What 30 Years of Parenting Has Taught Me

As I turn the 38 today, I realize I have been a parent for most of those years. Growing up I had two brothers, Daniel was two years younger than me. And my brother Chris was almost eight years younger than me. Since I grew up with parents who had mental health and substance abuse issues, then I practically raised both my brothers. I taught them how to read, write, ride a bike, and even tie their own shoes. When people picked on them at school, I was the one who stepped in and fought their bullies. After we got home from school, I am the one who cooked their dinners, made sure they were bathed and tucked them in at night. When my brother Chris was born, I was ecstatic. Because to an eight year old, it is like having your very own real life baby doll. I don't know why, I guess they just didn't care. But they left my newborn brother with me to take care of. As an eight year old, it was terrifying. What if I hurt him, I thought. What if I am not doing this right. But like instinct almost, I knew exactly what to do. I fed him, burped him, and changed his diapers. I rocked him to sleep and took care of him when he was sick. And miraculously, he survived. However, an eight year old raising an infant, isn't going to produce the most favorable parenting results. Both my brothers were fire starters and Chris had violent tendencies at a very young age. I once went out to check on my dog's new set of puppies, to find them all dead, with rubber bands around their necks. He would take knives to school. And was constantly getting in trouble. However, I still tried to handle things as best I could. I remember having meetings with his teachers because my parents could never be there. And I am sure they knew that things were off. We were almost put into foster homes many times.

On one occasion, my parents had changed our schools, and our bus stop was in another county. We waited at this store for my mother to pick us up, but she never showed. For hours we set there and nothing. Since it was getting dark, I decided to walk home. As we walked, it started to rain. My brother Chris, who was in Kindergarten, cried the whole time and tired very quickly. I ended up having to carry him most the way. It was a ten mile hike. I think it was around 2 A.M. when we got home, and it rained most the way. I remember a van of guys tried to stop and get us into their car, with beers in their hand, and I declined. Because I always had very good common sense, from very young. I see missing kids today and I think back to my own childhood, were many times, that could have been me.

When my mom finally came in from her drug binge at 4 AM, all she cared about was were my drunken father was. She didn't care we walked. She didn't care we almost got abducted. She only cared about herself. And my father. My father was abusive, we literally got cussed and beat every day of our lives. Most of the time I took the beatings, to prevent my mom and brothers from receiving them. I would always step in. My dad would wait until the most vulnerable times, when I was in the shower, to step in with a belt and beat me. He put cigarettes to my eyes, and caused me fractures many times. But I always kept it to myself, because I knew that foster homes would be even worse. My mother was raped at 15 and my father was responsible for killing the men responsible. He always told us these horrific stories growing up and his go to line was "I brought you into this world and I can take you out." He also told us many times, "He wanted my mom, not us." He also told me many times I was worthless and would never amount to anything except maybe a stripper. Not words of encouragement that most parents tell their children. However, no matter how much I was beat down, I was motivated to do great things and get myself out of this situation one day. And all I ever wanted was my parents to be proud of me. Most nights I didn't get sleep, cause it was always fights and chaos between my drunken, drugged out parents. But I still managed to make straight A's and do well in school. I even signed up for football and was the only girl to play on the team. Just because someone said "girls can't play football."

I wanted to be a role model for my brothers. To show them that even if we grew up in this poor, terrible environment that we could still be better than that. My brother went on to play football following my debut, and I believe that was a huge part of his own life. I never really got through to my younger brother. He went on to struggle with mental health issues, drugs, and jail the rest of his life.

When I got pregnant at 17 with my son, I automatically knew I had to be the best version of myself. That no matter how much pain I carried with me and what I endured, that there was no excuse. I went on to college while pregnant, I had toxemia and was told to stay in bed, but I couldn't. I had to work. I had to finish my degree. I had a child coming and he was going to have a better life. I became pregnant with my daughter not long after, they are only fifteen months apart. Over the course of their lives, I received five degrees, worked for the Senator of Alabama, launched campaigns for billion dollar companies and started BioGamer Girl. I dabbled in the entertainment industry with films, games and shows--all the while-- raising two kids, working 80 hour mental health jobs and remodeling a dilapidated farm house that I bought. While I pushed myself to give them more than I ever had, I pushed too hard, and ended up having a stroke. At 27 I was diagnosed with a rare genetic blood disease, but not until I had already had a heart attack and stroke from three clots on my brain. I was in so much pain that I wished for death. Because for months I went undiagnosed, told my doctors it was just migraines. But even when I went blind and could barely lift my arm, I was still cleaning my house, trying to do my college classes, work and take care of my children. Nothing was going to stop me. Not even death.

Around that same time, I also was in a fatal stabbing incident. Where my stepfather tried to kill my mother, myself and my brother. I remember lying on the ground, the life draining out of me, and I prayed to god. Please don't let this be the end. My children need me. Please god. I beg you. My step dad tried to finish me off, but my brother attacked him right before he tried to stab me in the chest as I laid dying on the ground. And I will always appreciate that. He did in fact save my life. However, all of this trauma, caused me to develop PTSD. And over the years, the only way I could deal was to cut ties with this horrible life and that of the people in it. And it worked, I was able to achieve my dreams and give the kids the life I wanted for them. Both my parents died in my 20s, and even though they caused me great pain, I often yearn for that connection for my children. To be able to take my kids to their grandparents on holidays and have someone to reach out to for advice. But we aren't all granted that in life, and you have to just make do with what you do have. Since I didn't have family, I turned to friends to become that family. I still miss that aspect in my life. To this day, I do not have anything to do with people like that. And in turn, my kids have made better decisions in their lives as well. If your children don't motivate you to be the best person you can, and if you don't cherish the family you have, then I have no use for those kind of people. And only truly selfish people can't see that for themselves and appreciate it.

Today both of my children are in college. My son is in college and hopes to go into the world of computers and my daughter is in New York. She aspires to follow in my footsteps of game marketing and developing her own video game studio one day. Both my children are beyond talented and smart. They were in every club in school, made straight As and always made me proud. My daughter finished high school early at 16 and went on to take entrance exams to college. She worked fifty hour weeks and was constantly motivated to be better. She has big dreams and I believe my example as a parent led to that.

One of the main things I have learned from almost thirty years of parenting--LEAD BY EXAMPLE. If you want your children to be good people, you in turn have to be a good person. If you want your children to aspire to big things, you in turn have to aspire to big things. Children mimic the actions they see around them. And when your child does wrong, you have to tell them. You aren't there to be your child's friend, you are the parent, and there to be a mentor and guide. Also, you don't use your children as a bartering chip. I see a lot of millennials these days having children, and then use them to hold their family members hostage to get things they want for themselves. If you are an adult, you have to act like an adult. Your family is there for love and support, not as your personal bank. Your children should motivate you to be better people not as poker chips in the game of life.

In the end being a parent is hard. There is no right way. There is no perfect way. There are indeed wrong ways. But as long as you try your very best, then your children will realize that when they are themselves adults. If your children turn out to be awful people, while in part it may be the parent's fault, that mostly falls on the child. Everyone has choices in life. And your choices and actions are what define the person you become.
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