A Few Things I Had to Tell My Kids…

Women.shameI’d been wanting to write a letter to my kids for the last two years or so. I guess the number one subject would be something that most parents deal with. I’m inclined to say every parent, but then I think of some whose kids outwardly appear to have it all together and the parent takes all of the credit. I’ve heard parents brag about how successful their kids were, followed by, “I raised them well,” or “I did everything right.” While those types of comments may make them look good or feel good, for me, they’re like a dagger. They hurt. What I hear is, “Since your kids had some rocky years, you must have screwed up somewhere.” And the pot of failure and guilt gets stirred all over again.

I can’t help but wonder what’s really gone on behind the scenes in those seemingly perfect homes. Had the child rearing years really taken place with an always warm and loving home atmosphere, sounds of love and laughter, sharing and caring, fun and games? Were the years of child rearing really filled with everyone having a good attitude, never any rebellion, anger, yelling or arguing, or no behavior issues? I’m doubtful that any perfect home exists, that any perfect parent or kid exists, but I’m not here today to argue that. My purpose is to be honest, to take responsibility for my actions whether good or bad, and to bring death to my own guilt and shame.

There, I said it and it wasn’t easy, especially in such a public way. Yes, I feel those things. Women.shame2If guilt and shame are present, then I’m also admitting that somewhere along the line, I think I screwed up. Some of you parents can relate. Whenever you spend years in condemnation, living under guilt and shame, no matter how hard you try, you can’t just blow it off. It doesn’t work that way.  So the purpose of my letter was to take some forward steps to address it.

Guilt and shame are cruel to those personally acquainted with them. They latch on to the person who has opened the door and invited them in to be a part of their everyday life. The longer they are allowed to stay, the more they infiltrate your being. At first they don’t seem quite so harmful. Sure they point out every flaw or fault they see, but you see them, as well. As a result, you deserve to be accused. Since you deserve it, you allow guilt and shame to continually bring attention to Pointing finger.shameyour faults. Their pointing fingers become poking fingers, prodding the same spots over and over again. Unless they’re stopped, they’re able to work their way deeper, growing roots that eventually infiltrate every area of your life. Your thoughts are affected. Your perception becomes clouded, even murky. Your reactions become altered. Negativity increases. Unhealthy comparisons of yourself to others become owned. False judgements become facts. Relationships become strained, often damaged. You feel rejected, misunderstood. Gratefulness decreases, bitterness sets in and joy is lost. And it can all start with something as small as one flaw, one failure, or one life altering date in your history, one tragedy, or victimization. Or maybe, it was much more, such as living under years of torture and abuse, something that was out of your control and due to no fault of your own.

Brick Wall.ShameGuilt and shame don’t appear to be all consuming monsters in the beginning. They sneak in, almost unseen. They start small, tiny even. Like a buried seed that grows a root and sprouts through the soil as a blade of grass, so they grow. With gentle, yet consistent pressure, that seemingly fragile blade is able to break through a concrete slab. That same constant pressure enables these harmful guests to infiltrate your life. That same pressure is all that guilt and shame need to hold you captive as their prisoner. They deal harshly with their captives, shouting constant accusations, constantly abusing those they enslave. They are enemies whose accusations cause addicts to stay addicts, alcoholics to stay alcoholics, undealt with pain to become full blown depression.

The only way to stop them is to first, identify them as an unwanted enemy, which isn’t easy. They like to deceive those they’ve lived with so they are allowed to stay. They remain hidden behind all of the wrong perceptions of their host. Exposing them often takes help from a wise counselor. It requires us to dig deep into the dirt, expose the roots and pull them up, not a trace left behind.

While I had exposed my roots to counselors or in support groups, it was time to expose Words of Shamethem to the people that mattered the most to me. You see, guilt and shame don’t go down once and for all when the carrier dies and is buried in the ground. Guilt and shame become hereditary, so to speak. If they have affected years of my own life, they have also effected years of my kids’ lives. I wanted to expose it, hoping to dig it up before it was passed any further in our family line.

You see, the roots of guilt and shame for me stem mostly from victimization at a young, impressionable age. I was a young teenager. I had big dreams. From as young as I can remember, I thought that growing up and being a mommy was the best possible thing I could ever achieve. I loved playing with my dolls, holding them, rocking them and caring for them as I would my own children one day. Being a wife and a mother was my big dream, what I longed for. I wrote my goals down at a young age even. The number one thing at the top of my list was to be the best wife and mother in the whole world. And that was the only thing that was on my list.

