I got an email last night, a note from a friend about my last post.
She reminded me of something, the idea that was central to all my parenting decisions before the crises of recent years distracted me.
That idea was this: my children are not mine. They do not belong to me; I don’t get to mold them. They are themselves, whole people, born to God’s purpose, not mine.
Why did I have children? Was it so that I would have companionship? So that I would have friends?
No. I had children for the love of them. For love. And in that, I have succeeded completely, because I am filled to over-flowing with love for my children.
By that measure, I am a slam-dunk, unmitigated, absolute success as a mother. (That’s actually a little silly to say because I don’t think that most things can be categorized that way, and especially not parenting. We are not successes or failures; we are complex people and we can’t divide ourselves into two discrete groups. Also, parents who love their children still sometimes do horrifying things to them, so it’s not like it’s a real measure of parental success. In spite of all of that, I’m going to leave that sentence there and assume that you know what I mean.)
My friend’s email reminded me that I can be OK no matter what; whether Jacob or Abbie chooses to to return to a fuller relationship with me or not, I can be OK.
I can heal.
Not to say that having the limited relationships that I have with them now is what I want; not to say that the thought doesn’t burn through me like a flaming dagger. It does.
No, really, it hurts. I have the ibuprofen on board, but my head is still pounding; the bottle of Tums is open next to me. I have a cool washcloth for my swollen face because the looking-at-this, the facing-what-is…it hurts.
My kids are hurt and angry, and I am the focus of those difficult feelings. There is nothing about that to like; nothing comforting, lovely, or poetic in it. I wrap these words around it, try to make sense of it, but in reality? No words can touch the blazing ball of agony that lives behind my sternum.
No happy relationship was ever created via hostage-taking. I decided long, long ago that I will only participate in freely-chosen relationships. I won’t force or be forced. I made that decision on the heels of a painful break-up; I knew that if I begged him, he would stay. I also knew that acquiescence to coercion is not love.
What i didn’t anticipate when I made that decision was that someday, I would apply it to my relationship with my children.
Because that’s different, isn’t it? Most of us know that we can’t control our parents, friends, spouses, siblings, and co-workers. But our children – we’re responsible for them! We chose them, we pour our love and devotion and hope into them. Still, they are themselves.
Jacob, creative and kind.
Abbie, fierce and generous.
They might not come back to me. What we have going on over here is far beyond ordinary teenager angst, and healing from our wounds might not include coming back to each other in the ways I would have hoped. I won’t give up on that; I’ll never give up on the closeness I expected we would share when they reached adulthood.
I’m just going to learn not to expect it anymore.
Now, I begin the process of letting go of my regret and my expectations and enjoy the time I have with them now. They are my children, and I love them. Whatever happens, I love them.
Hey, have y’all heard about Band Back Together? You need to git yer ass on over there, and in a hurry!
We all have challenges, right? Whatever those challenges are, we need support to survive. So some bloggers, led by Aunt Becky of Mommy Wants Vodka, got together and created a group blog, a place where we can share our stories of pain and survival. Head on over and share some love with the people who have already posted stories and if you have a tale to tell you can do that, too.
My favorite part is this: the site is 100% moderated. All the posts and all the comments are reviewed by one of your friendly neighborhood editors – maybe even me! That means that you are safe; no trolls, no snark, no judgment, because we are standing between you and all that is evil on the internet. You can post anonymously or use your name; your choice. Whatever you need to do to feel safe and supported, do that.
I’m in awe of the brave and beautiful stories that people have already shared and very proud of helping to create a place where that can happen.