People who equate truth with fact are missing the point.

More a Family Without Me

If you’re new here, you’ll want to read Pain Runs Through My Veins first or this post won’t make any sense.

I took Jacob and Abbie shopping for shoes.

The stew of emotions I feel when I’m with them? Intense. Complex, like so:


Which makes me tired, but they are also having their own intense and complex feelings, so we bounce on each other like billiard balls, me against them, them against me, all of us rattling.

What is acutely obvious, though? Is that they are family with each other in the easy, comfortable way that they used to be family with me.

Yeah, that hurts.

Because I miss them. Oh, I miss them so much, so when we’re together and everything is stilted and awkward?  My heart hurts.

The more they refuse to talk, the more they act like the sullen teenagers that they are, the more I act like an asshole, trying to recapture the relationships we had a decade ago.

I tease and tickle and tell stupid jokes, try to resurrect old games, and they are usually dizzy with repetitive eye-rolling before I catch myself.

What can I say? My panic that they will never come back to me makes me slow and stupid, like I’m trying to think through half-frozen molasses.

After I was finished pretending that my children were the children they used to be and I was the mom I used to be, we had a lovely time. We drank lemonade; we bought shoes; they even talked a little bit.

Parenting is like a game of push-me-pull-you. When they were brand new, I was always excited to see what they would do next – roll, crawl, talk, walk – and simultaneously dreading the next stage because that would mean that this stage (whichever one we were in at the time) would be over.

That’s why most parents cry on the first day of kindergarten; the simultaneous feelings of bursting-with-pride and grieving for the baby-that-was is too much and it spills over, even for the most unsentimental among us.

I want to be with Jacob and Abbie. I crave, desire, yearn for their presence when they are not here.

And yet? Being with them is very difficult. There are so many feelings bubbling just beneath the surface. Their anger pushes against my guilt. Their pain rubs my anger. My pain triggers their guilt. Resentments express themselves in a thousand unavoidable ways.

I want them to come home to me.

But life is simpler the way it is now.

I love to see that they know what they need and have found a way to get that.

But I hate that what they need is not me, or not me very much.

Do I contradict myself? Very well, then I contradict myself, I am large, I contain multitudes.*

When I dropped them off at their dad’s house after we were done shopping, I cried. Not from the sadness, or from the relief, or from the guilt about the relief.

I cried because the collision of all of those feelings was thunderous. Overwhelming. It spilled over.

*          *          *

Hey, when you’re done here, come on over to Nichole’s place and read my guest post! I wrote for her lovely Small Moments Mondays series. Sometimes, I force a small moment because really, around here? I can’t always wait for something to happen to brighten my mood. And I’m kind of a bulldozer by nature anyway.

Sigh. Yes, I know you’re not surprised to hear that I’m a bulldozer. Go read it anyway!

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30 comments to More a Family Without Me

  • Adrienne, I just read your previous post and this one. Powerful writing, powerful feelings, powerful/powerless situation. I can’t imagine. I’d like to be able to send you strength and power. But I think you have lots of that all on your own. Love to you. Marian

    • Thank you. Writing it down? Very powerful. More healing than I could have imagined. It took me a year of blogging before I started to write about Jacob and Abbie (they have given permission), and I’m so glad I did. It helps.

      • I wondered about that, about Jacob and Abbie and knowledge/permission. Do they read it? Maybe that helps, too?

        • They don’t read it. I offer, but while they refuse, the continually give permission to keep writing. I suspect (hope) they are at least a little flattered that I want to write about them.

          I sometimes wonder if my daughter DOES read, but doesn’t tell me because she doesn’t want to discuss it. And that is OK. More than OK.

          I’ll be posting something very soon about choosing what to write because I’ve gotten some…ahem…unpleasant emails lately. So more on this topic soon.

  • My heart breaks for you. I wish I had words that would fix things.

    I don’t.

    You’re in my thoughts though and I will never stop hoping for healing for you and your family.

    There’s always hope.

  • Ashley (@theatomicmommy)

    It is because of things like this that you have become one of my very favorite bloggers.

    Can you teach me how to write so beautifully?

  • This post makes me so sad. I just can’t imagine the colliding of emotions that you go through each and every time you see them.

  • i don’t mean to say my situation was anything like yours with jacob & abbie, but my mama & i went through about a decade in which i was awful & she was mean. it took too long, but she’s my favorite person now. the easiest person to be with, to share looks & jokes & mundanities. i hope it comes to you.


  • kae

    i hate that feeling
    i am displaced in the family i come from
    i was the kid my dad already had
    they are the family he really has now
    they do things without me
    sometimes they just don’t include me
    they have what i always wanted
    what i am trying so hard to have now

    and it hurts
    it hurts to see a family
    that i should belong in
    yet don’t belong

    my heart hurts with yours

    • I hate to be left out. I feel like the little girl I once was, out on the playground, no one to play with. I hate when I don’t get the jokes. I hate to be on the outside.