I started off pretty well as a kid. My parents loved me, took me to church and disciplined me when I needed it. I think I was a pretty good kid in those early years. There were a few minor events of teasing or being hurt by another kid in some way, pretty typical things for a lot of kids. Those events, even though minor, did cause a seed of shame to sprout in my life. Thus, began the hard work to make myself good enough, to gain approval, to be perfect. I set high standards for myself.

It was during the junior high years that one pivotal event had the most damaging impact on my life. I will just give you the nutshell version here.

A friend had started smoking and she offered me a cigarette to try. I accepted, wanting to please the friend. After school that day, I ducked into a wooded area along my paper route to try out the cigarette. Yes, back in the day we actually went house to house delivering hard copies of the news. I wasn’t aware that someone had been being watching me on my route, nor was I aware that this person had followed me into the woods. While I was smoking, I was approached by a male carrying a knife. With a knife pressed into my side, I became a victim of sexual assault. It wasn’t something that I had heard a lot of talk on at that point in my life. It just wasn’t talked about much and rarely was it reported. I went home crying and muddy, my paper route cards torn. I couldn’t tell my parents what had happened. I wrongly, thought that I was responsible. I was in a place I shouldn’t have been in, doing something I shouldn’t have been doing, therefore, I would be in trouble for the rape. When my mom questioned as to why I was so upset, I made up a story. I kept that event a secret for years, not understanding how to respond properly to what had occurred and not knowing how deeply it would affect me.

The bottom line is guilt and shame became deeply rooted, and yes, what followed for many years was a downward spiral of bad judgment and unhealthy behaviors. Guilt and shame from victimization can cause us to get ourselves into situations where we are repeatedly re-victimized or we live with a victim mentality. Therefore, my kids, too, were indirectly victimized.

My oldest two children had to live in the hell that I took them through. It’s no secret that there were two marriages and divorces, one to an addict and another to an alcoholic, one where I was abused and one where my kids were abused. Those marriages were each followed by the struggling single parent years. My children had to live with a mom who was always at work and when she was around, she was tired, sad, and moody, just totally overwhelmed with life.

Shame corrodesThere are times that I don’t remember. I think they were too painful. But there are enough painful times that come to the forefront of my mind every now and again, which I am truly ashamed of. Of course I’m ashamed of most of it, but I specifically had to apologize to my children for the things that they probably did remember. I said I was sorry, so sorry, but it still doesn’t feel like enough. How do you make amends for this stuff?

Remember? I just wanted to be the best mom and wife in the world and I had failed. It was hard living with such a failure that I felt that I was.

I married for the third time and had my two younger boys. Even though they didn’t remember much, they also lived with results from my life events. And then came the grandchildren. They’ve lived with results from my bad judgements from years ago. If left undealt with and unexposed, so would my great grandchildren to come, as well as the partners and spouses who have or will join us along the way. They would also be affected in some way.

There were years that I was not emotionally available. Instead of dealing with things that I needed help with, I kept myself occupied. Being busy distracted me from the issues I really needed to look at. It kept me from having to recognize problems. Trying to be perfect in outward things, like keeping my house clean, gave me the false sense that I was in control. It was the only thing I felt I could control, when I learned that life doesn’t play fair. Bad things do happen to everyone and there were times we were just trying to survive until we could get through the storms that raged around us. There were times when it seemed the storms would never end.

I had to apologize to my grandkids in my letter, as well. I’m so sorry that I’ve missed so much of their lives. Not that I had control over all the reasons as to why it’s been that way, mostly due to distance. I really wish I would have gotten the pleasure of being more involved. They’re all beautiful and make me very proud.

You know, parents aren’t given any instruction manuals when they take a baby home from the hospital. We don’t have our children for the purpose of seeing how bad we can screw up. We just do the best we know how, and at times, we just don’t know how. What we do isn’t always the best. Looking back over the years now, I’m sure there were things I would have done differently, had I known what I do now. Unfortunately, there isn’t any way to change the past. It’s all water under the bridge. What I could do was to confess my failure and say, I’m sorry. I promised to continue what I know to do to the best of my ability, and that’s what I’m doing now.

