“You’re not good enough.”
Parents of teenagers all over the world are reminded of this on a daily basis.
When my girls first come back from being with their dad they are their most critical. This is when they are most likely to remind me of my faults and failures. I don’t think it’s because of anything he necessarily says about me – although that does happen. I think instead it’s the differences they see between their father and me. They love both of us but we are two very different people.
Of course, they do not limit their criticism to just these times.
In the end, it’s part of being a teenager. It is a teen’s job to pull away from their parents. Finding fault with them validates their need to be independent.
I know this. Sitting here I can say that it’s okay that my kids criticize me, that they find fault even with things I’ve done specifically for them.
But in the moment, as it’s happening, it hurts. Of course it does…
This is difficult for anyone. Well, I suppose most anyone. There may be a few of those super parents out there who carry a shield, who wield a sword made of just the right things to do and say. I have no such sword, no shield. My armor is rusty and dented, found used on the side of the road.
Although my self-esteem is much improved I’m still sensitive to criticism – more than I should be – from anyone. All too easily my doubts creep back. The girls might say, “We’ve had pasta 3 times this week” after I’ve planned a meal for their first night back from their dad’s. It was a sure winner – unless that’s what they’ve been eating all week.
I don’t hear their words though. I hear, “You’re not good enough.”
I could have picked anything and the result would have been similar. Chicken? “I don’t like chicken anymore.” Steak? “Yours isn’t as good as dad’s.” Tacos? “Why can’t you make something different?”
It’s never good enough. I’m not good enough.
Usually after they’ve been with me for a day or so the criticism slows down. It doesn’t necessarily go away – after all they’re still teenagers – but it gets better.
And then I realize….I am good enough. I’m not perfect – no one is – but I’m a good mother, and a good person, and I’m doing the best I can on my own. Hopefully when they’re grown they’ll realize it wasn’t easy for me to do all I do. I think they will but it’s hard to tell what memories will carry forward (I never make anything they like for dinner) and which don’t (we have their friends over almost every weekend – it’s like girl scout camp at my house).
But I’m doing the best I can and that’s good enough for me.