I said it.
I said it about my kids when they were babies.
I said it confidently when they were toddlers.
I said it boldly when they started preschool and then elementary school.
I said it with conviction when they went to middle school.
And then I boldly, shamelessly (and stupidly) said it when they went to high school.
I said the one sentence you should never say as a parent: My kid would never do that.
You see, I said it a lot because I just didn’t know any better. Or maybe I thought I knew better because life (and my children’s lack of judgment) hadn’t slapped me across the face yet, and I truly never thought it would. I mean, I’m a great mom, and great moms don’t raise kids who do stupid things. They don’t raise kids who do bad things. Ridiculous things. Things that have your face turning scarlet red whilst screaming, “What on God’s green earth were you thinking?!” kind of things. They just don’t. Great moms and dads only raise great, perfect, shame-free kids.
Which is why I said that one sentence to myself and others all the damn time without even the slightest bit of hesitation.
Then life actually did slap me across the face. I was humbled. And horrified, embarrassed, ashamed — my self-worth as a mother put to the test — I found myself regretting that I ever spoke the words.
Oh, but I had said it so many times, and it felt so good to say it. Until it didn’t.
And now I know to never, ever again utter the sentence: My kid would never do that.
I’m talking to you, moms and dads of a perfect straight-A honor roll student.
It’s ever so easy to sit back and witness life from your shielded sidelines, thinking your family and your children are immune to the temptations and desires that plague the rest of us. It’s easy to gingerly pat the top of your child’s head while you’re gossiping over what little Johnny did at school today and nonchalantly slip up and say, “My kid would never do that.”
It’s easy to ignorantly assume that the way you’re raising your kids makes them safe from reckless decision-making, garden-variety peer pressure, and other less than honorable behaviors, but let me be the first to tell you that is a load of total bullshit. Kids will be kids will be kids, and no, that is not a weak-ass excuse for bad behavior. That is how we are able to explain free will coupled with underdeveloped brain functionality. In simple terms, kids aren’t capable of making adult-like decisions because they are kids.
Heck, most adults are incapable of making rational decisions, but we expect our children to always be able to?
You just may be the odd mom out and have been lucky enough to raise the perfect baby, toddler, child, teenager, and young adult. But if you’re like the rest of us struggling to be the best parents we can be, only to find ourselves staring into the eyes of a dumbfounded teenager while gasping for air and screaming, “You did what!?” then welcome to the club. Sit down, have some wine, and let me be the first to tell you this too shall pass, and I’d be more worried if I had raised a kid who never fucked up royally, than raising one who’s been knocked on his own ass more than once from the unforeseen consequences of his actions.
Be comforted in knowing that some of the best life lessons usually come right after some of life’s biggest mistakes and failures. Also remind yourself that even the very best, brightest, exquisitely polite, and well-behaved kids will eventually do something you never in a million years thought they would ever do, and for the most part, it has very little to do with your parenting.
If you’re reading this and nodding along because you’ve learned your lesson already, and have taken “My kid would never do that” completely out of your vernacular, do me a favor and don’t hide it. Be open with other parents about the real struggles we all eventually go through, and stop trying to put on the fake face of “we have the perfect family.”
Start a dialogue with your mom friends, especially those who have yet to face the challenging adolescent years, about how when we don’t allow our kids to epically fail, we have lost the chance for them to epically come back from defeat.
Remind those moms who think it could never happen to them — the teen rebellion years, the risky behavior, the falling grades — that it most certainly could happen to them.
Insist that as a community of parents we withhold judgment on those families we know are going through tough times with their kids, and offer support and understanding rather than standing in the corner hissing, “My kid would never do that.”
Because realistically, all of us are one second away from one misguided decision by our child that automatically turns us into that family with that kid. And that family and that kid? They are just as deserving as us to have help, healing, and love. So instead of spewing out, “Not my kid,” how about instead you say, “That could easily have been my kid. Now what can I do to help?”