Shame QuoteIn writing them, I had to expect nothing from them. They could choose to not forgive me or not even acknowledge the letter. This is something I needed to do for myself. And yes, I’m making myself very vulnerable here by posting this. My blog is named what it is for a reason, because that’s how I want to live my life. Being real has to start at home.

Yes, I’m sure there will still be times I fail. You know I’m human, too.  There are a few things that I promised my kids that I would not fail at. I will not fail to pray for each of them by name, every day. I will not fail at believing in them, at loving them and wanting all the best for them. I will never give up hope for wonderful futures for all of them. I’ve entrusted their lives to God and I know that he will be faithful to complete every good work that he started in each of them. He promised that to me.

Counseling, support groups, the letter and this post are all steps I have taken to free freedommyself from the enemies that have caused such destruction. Guilt and shame are no longer welcome here. I choose to live in freedom to be the wife, the mom, the grandma, the great grandma, the mother in law…

Maybe someday, the best in the world…

 

The Second “J”

baby football playerProud mom here again to introduce you to the last, but certainly not least of my offspring.  Today I’m bragging about “JD”!  “JD” was my fourth born and yes, another baby over 9 lbs. delivered by C-section.  He had the most adorable round face with the kind of plump cheeks grandmas, aunts and complete strangers just had to kiss or squeeze.  It was the same with his short chubby legs.  When people would see him, the next remark after expressing how cute he was would almost certainly be something about his future career in football.

“JD” lived the sweet life as a baby, too, getting lots of attention from his oldest siblings.  Even his sixteen month old brother would entertain him by talking to him, making faces and giving him toys or a pacifier when he’d fuss.  He was a very happy baby and almost always smiled and laughed.  It’s funny how some memories can stick in your mind.  I can still see that smiley round face and hear him giggle.  Excuse me for a second.  I just need to stay in this moment a little longer…

There was no, I mean absolutely no stopping “JD” once he learned to crawl and walk.  He was a “no fear” kid!  We lived in a big old farmhousefarm house back then, which made it hard to keep up with him.  In keeping with the football player image, he was not just built with a sturdy frame, he was strong!  He could easily move chairs around and would use whatever means was available to get whatever it was he wanted.  I have a series of pictures I took of him getting into things.  He’s in cabinets, on top of counters and tables, in the kitchen sink and there is one of him standing up on a table taking down my laundry room curtains.  Once, I even found him lying on the top of the five foot chain link fence that was supposed to keep him safe in his outdoor play area.  Of course, he’s laughing and smiling in every picture.  He made it very difficult for me to reflect that firm tone in my voice, indicating when he was doing something he wasn’t supposed to be doing.  I remember thinking often, “It’s a good thing you’re so cute!”  The “no fear” thing had its down side though.  I don’t remember how many emergency room visits we had with “JD”, but there were several.

You know how most babies and small children fall asleep when they ride in a car.  With all the activity involved in his busy day, hide and seekwhen “JD” would stop moving, no matter where he was, he’d be asleep instantly.    That old farm house had a set of stairs in the front and the back of the house, as well as big closets and cabinets throughout.  It was a great house for a game of hide and seek for our family of six.  One evening as we were playing the game, we lost “JD”.  We couldn’t find him anywhere.  All of us became concerned as we searched every nook and cranny of that house, calling for him with no response, not even the sound of his laughter.  We knew he was in there somewhere.  Finally, someone discovered him.  He found the perfect hiding place in a cabinet where linens were stored.  There he was, behind a pile of towels on the back side of a deep shelf, sound asleep.  We can laugh now, but we sure weren’t laughing at the time.  I hope I don’t get in trouble for saying this, but even as an adult, he still falls asleep when he is forced to stop moving and always falls asleep in the car.

“JD” didn’t have the same challenges that my other children faced, but that doesn’t mean that he had it easy as he got older.  I hate to say it, but “JD” probably got pushed to the back burner, so to speak.  He was the easy going, roll with the punches kind of kid who didn’t make noise or stir up trouble.  We had enough noise going on in our family that he kind of got lost in all of it.  It was like when he crawled to the back of the shelf in the cabinet and was lost during our family game; only this game wasn’t so much fun.  He certainly was there and needless to say, he certainly experienced the effects.

