Truth be told, most moms feel inadequate. It may not seem that way at first blush, but let me tell you that it is the truth. I know this as both a psychologist and as a friend who has listened to countless stories about what is really going on with teens and their parents. We were recently subjected to TIME magazine's article "Are You Mom Enough?" Last year, we were scolded by adherents to the "Tiger Mother" method of tough love. Now, the French are writing about how they expect more from their kids than Americans do. So, what are we to do, other than acknowledge our feelings of inadequacy and hide under our blankets? I'll tell you what we do. We lie and we omit. Not necessarily big time lies, but lies that make us feel like both we and our kids are measuring up.
Let me give you some examples of 5 of the most common lies we tell about our teens:
1. My daughter is a very good student. Yes, that may be the case, but did you fail to mention that she was on the verge on failing math, that you hired a high-priced tutor and that you nearly destroyed your relationship with your daughter while you argued about how much she should study?
2. My son has always been a gem. He's such an easy kid. Really? Then why did you take him to a psychologist at age 5 because you couldn't deal with his activity level? It's because you thought that someone would get hurt if you didn't nip this problem in the bud, right?
3. Thank you, you say, to another parent who tells you what a good student and athlete your child is. You didn't tell her that your son has overwhelming performance anxiety and is a perfectionist now, did you? That you can't get him to go to bed until 1 a.m. and that he is constantly exhausted, did you? You probably didn't divulge that he won't take driving lessons because the idea of being behind the wheel makes him panic, either.
4. How is your child's relationship with your ex, you are asked? Oh, it's very good. Everyone gets along so well. I really think that we are doing this co-parenting very well. Really? Then, why do you practically have to beg your daughter to go see her father on the agreed-upon days? And, you've bribed her too; have you not?
5. Do your own parents help you? Your kids must love seeing their grandparents. You are so lucky to have such nice parents living nearby. Yes, you nod politely. It is truly a blessing to have my parents nearby. Then do tell, why do you get knots in your stomach when you feel like your own parents are undermining your parenting style? Why do you wish that they, too, would become snowbirds and move to Florida?
What an easier time we would have if we felt we had permission to be real with ourselves and each other.