By Veronica Correa, LCSW-C

Someone said: “Being a mother is a tough job and it’s not for wimps.” They were not kidding!

I have been a mother for 40+ years and I can say from firsthand experience that raising them was my toughest job. At the same time, it was, and still is, the most rewarding and beautiful job I have ever had.

As I review my parenting role through the lenses of old age, with more knowledge and experience, I realize that I could have done a better job. I would love the opportunity to do it again with more wisdom. I had no training for motherhood or parenting. No one does. When I learned the phrase: “I did the best I could with what I knew and what I had at the moment,” I had an easier time forgiving myself for the things I wish I had done better as a parent.

As a new mom, at first everything was easy, my first two children did everything I asked them, and didn’t question my guidance or authority. When my third child was born, he was sweet, quiet, and determined. From an early age, he believed the rules did not apply to him and my previous parenting approach did not work with him. I found myself using a totally different approach.

By the age of two he was not afraid of anything. He jumped into a pool on top of his brother, busted his lip open and needed stitches inside and outside his lower lip. When we brought him back home that same day after the visit to the emergency room, he was ready to jump in the pool again.

He taught me how to negotiate. I found myself negotiating with a two-year-old at home, at the grocery store and in the car (he did not want to wear a seat belt). I discovered something beautiful. If I took the time to negotiate with him, he always held up his end of the deal. One of our negotiations was if I did not put a seat belt around his waist when he was in the cart while shopping for groceries he would not stand up in the cart and would not put things in the cart that I was not buying. He did not like restrictions placed upon him, but he honored agreements over rules. After discovering this approach worked for both of us, parenting him became easier. He is now 36-years-old with a clear vision of who he is and where he is going in life, and we enjoy a beautiful relationship.

In the midst of our struggles as parents when our children were teenagers, my husband would ask me: “How many more times do we have to repeat ourselves? I would say: “I don’t know I have never done this job before.” And we kept going.

My children helped me overcome my greatest fear which was to lose one of them. My daughter who graduated from college with a degree in philosophy wanted to experience the world and was ready to make a difference. She announced that she wanted to go to a struggling part of Africa after graduation. Her brother said to her: “Why do you want to go there? They are killing people in that part of the world.”

Panic set in and I said to her: “You can’t do that.” Her response to me was: “Mom, if I die you will have to get over it.”

She has always been determined in doing what she wants. I took a deep breath and I realized that she was right and I began a journey to heal my greatest fear. Eventually she changed her plans, went to law school and now makes a difference every day in victim’s lives as an assistant state’s attorney. A few days ago she said to me: “Mom, I was born to do this.”

When my oldest child was little, life was simple and then he became a teenager, and he pushed every rule to see how far he could go. One day he said to me: “I am tired of being good.” His teen years were challenging. I spent a lot of time in school picking him up from suspension. One day it dawned on me that I was done with having to do that and I said to him: “If I have to come one more time to your high school to get you from suspension from Mr. S’s classroom your driver’s license will become confetti.” It worked like magic.

I never had to go back to retrieve him from Mr. S’s classroom. Mr. S loved him, and while my son had had excellent grades in his class, he also would not stop talking in class with his friends. He graduated from high school and college with excellent grades and went on to become a CFO running multiple businesses and now I chuckle because I see him doing that tough parenting job.

As he was growing up, we spent hours upon hours sitting at the kitchen table talking about what he did or did not do, clarifying expectations, problem solving, giving “I messages,” discussing relationships, habits, values, rules, communication, respect, ownership, and the list goes on and on.

Today he applies what he learned at the kitchen table with the people he leads. On occasion, I have said to my son, “I am sorry you spent about 75 percent of your free time as a teenager grounded.” His response was: “No worries Mom, if you had not done that I may have ended up in jail.” People around him recognize that he has superb people skills. His training started very early in life.

As a mother I was very consequential with my word. My children knew that what I said would be upheld and that built trust in our relationship. We spent many hours reviewing what we could have done better and how we could improve moving forward. I saw my responsibility as a parent to turn back into society three responsible and contributing citizens and I believe I have done it.

Veronica Correa, LCSW-C, is a licensed clinical social worker, certified hypnotherapist and life coach. To learn more about her work visit: www.thepersonalwellnesscenter. com or call 410-742-6016