“JD” is very sensitive, caring and loving.  He feels emotion very deeply.  He’s much like me in the sense that he doesn’t often voice dogs smilingwhat he’s feeling, but we know something is there.  He’s a great listener, too.  He accepts people as they are and he forgives when they hurt him.  He’s the kid that will come up and hug his mom unexpectedly, for no reason.  I love that by the way, “JD”!  When you meet him you will still find him, always smiling.  His great sense of humor makes him a “life of the party” type person with a wonderful ability to make people laugh.

I didn’t give “JD” the heads up about this post and he doesn’t read my blog, so I won’t get to gushy and risk embarrassing him.  I don’t think he even knows I have been writing about his siblings this week, so this will probably be a surprise to him.  I’ll send him a link though; because “JD” has to hear how incredibly proud I am of him, too!  And “JD”, I love you with all of my heart!

#NaBloPoMo

Brought to You by the Letter “J”

Two kids left to talk about, so two more days for this proud mom to use her bragging rights!  Today is “J”’s day.  Actually, let’s refer to him as “JN”.  You see, we have two “J”’s, so the next one you’ll meet tomorrow.  I also gave “JN” the heads up that I would be talking about him.  He wasn’t worried about what I would say either, so once again, I’ve been privileged with the liberty to share.  His comment was that the last manger scenetime I shared about him, it helped someone and helping people is where “JN’s” heart is at.   That post was titled, “My Grown Up Christmas Gift”, if you care to take a peek.

“JN” is my 3rd born, who also made his way into this world by C-section.  He too, was over 9lbs. at birth.  He was born right after Thanksgiving that year and was introduced to the public in his debut as baby Jesus in our small town church Christmas play.  I waited backstage, holding my breath as the guy playing Joseph held “JN” high over his head for all to see.  It was a proud moment, but did Joseph really have to hold my baby boy up in the air that high???

It was very evident from the beginning that “JN” was a deep thinker.  His gaze was piercing as he watched the people around him.   He would wrinkle up his tiny forehead and stare into people’s eyes, as if he could read their minds and interpret their thoughts.  It was pretty wild!  I would love to have been able to know what was going on in that little brain at the time.

“JN” got lots of attention, too!  He was born ten years after his big brother and sister, who were very happy to have a new baby around.  So when “JN” wanted held or fed, his wishes were granted pretty much immediately.   Thankfully, “JN” was spared from having to endure the drama of child abuse that his older siblings had gone through in my previous marriages.  I’d say he had a pretty sweet life in those early years.

Things began to take a turn though as “JN” was nearing the end of the elementary school days. He started to develop some health issues child in hospitalwhich resulted in lots of doctor visits, biopsies, surgery, medications and hospitalizations.  One of his doctors was a specialist who was writing a text book at the time and because “JN”’s condition was so rare for a child, he was going to refer to his case in his textbook.  I don’t know if his case ever made the cut or not, but I thought it was interesting.  Maybe a student or another child was helped even then by “JN”.  Needless to say, no parent wants to have their child undergo this kind of trauma.  I’m sure “JN” doesn’t have fond memories of this season in his life.

dark-streetThe season that followed doesn’t contain fond memories for “JN” either.  He would be able to tell his story much better than I.  I really only know the story from the parent’s side.  The years that followed were the very painful years of addiction.  “JN” missed all of the normal fun of the teenage years.  Instead he learned the tough existence of drugs, the streets and dark alleyways.  He had times of wanting to be clean and would check in to a rehab program, but it seemed he was caught in a vicious cycle of rehab and relapse.  These were nightmare years for all of us.

Maybe you think I’m a horrible mother for sharing this story with the world.  I might be that in your eyes, but I’m not in the eyes of my son.  I’m a mother who is proud of her son.  He’s clean now and he has been for a year and a half.  He’s been taking college courses, getting good grades, he lives on his own and he’s kept a full time job.  “JN” is intelligent, caring and obviously a fighter.  He’s still that deep thinker, too, and what he thinks most about is helping other people.  He goes to AA meetings, shares his story and sponsors others who are still struggling to be free.

No one knows the depths of the hell he went through in all of this, except for him.  For me to try to explain to you how hard he had to fight Strengthto get to where he is now would be a waste of space, because no matter how descriptive I get with my words, I couldn’t even begin to touch what he’s experienced.  So I’ll leave that story for him to tell.  What I will say is, if you are one who struggles with alcohol or addiction, why not visit one of those AA meetings.  You might run into my “JN”.  He’ll be the first to tell you, there is hope, there is help and there is healing.  You too can be free!

