result of what I have been through in my life. The first time I agreed to a 10 week course as I was worried about it becoming a crutch- huge mistake. Now I have been in it for almost 2 years, just when I was due to stop Dad got his diagnosis and so I have kept on with it for someone outside of the family to talk to about everything.

    If you daughter ever wants a shoulder, I am only at the end of an email. Sometimes having someone unknown to talk to can help.
    Lauranne recently posted…She stepped up… I thinkMy Profile

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  16. WallyMummy
    June 2, 2016 at 5:43 pm (9 months ago)

    You’re obviously an amazing parent Suzanne. I guess mental illness, and sny illness in fact, just takes whoever it likes regardless. Big hugs for everything your family is going through and being so brave writing this xxx

    Reply
  17. Kirsty Hijacked by Twins
    June 2, 2016 at 10:44 pm (9 months ago)

    I did not realise that you were going through this. Mental health issues can happen to anyone and no one is to blame. Yes we all make mistakes but the biggest mistake that we can make is not moving forward. Dwelling on the past and things that have happened keep them there, if we move on they fade and we can make the future brighter. I sincerely hope that your daughter is home soon and we’ll. Sending huge hugs xx
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  18. Carol Cameleon
    June 5, 2016 at 9:23 pm (9 months ago)

    It’s a terrifying scenario for me to one day find myself in your shoes to be honest Suzanne. I received fantastic counselling for depression years ago. Now I have a 6 year old, I’m perhaps over-aware of how much our words can affect them as they grow up. I get the sense from reading your blog is that you will get through this together. It’s one heck of a journey but one that must be travelled… #truthabout
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  19. Plutonium Sox
    June 10, 2016 at 7:50 pm (8 months ago)

    Yup, I totally agree. I read so much about how it’s ok not to cope as a parent and actually, that’s not true. It’s not ok because when there’s nobody else to take the slack, you have to cope – and keep on keeping on. I totally get the parent guilt thing, I feel it too. But you’re holding it together for your daughter right now, when she needs you the most. And sometimes that’s all we can do.
    Nat.x
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