      With my own family? So much more.

      Yes, it hurts. So much.

      Thank you, my friend, for sharing with me.

  • Yes, you do contain multitudes.

    And mostly when I cry, it is just because there are too many things I am feeling and they *pound* and I have no recourse but to cry.

    I am honored to be one to bear witness to your pain, and I am trying to take a little piece of it away. I can bear a little piece of it for you, and then maybe you can carry a little less.

    • Yes, things aren’t simple, nor are they rational! And yes, the pounding, like the tide is trying to go out and come in at the same time and KABOOM!

      And thank you, thank you for bearing witness and for sharing some of this. Every time I lay it down in words? It loosens a little somehow. I have no idea HOW. I don’t guess I care. It just does. That’s some excellent magic right there.

  • Wow. I’m so impressed I don’t know what to say right now. I see we have a great deal in common. I subscribed, so I can read more. Maybe after I get rid of this headache, I can respond a bit more intelligently. I just wanted you to know how much I dig your writing and the style of your blog…and most of all, your message. 🙂

  • Superkitty

    I feel much the same way about my family, who I left 6000 miles away when I moved to Los Angeles. I miss them so much, but when I see them, it’s all too much. I usually end up having to be medicated for anxiety because the emotional overload is way too heavy for me to handle. 🙁 If that’s how I feel about my family, I can’t imagine how much guilt comes with feeling that way about your kids.

    The good news is that these in between years won’t define your relationship with them forever. My father and I had a very combative and emotionally disconnected relationship from me being 10-20, so a decade of no respect for each other, a lot of me feeling let down, angry and resentful. It was really deeply rooted and infected all of our interactions, and now.. it’s over 10 years later, and I understand why my father did some of the things he did and I’ve forgiven most of it. I don’t think his behavior was right or okay, but I know that he was just doing what we all do – managing the best he could with the parenting examples he’d been given. These days, we’re much closer and have a pretty healthy relationship. 🙂 I have to believe that you and the kids will get over this. *gianthugs*

    • Thank you. Yes, in my brighter moments I know that the way our relationship is NOW doesn’t have to be the way it will be forever. It’s kind of hard to imagine getting to a place where we don’t bang up against each other the way we do now, but on the other hand, it’s much better now than it was a year ago.

      Sigh. Powerlessness is a bitch.

  • first, i love you and your amercian poet knowledge…and yes, I pat myself on the back for knowing the references without having to click your * woot!

    secondly? I just can’t imagine what you are going through. I just can’t. I’ve heard MANY a teenager’s side of these sorts of stories, but never the mom’s side. It all seems to make sense from the kid’s point of view, but until becoming a mom? I never thought about it from this side.

    I want to hug you. I want to have coffee with you, and just hug you. And I hate hugging. So there.

    • Yeah, like I said in the first post about J&A that I wrote? I never would have imagined that a non-custodial mom could be anything but a very, very bad mom. Drug addicted or violent or something terrible. Not a happy lesson to learn.

      Humans are so damn complicated!

  • I hear you. I really hear you, and I can not imagine the pain you’re feeling. I’ll ask one thing of you, though: don’t ever think that they don’t need you, or even that they don’t need very much of you. They DO. Trust me. It’s just that they need you a different way than you want or expect. They might not even know how it is that they need you right now, but never, ever believe that they don’t need you just as much now as they always did. Reading this part of your story always reminds me of my own relationship with my mother (which is currently, well, nonexistent). What I wish she somehow understood is that I do need her. A lot. But I need her to understand that things are different, and we need to redefine our relationship somehow–and that we need to work together to figure out what that new definition is going to look like.

    Jacob and Abbie need you. I promise.

    • Sigh. Thank you. I wish someone would hand me a step-by-step map, you know? I’d do absolutely anything in my power to be the mother they need (Well, that’s a complicated thing to say, isn’t it? Because sometimes what they need conflicts with what Carter needs…again, sigh.), but I don’t know what that is.

      I text and call them; they rarely respond. I keep doing it on the assumption that they need to know that I’m thinking of them even though they don’t want to acknowledge that.

      Like I said, patience is not my forte!

      And thank you. I think that maybe they don’t know HOW they need me anymore than I do, so we’re feeling our way.

  • Thunderous emotional collisions?

    Yeah, I get that.

    And impatience?

    Get that.


    Want to snuggle?

  • Eliot? Whitman?


    But seriously, I know that the day will come when Jacob and Abbie look at you and know that they love you in that old way. And they’ll know that you’ve always loved them.

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