So “JN”, hear your momma loud and clear today, I’m super proud of you and I love you with all of my heart!

“Sometimes you don’t realize your own strength until you come face to face with your greatest weakness.” – Susan Gale

#NaBloPoMo

It’s “C”‘s Turn!

open bookIn keeping with my “super proud mommy” theme these next few days, today’s post is dedicated to “C”.  “C” is my second born and my only daughter.  It’s not her birthday but there is plenty to celebrate!  I gave “C” the heads up that this post was coming today.  She said she wasn’t worried about what I might write.  “My life is an open book”, she said.  While I don’t plan to take advantage of the privilege she granted me with that statement, I will walk that fine line between her privacy and getting downright personal.  The more you understand about the struggle, the more you’ll see what an exceptional woman she has become.

I was still a single mom when “C” came into the world by C-section.  I couldn’t wait for her to be born.  I was so impatient; I even jumped rope to bring on labor.  It was a really stupid thing to do, as I didn’t have a clue about the dangers of doing that at the time, but it worked.  She was my tiniest baby, the only one that came in under the 9 lb. mark on the scale.

I hate to say, “C” didn’t have a very happy babyhood.  She was born with severe food allergies and even what I was eating while I was pregnant had been affecting her.  Yes, as rare as it is, she was even allergic to breast milk.  It took several months, lots of tummy aches, infections, poopy diapers and crying by both of us, to pin point all the things that were making her sick.  It was very evident from the beginning, that even though “C” was far from being able to talk, “C” had a voice and she wasn’t afraid to use it.

It’s a complicated story leading up to my pregnancy with “C”.  I’ve shared some of my soap opera drama in previous posts and I’m sure OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAmore will unfold in the months to come.  Let’s just say, I was really good at weaving a very tangled web.  I guess the more appropriate descriptive word for me would be “stupid”.  What I will share now is that “C” never knew her biological father.  It was my decision for it to be that way.  I had to protect her.  Her biological father was, well… let’s just keep things nice here and say he wasn’t right in his head.  Aside from the fact that he was an addict, alcoholic, a pervert and abusive, he would have been the one who would have done more harm to her than anyone else in her life.  He wanted to have a baby girl, because he wanted to show her what love really was.  The thing is, he didn’t know what love really was.  All he knew was the perversion of love and my little girl didn’t deserve that.  No little girl does.

I did remarry after “C” was born.  She adored that man.  She, like every little girl, wanted that “daddy shaped hole” in her heart to be filled.  Unfortunately, that man was also an abuser.  She was too young to understand or remember when I ended the baby hand with fathermarriage.  All she understood was that the “daddy shaped hole” was empty now and for some reason, I had taken it from her.  Once again, we see how the effects of abuse have a far reaching effect on my children.

In spite of “C” not having the proper loving father image in the early years of her life, her inner strength and tenacity continued to grow and thrive.  “C” acted like a grown up from the early toddler days.  She was the one in control, even in her play with her baby dolls.  She wasn’t satisfied with wearing her own clothes and shoes.  She wanted to wear the clothes and shoes of a big girl, so what was mine became hers, so she thought.  I can still picture her in my mind wearing my bras upside down.

When “C” was eight years old, I remarried for the third time and I’m happy to say that one lasted!  Two more children followed and “C” liked to play mommy.  She will be the first to tell you that she got to babysit her brothers more often than she would have liked, but she did like playing grown up.  Like she did as a baby, she never hesitated to use her voice when it came to telling me what I was doing wrong or what I should be doing with her brothers.  You always knew what she was thinking and where she stood on matters regarding raising kids.

She’s a mommy now with a beautiful teenage daughter of her own.  “C” is a wonderful mommy!  She stays very connected to her daughter.  They spend time talking often and about everything.  It’s the way I wish is would have been between her and I.  I have great respect for her for this ability.  What caused me to shut down emotionally seems to have caused her to flourish.

“C” has continued to deal with challenges in her adult years, but she’s remained that strong woman and you will hear her roar when she flower blossomwants to be heard.   She has been lied to and cheated on and life just hasn’t always been fair, but she hasn’t backed down, nor has she let any circumstance get in her way.  She’s continued to stand strong, continued to be sensitive, expressive and nurturing, continued to blossom.  Best part of it all is that she has continued to love me.

You just have to know, I’m proud of you “C”!  I’m proud to be your mom!  And I love you with all of my heart!

