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I’ve Made Lots of Mistakes as a Parent—And My Kids Know It

One of the things I hear the most from my three teens is that I’m too overprotective. I like knowing where my kids are, I don’t let them have sleepovers on school nights, and I refuse to let my house turn into a free-for-all where all the kids come to hang out whenever they want.

They have a bedtime. I check their school work. I constantly ask if they need anything while they are home, and I’m always pleading with them to spend time with me.

I have days when I get really irritated and I yell a lot. I can go for a few weeks with lots of chill and not lose it when I see the messes they make.

Then I snap. I’ve been known to overreact, think the worst, and get very emotional.

I’ve drilled them with questions when something seems off to me. I’ve dug through their rooms when I thought they were acting suspicious. I take their phones away if they are missing work.

While I feel like most of this is normal parenting stuff and I’ve tried to work very hard on my shortcomings, I know I’ve made lots of mistakes along the way:
  • I’ve been too hard on them;
  • I haven’t been hard enough;
  • I’ve treated them differently;
  • Or I haven’t paid attention when I should have been

My teenagers, like most teenagers, feel like they already know everything. Some days I am literally defending everything I say because they like to disagree with me for the sake of arguing. I have a tendency to get worked up about this instead of ignoring my three geniuses who have all the answers.

They tell me that when they have kids they are going to do so many things differently. I tell them that just because I’m an adult it doesn’t mean I have all the answers and do everything right. They are along for the good and bad of whatever parenting decisions I make, whether they like it or not.

The Mistakes Parents Make

I know they won’t realize this until they have kids of their own. I know eventually they will see how hard parenting can be and that there are times when we make the wrong choices—for ourselves and for our kids. I remember criticizing my own parents, wondering what they were thinking, or feeling like they were just taking their bad mood out on me.

I would fantasize about getting out of the house once and for all and being able to live my own life on my terms. I know my kids have the same thoughts—it’s a normal and just a part of growing up.

We often talk about letting our kids make mistakes and figure them out on their own, but I don’t want my teens to think that idea has an expiration date.

While we’re all under the same roof, I want to show them the importance of extending some grace when mistakes are made. Even when it’s me making the mistake.

I want my kids to know that we all make mistakes—over and over throughout our lives, and yes, even as parents. We hope we get better at recognizing our flaws and working on ourselves, but being a parent is the hardest thing we’ll ever do and mistakes will be made. I don’t want them to think I know everything and will do everything right. And I don’t want them to think it’s okay to hold me to that unrealistic standard.

My teens know they can talk to me, respectfully, about something I’ve done, a parenting mistake they believe I’ve made, and I will always be open to making improvements and trying to do what’s best for them—even if they don’t agree about what that might be.

Parenting has helped me love, grow, and change more than anything else I’ve done in my life. It forces me to roll with the punches and be flexible just when I have gotten comfortable with something. Of course I’m going to mess things up! I mean, a job like this should require lots of room for learning—and making mistakes. It’s okay for my kids to see that and for us to get through it together.

I look forward to a day when my teens come to me to tell me that I really wasn’t that bad of a mother. My hope is that, in time, they will see why I handled some of the things the way I did and forgive some of the mistakes I’ve made. And maybe, just maybe, they’ll learn from my mistakes. Because man, this parenting stuff is hard and we need all the grace we can get.

Katie Bingham-Smith had three kids in three years and crafts herself silly in order to stay sane. She loves to write, wear faux leather pants, eat at burger joints, and make beautiful things. You can see more on her Facebook and Instagram.

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