Sunday, November 17, 2013

Seventeen

Erica's junior year school photo.
My oldest daughter turned seventeen on Thursday. Seventeen. I'm having a hard time wrapping my mind around that. She's a junior this year, so she's only got one year left after that. Then she's off for new adventures.

Of course I'm not the only parent who has to come to terms with their children growing up. Seventeen, however, is of particular significance to me. That's the age I was when Erica was born. I look at Erica and as smart and talented as she is, I can't imagine her becoming a parent now. But it happened to me and in no way was I prepared for what was to come.

I was forced to grow up and become a better person. This was not an overnight journey. In fact, it took years and if I'm being honest, I'd say that I'm still working on it. Erica (and her sister who came thirteen months after her sister) didn't ask for parents who were still children. They didn't ask for parents who were completely clueless as to what being a parent actually means.

Babies having babies.
An enormous burden was now on my shoulders. Like I said, it took years before I fully realized the full weight of this new task. I began to feel guilt since I felt that Erica and Shaena deserved better. If I had waited to have children, I would have been better prepared. I would have been a better parent. But I didn't wait. My daughters were here and I had to rise to the challenge. I think I'm a better parent now than when my daughters were young, but I still feel inadequate and I still feel guilty. They deserve better than they've gotten, not just from me but their mother as well. If I had waited to have them, I could have gone to college and started a career. Instead I've stumbled around with both. It's made my life more difficult which by extension has made my daughters' lives more difficult. It's also not fair for them to be stuck with the task of Forcing Dad to Grow Up and Be a Parent. This is not a conscious decision or something they had a choice in.

I've used myself as a prime example to my daughters of What Not to Do. The message appears to have sunk in as neither seem inclined to rebel in the ways I did. They are teenagers, so of course as they work to build their identities there is push back and clashes. But thankfully both seem to have fully absorbed the silly notion that growing up and finishing one's education should be done before one decides to have children.

People tell me all the time that I look too young to have kids as old as mine are. And I am! I'm thirty-four now. Thirty-four. I'm still trying to figure out how to be a decent human being and what I want to do with my life and how I'm going to achieve these things. That's hard enough without having to worry about guiding two young minds along their own paths. I can't imagine life without my daughters now. They are a blessing and despite all of the hardships, they've turned out pretty well. Despite that, however, I can't help but feel they would have been better off if they hadn't been born when they were. That's on me and I owe it to them to do the best I can for them. It's hard, very hard. Parenting doesn't come easily to me, but I have a responsibility to two people who didn't ask for the circumstances they were delivered unto.

2 comments:

Bluntforcemama said...

From what I have gleaned, you are one of the best parents I've met. Don't be so hard on yourself.

Tsar Clef Hue John said...

I have to agree with Emily. It appears you have won at the game of parenting.