 

#NaBloPoMo

Celebrating “M”

Just have to tell you how proud I am of my kids!  I know that I’m no different than any other parent out there.  We’re all proud!   I’ve decided to voice my feelings and the next four days will be dedicated to each of my kids.  I want it to be recorded for the world to see and hear how much I love them!  Maybe this is something they need to hear in case I’ve somehow not gotten it across to them already.  Even if I have, we all need to be reminded of these things.

As I’ve mentioned in a previous post, “Let the Future Begin”, I’m going through a recovery group for victims of domestic violence and abuse.  Of course, we do a lot of digging around in the dirty muck of the past in this group.  It’s not a pleasant experience, to say the least, but I know the end result will be worth it all.  My past rape and abuse had a very profound effect on me, so naturally it would have an effect on my children as they were growing up.  Without going into all the details of that right now, in the next few days, I will tell you a little about how it affected my children.

birthday cakeToday, we celebrate my firstborn son who is about to have his 36th birthday.   I’ll call him “M”.  I remember when he was born and that overwhelming love that I felt for the first time in my life.  I couldn’t believe that it was possible to even feel an emotion so intensely.  I remember not really liking what I felt, as I knew how vulnerable it made me.  When you love that much, there is the risk of hurting that much and I surely didn’t want to hurt that much.

“M” was born at 9 lbs. 10 oz., by emergency C-section.  This was years ago when they put you under for a c-section, so my first memoriesbaby holding hand are a little fuzzy, but I’ll never forget when they brought him to me for the first time.  The nurse laid him close to my face so my cheek touched his cheek.  I’ll never forget how wonderful that felt.

This morning I’m envisioning him as that little, almost 2 year old boy I loved waking up to every morning.  I was a single mom at this point.  I’d wake up to see his wide eyed grin and hear his little giggle.  He had crawled out of his crib again.  There was no stopping this kid.  He rolled over from the day he was born.  When he was six months old, we lived in an upstairs apartment, so we had to have a gate to guard the steps.  One day he was crawling around and I heard a little laugh at the bottom of the steps.  It was “M”.  He’d managed to wiggle himself under the gate and crawl down the steps backwards, at six months old.  Yes, it really did happen!

“M” was hungry when he woke up.  He’d go to the refrigerator and get whatever food he was in the mood for and lay it on the pillow besideFredrick's Alligator Book me.  It might be a carton of eggs, a pack of bacon or his favorite popsicle.  I remember trying to get ready for my day and he would want to read.  His favorite book was “Fredrick’s Alligator”.  He had that book memorized and he would read it to me, daily and often.  I’ll always remember that book.

This morning I’m envisioning that sweet baby boy covered in white.  All that surrounded him was covered in white.  Gooey greasy white!  Gooey greasy white that is very difficult to get off.  To all Desitin diaper cream users, if you’re smarter than I was, you’ll keep that stuff far out of reach from your kids.

My oldest was abused by his father.  You may have heard it said that what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.  Even though he couldn’t possibly understand what was happening to him at that time, I think what my son experienced helped to develop something good in him.  It helped to develop determination, drive and made him a fighter.

Tennis shoe riding toy

That Tennis Shoe riding toy is down in the left corner. Found it in the Sear’s Wish book from 1979.

I remember one occasion when I was at work and someone was supposed to be watching him.  “M” was four years old at the time.  His little sister was two.  He wanted something and he wanted it bad.  His motivation for wanting it was love.  He wanted to be with his “Gammy” and she had gone to church.  The church was five blocks away and meant crossing a major intersection.  He determined that he was going to get there and he was going to see his “Gammy”, no matter what.  He managed to sneak out of the house with his sister.  I don’t know if he knew she wouldn’t be able to walk that far, but his two year old sister was riding on her plastic tennis shoe riding toy.  I have no clue as to how he knew directions to get to that church, but he managed to guide his sister on her tennis shoe and cross several streets, including the major intersection.  When Gammy walked out of those church doors, there were her grandkids, a little tired, but beaming with pride and joy!  I was horrified when I found out what had happened and thought about what could have happened.  I was furious that they hadn’t been watched and protected like they should have been, but I was stunned to think about what my son had accomplished.  I asked him how he crossed the big street with all the cars.  He said, “I just put up my hand and the cars stopped”.  Wow!  It’s taken years for me to get past the thought of what could have happened that day, but talk about determination and being fearless!

