I’ve been dealing with this exact stress over the past few months with my teenager. I worry that he has no motivation to go to school. That all he wants to do is sleep half the day then play computer games the other half. Granted he had a tough school experience, and I am constantly trying to find solutions that work for him, with lots of errors over the last 9 years. Every time I think I’ve found something that works, another ball gets dropped, or something changes.
Last month he did not attend school a single day, and I was planning on pulling him out to do distance learning. And I involved him in the process, and meetings with school, because I want him to have input over what he does, even when I think I know better. He deserves to be heard.
But while discussing the school issues, and my fears for his future if we can’t find something that works, I was asked to do an exercise in defining failure and success. So I started listing all the things failure meant to me. I wrote about who defines failure for me, in case it wasn’t my definition. Then I wrote about what parenting failure would look like for my son. After writing down all my fears, like him living in my basement at 40 still playing computer games and having no job, I was supposed to write about what success for him looks like, and what success for me as a parent looks like.
I realized something, a very huge a-ha moment. The ways that I define parenting success - like being supportive of my kids in everything they do, being present and mindful, and regulating my emotions and self care, are all things I am doing regularly. It’s about being there for them, listening, nurturing, finding alternatives when they don’t fit the box. My definition of success as a parent is already in motion. I’m living it. And all the ideas of failure? None of them have to do with what I am doing as a parent, but the outcomes, the behaviour, the future of my kids. I don’t even have control over those things!!
My biggest insight here, that I want to share, is to really think about what “failure” as a parent means. Think about it, write it down, do a little digging. And write out your definition of what it means to be a successful parent. Is it about doing ALL THE THINGS? Or is it about being playful, loving, supportive? What do you want to be as a parent?
You are not a failure. Your kids, special needs or not, will develop on their own timeline, and they probably won’t end up where you think they might. But your success isn’t defined by that. It’s only based on YOUR actions, YOUR definition of what successful parenting means.