“I didn’t ask to be born.”


These words are never far from the front of my mind. Once, while in the midst of my messy divorce, my then-14-year-old said these words. I must have made a joke about how expensive kids were…or I had been (at the same time) complaining that their dad went MIA on us, refusing to pay child support for 1.5 years.

I don’t remember complaining too much. For me, it was more like being totally freaked out because my income disappeared with the appearance of Covid. It hasn’t returned. But his didn’t change for the worse. He actually got a raise that would have made life so much more tolerable. But, I got nothing from him until the courts ordered it.

Back to my daughter:

She has always been a quick-witted child. She learns fast and is very bright. Her name is associated with a lot of cute sayings on my Facebook feed. The above words are not some that I posted.

They were meant to be sassy, but not meant to hurt. They didn’t hurt but they made me think. And they keep me thinking, to this day.

These days, her words come to mind less with my own kids and more when I listen to other people talk about theirs. I don’t mean to brag when I say this, but I’ve had the privilege of raising pretty incredible kids. I had a lot of help, though.

I was trained well by good parents, to begin with. I knew what being a good parent looked like. Even in my parent’s failures, I knew, because I also had a lot of adult-aged friends. They talked to me about stuff I never would have learned from my own mom.

I also had amazing grandparents and aunts. As the oldest girl in my family, and a pretty reflective and thoughtful kid, I wanted to understand things. I was the kid who hung out with the adults when the other kids were off playing. I knew they knew stuff…and I wanted to know stuff.

I’ve also been coached by therapists throughout my children’s teen years. These skills have been essential…not extra. Before that time, I read a lot of parenting books as well as took child development classes and psychology classes. When I took the classes, I had no idea as to how much I would need them someday.

Funny how we just know things. Funny how the universe guides us to people who can teach us and provides us with opportunities to stretch and grow.

Before I had my own kids, I had plenty of time with other people’s kids. I didn’t really have a childhood. I helped raise my siblings, then moved on to college for a few years, then on to a nanny job. By the time I had my own kids, I didn’t wonder about the “how” around raising kids. It was no mystery. However, I didn’t know what it felt like to love like that until they appeared.
Everything mattered more, far more than with my siblings and the kids I babysat and nannied. Everything I knew and didn’t know mattered.

However, I’ve decided that most of good parenting comes from a place where we haven’t decided everything. If we are still open and curious about how things should go, but NOT fudging on what we want as results, we will get further…faster.

And the results that I wanted were these:

  • I wanted unconditional love. It wasn’t a love I felt from my parents a child, necessarily. I did know it from my grandparents, though. There was no doubt in my mind that I wanted my children to love each other with a fierce and deep love. No questions asked.
  • I wanted loyalty. I wanted them to know each other well enough to defend each other, stand up for each other and correct each other, especially when they would beat themselves up. We all know those years in a kids’ life where we cannot ever, no matter what, do anything well enough, right? I wanted my kids to defend themselves against themselves. I wanted them to call each other out for being mean to themselves, in other words.
  • I wanted peace. I could not endure the name-calling that I experienced as a child. I would not endure that as an adult. And I didn’t have to. I wanted a home without fighting. The kids had their moments, but most of the strife originated in their father’s and my relationship, sadly. I was lucky, however, that he was absent for most of their lives. It was just me and them.
  • I wanted hard work and fun to be a part of regular life. Their studies were hard work, but we had a lot of fun doing it. Projects, messes, poetry recitations, sumo-wrestling matches, and ancient Greek Olympic games were all part of every day for us.


The memories we have can create can be so powerful.

Often, when I talk with moms about their teenagers I feel discouraged. So often they have already dismissed them. They resent their kids and their kids resent them. For good reason, frankly. They have already decided everything about each other. And there is no room for grace, for questioning, for compassion. It makes me very sad.

When I ask a mom questions, she usually goes into defensive mode, “Well, you should have seen what happened when I took her phone away because of her F in Math! She threw a fit like a two-year-old!”

Of course, her daughter freaked out. You (mom) were likely yelling at her. You weren’t listening because you had already decided. Ask more questions. Assume less.

I also notice that parents are not thorough about explaining the consequences. Then, when their child gets does something they shouldn’t, the child is surprised and confused as to what just happened. Keeping the drama low means keeping the communication high. Drama creates more drama. Like creates like, right?

Children cannot be held as responsible for their emotions as much as their parents should be. I see some parents doing this well. But, more often than not, I see parents being as reactive and angry as their teenagers.

I don’t have a cure except this:

Put your pride and ego in your pocket. Remember that this child was your choice. They didn’t ask to be born, you know?

Set reasonable boundaries. Don’t yell at them. Keep the consequences for bad behavior logical. Keep the drama low on your side. Do your best and build a culture of apologizing for failure.

If your children are used to hearing you say “sorry” as they grow up, then it will be easier for them to say the same to you when they screw up.

Take a breather…do good self-care…love yourself first. Loving them will come easier then, even if they are teenagers.


This post was previously published on medium.com.


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