“M” has had to fight many battles through life since that time.  I’m proud of my son and that drive and determination that will continue to keep him going after what he wants.  I can’t wait to see him take hold of his dreams.  I’m proud to know that deep love he holds in his heart will continue to be his motivation as he takes care of his family and helps to raise his girls.   I’m proud of you “M” and I love you with all of my heart!

#NaBloPoMo

My Grown Up Christmas Gift

HopeIt’s with utmost respect and honor that I bring you today’s blog post.  I want to share one of the most valuable and precious Christmas gifts I have ever received.   It’s a poem written by one of my own.  My son gave me permission to share this with you today.  It wasn’t his intention to share this normally, very private, thing with the world, but it’s such a beautiful thing that, how can the world not get to experience it.  The back story to this, are years of addiction, many rehab programs, and several seasons of recovery followed by relapse.  Not that the journey is over, but this time feels different.  There is new life and hope that hasn’t been felt before.  I’m proud of my son and the positive steps that he is taking toward his new and wonderful future.  Together, we share this private moment in time today, not to exploit a man’s suffering, but to bring hope to other moms, dads, brothers, sisters and family members of addicts.  My son’s heart is much the same as mine, to help and love others.  Here is our gift to you.  May this season of hope live on in the New Year.  Merry Christmas!

 

For the Family

How can I even begin to express

About this time last year I was undoubtedly distraught, surely lost,

Senseless direction, heading nowhere, the trail had long since gone cold

Solid ground so ever elusive

The fear of death was becoming reality

I had abandoned all hope and lying to myself and everyone else in the process

Sick of pain and sobbing in a drunken stupor, I knew I couldn’t deny the truth

I was robbing myself of a life rich with meaning and warm hearted affairs

So I did what all good gangsters do and I called my parents, E.T. phone home

An answer, always an answer, as close as man can come, to divine love

They listened, always listened; I knew I had to get back to the desert

The place I once believed to be my problem, these people, these mountains, these

plastic possessions

Technology, pornography, dystrophy, all around me

But what I’m getting at ain’t so easily said, but seen out of your own two see’ers  instead

I got lost

The stupid story of the prodigal son haunts me like a rake does a garden gnome

And every time I was welcomed back, grace with a warm blanket of unconditional love

I am warm in my family’s arms

Fingers not so stiff and bleeding

I am charged with intense emotional uplift in the arms of my blood

Not so lethargic and glum, the fog lifts a little and I can finally breathe some

I am delighted to be born into such a solid rock of a household

Homesick and uprooted I am shaky and alone

I am blessed with a family who could never see me how I see myself

Distasteful, wasteful, hell in a bucket

The true meaning of the holidays is this

Family

I hope I’ve expressed in some way what I’m so desperately trying to say

I have the best family

From it stem the strongest roots

And I am so grateful and so floored to have made it back

If I’d had the choice to choose, I would have sold myself short

I am a man among angels

You see right through me

Thank you

 

What About the Parents???

I hope you aren’t expecting a light hearted, carefree, easy going or humorous post today, because that’s not what I’m feeling.  I am not even sure of the direction that this will take, but I’ve had some thoughts stirring that needed to come out on paper, so here we go.

I am a parent.  It’s one of the roles that many often dream about even when they are very young.  I was one of those dreamers.  I remember at a very young age pretending to be a mommy to my baby dolls.  I couldn’t wait to go to Kmart to spend my allowance on things for my fake babies.  I was so good at parenting as a five year old.  It was so easy!  I just knew that I would grow up to be the best mommy in the whole wide world.  Three kids, two boys and a girl to be specific, a husband, house and a van, that was my big dream!  What I ended up with was four kids, three boys and a girl to be specific, three husbands (not all at the same time), a few houses over the years and several cars, which included the van.  But what happened to the most important part of the dream, being the best mommy in the whole wide world?  Well, it just wasn’t as easy as I imagined it would be.

My big thought today is, “What about the parents?”   Many very disturbing events have made the news recently.  I don’t think that you can find a corner anywhere in the world, that news of the shootings in Tucson, Colorado and Wisconsin hasn’t touched.  Of course, we think about the victims first, then the actual shooters themselves and then the parents.  I can’t help but try to imagine myself in the parent’s shoes on these occasions.  How devastating it would be for a parent!  To find out that one of your own children, that once innocent baby that you held in your arms, had committed such a horrendous, senseless act.   It’s simply unimaginable!  My heart is broken, not only for the parents of the victims, but the parents of the shooters, as well.

I’m thinking of the mom who posted on Facebook this morning.  Today is her daughter’s birthday and it was a year ago today that she hugged her daughter for the last time before she went to prison on drug charges.  How my heart hurts for her and her daughter.

I’m thinking of the single mom who lost her child to a drug overdose and my heart hurts.  I’m thinking of the parents who lost their bipolar child to suicide.  Many had passed judgment on these parents for their children’s behavior during the short years of their lives.

I’m thinking of the struggles between children and parents that I’ve witnessed in an office complex where I once worked.  The children were often very loud and aggressive and those working in the complex were put off by the behavior and registered complaints with the complex management.  Insensitive signs were even hung in the common restrooms by someone who thought the kid situation needed to be addressed.  Did the person who hung the signs not know that these children were visiting the complex for therapy because they were autistic?  Yes, my heart hurts for these parents too, and their children.  So many scenarios we could talk about, all heartbreaking.

Many are quick to jump on the parents and point fingers.  Certainly the parents have done something wrong in their parenting that caused their child’s behavior, or addiction or suicide.  Is that fair?  Why are we so quick to place ourselves in the role of judge and jury and pass sentence on parents?  It happens all of the time.  Who hasn’t been in a grocery store or a restaurant and seen someone’s child act in a ridiculous, unbecoming way and we’ve thought or maybe even said, “They need to do something with their child”, or “If I were those parents, I would (fill in the blank)”.

Granted, parents do make mistakes and I am not saying that all parents are innocent and haven’t had a role in how a child turned out.  I’m not talking about parents who are abusive or are alcoholics, addicts, criminals or horrible examples here.   I’m talking about parents who do all they can to raise their children in the best way they know how.  None of us have our parenting skills 100% perfected.  We all have flaws of some kind.  Go ahead and admit it mom and dad.  You’ll feel better.  That perfect super parent cape is a heavy weight that will keep you from flying anywhere, so take it off!  Easier said than done, right!  Expectations are high for parents and as a result, we often carry a huge amount of guilt.

It’s easy for those who have not had children or who have had perfect children to make flippant comments about or even to other parents.  Yes, I am speaking from experience here.  Before I had my perfect kids, I knew exactly how to be a perfect parent and I’m sure I passed judgment on someone along the way.  But now I know the flip side.   I can still remember comments regarding my parenting that were made to me over the years that were so insensitive and hurtful.  You see, I didn’t have the perfect kids that you did.  How would you judge me if I told you that I had raised an addict, an alcoholic, a criminal, a child with mental illness or all of the above?  Certainly, you would wonder about my child’s upbringing.  You might even want to dissect my parenting ability or debate about parenting styles.  You might even consider unfriending me on Facebook.  Was my child’s behavior my fault???

Of course, I know that I’m exposing my own feelings of guilt here.  Every parent who hasn’t had perfect kids feels guilt, sometimes massive amounts of guilt.  I’ve worked on resolving my own guilt issues and I’m not here to debate what was or wasn’t my fault.  I’m addressing two groups of people here.

To group number one, the group that still has not had children or that never will, and the parents of perfection; to you I say, give us imperfect parents a break!  Ease up a little.  Have some sensitivity and compassion.  If you haven’t walked in another parent’s shoes, please don’t be so quick to throw stones.  There is no “Super Parent” cape, so if you think you’ve been wearing one, you’ve just been running around naked or sporting some really ugly spandex.

To the group of parents who have known the heartbreak of your children not growing up and following the beautiful dreams that you’ve envisioned for them; to you I say you’re not alone.  It’s not all your fault.  It’s time to let go of the guilt and if you can’t do that, then get help.  You deserve that for yourself.  And for any mistakes you did make, there is forgiveness here.  You deserve to be free to fly!

This world can be a cold, dark and lonely place.  Parents need lots of support during the hard times.  When you see a parent friend having a really difficult time, don’t pull away because the situation looks to overwhelming.  When the going gets tough, instead of pointing fingers, extend a hand.   Get involved in being a part of the solution and consider it an investment in your own future, because it is.  Even if you don’t have the answers, you can still be available to stand with and for your friend.  You’ve heard it said and I do
believe that it truly does take a village to raise a child.