I may know this thing that I am about to tell you about and at some time I forgot this thing.
I remember now; this lesson. I think this lesson is important. I want to remind you so that you don’t make mistakes with an excellent person whom you love.
I’ve always been *like my mother* who had so many children she lived in overwhelm. Her love for you was more like a benign awareness. She always responded to help you, but she was never first to communicate. I felt her in my background: a trusty tree that I could always navigate home to. I was lucky, I always felt loved.
Recently *as my husband shows me* I realize that the benign love is not enough. When I look back at the times I was lonely; I would have done anything for an expression of love. I know that during my loneliest times, I would save every expression of love so that I could go over it again and again. You could find dozens of Hallmark cards stuffed into notebooks and boxes. I also kept all of my pictures, all of the time.
I am a middle child. I am capable of contentment, all by myself, without assistance or company from anyone else. This doesn’t equate with having no need for love. I need love and its expression as much as anyone else needs love. The key is that I need the expression of love, as much as I need love. Being like my mother, leaves my children and my husband without the benefit of my expression of love towards them.
This is key because much of what love can do for you is through the expression of that love. Without the expression of love, love can be unknowable.
If you want people that you love to know they are loved, you must let them know. And no, birthdays and Christmas acknowledgments are not enough. Those contacts can be singularly obligatory. And yes, they can look that way too.
Without expressions of love your loved ones won’t feel it. They won’t know of your love, nor how much you love. As much as you love, they won’t know that you love them.
And Do you Love Them?
Regret is often a product of unexpressed love. Why don’t we communicate the richness of our love? Why can’t we do these difficult things like telling each other how important we are to each other? Why can’t we say how happy we are to be together? Why can’t we say what matter is love?
Why can’t we do these things for each other? The answer is that we can.
Let each other know beyond a shadow of a doubt, how important we are to each other, with our children, our spouse, our siblings, our parents and our friends.
I come here to these pages to work through my relationship with my daughter. There are not too many guidebooks on parenting adults. The guidebooks are always about raising young ‘uns. For me, for many years now, it’s been all about adults.
This child of mine. The daughter, the wispy hair, the beautiful face, the strong and stubborn stance. She has fought, she has won, she is strong. Too strong, she does not need me, she doesn’t need her family anymore.
The last time we were together, we argued. I am hurt, she doesn’t realize how much pain I endure because of her life choices. She tells me that I am selfish, and it is not about me.
Of course, I know that.
My darling daughter, aren’t you at least interested? Don’t you want to know how I hurt because you choose a life that is 800 miles away from me? You choose a life that I cannot participate in. You have pushed me out of your life by circumstance.
If I refuse, if I am stubborn as she is, it costs me dearly. Plane tickets, lost work, lost time, missing my home. And still she says, “you’re selfish mother”.
She wants to compare my yesterday to her tomorrow. She would never treat her children the way that I treated mine. Her childhood wasn’t good, it was lonely and filled with deprivation. I told her, “you have no way of knowing how you will treat your children when they are older”. But she is not listening. She tells me over and over “I would never…”.
I am not sure how she sees herself, or her life. I do not know enough about it. I know that I have been angry too. And she throws her history at me as if it is broken glass. “Here” she says, “pick up the pieces.” My response has not always been patient.
I sent her * her childhood in pictures; she got every photo that I ever printed of her. The box was so heavy that it cost three times what I normally pay to mail to Virginia. I was hoping she could see some goodness in that childhood. I was hoping she would see some redemption in her adolescence. I have always been smitten with her, hence the thousands of pictures. But she did not, at least not in a way that she could redeem me, her mother.
This time, I am patient. I commit to myself that I will listen. I really want to know why she is so angry.
The other agenda, my agenda, is that I don’t want to be battered with my child’s childhood. I have been blamed for everything, from being not enough of a mother to being too much of a mother.
I know that I DIDN’T ALWAYS GET IT RIGHT.
I have to recommit to listening and being there for her. I must recommit because I become weary. Do I have to listen to everything over and over again?
Yes, yes, I do.
To me, she is beyond beautiful. I see her vulnerability. I see her wishes for her future. I hear her pain. She is so emotionally intelligent, and her intuition is striking. She genuinely wants to know; she truly wants information that will help her understand.
When I watch her with her sons, I see something incredibly special. Hopefully, she will be a much better mother than me. I think that all parents want that. We all want to look ahead to a future that is better and brighter.
Who can know what the love for a child will do to you? How do I describe the compelling feeling of loving someone as intensely and wholly as I do my child? How do I tell you that if you choose to have children, you will not ever “get over it”? Your children stay with you for your entire life. They may not be physically near, but they are always psychically near. You will always want happiness and love for them, always.
All through this week, I’ve been getting the signal that loving people is not enough to make my relationships what I want them to be. My daughter left our home at Christmas this year, angry and fed up with me and her sister. I let her be angry. I didn’t try to talk with her, nor influence what she was thinking or any of that. I just let her be. She lives 800 miles away and my time with her is very limited.
It’s frustrating because I m.i.s.s. her and my grandsons e.v.e.r.y. s.i.n.g.l.e. d.a.y.
So I let her be, but she was angry. She tells me “why should I be angry when I can just move on?” And what she means is, move on without me. That’s what she means. Yep, she is kinda mean.
I cannot live without her. I need to see my daughter, I need to touch my daughter. I need to know that my daughter is okay. That is my need – not hers. BTW, she is 37 years old.
I am in so much more need than my daughter is. She is busy, a single mother of two boys. I am disabled and live my days at home alone. It is I who want to spend time with her. It is I who has a need for contact. I want to see my daughter and touch her.
I kept texting her and she never responded. Of course, my need to see her grew. Her sons talked to me and I cherished their words. The thing is she has no way of knowing anything about me. I have to attend to her to get her to see how I feel. She will never know unless I attend to her. I can’t just love her from afar. It won’t work, not if I want a loving relationship with my daughter.
Yesterday, I was talking with my son. He was on the edge a meltdown and we were talking about all the parenting stuff. I told him that my confidence came from being loved by my parents. But it wasn’t just being loved, it was feeling loved. That came from being attended to. When my parents paid attention to me, when they provided for me, when I got the dress I wanted for school when I was 11, I was feeling loved. They were attending to me. Reaching out to be concerned about the kids’ lives, talking to them, being there in times of crisis, that’s part of the love package.
I want my daughter to feel loved. I want my daughter to feel that love is flexible; if her beliefs and actions change, my love will not change. I will follow her wherever she goes, and I will take action to show her that I love her.
Sometimes the pain is just a hum in the background of my experience. I can distract myself from it. I can do chores around the house like dishes and laundry.
And then the pain comes screaming at me: “Me, Me, Me, Look at me!” I am wrung. I can do nothing and I cannot distract.
The pain is too much. I shower to give myself the warmth of the water, but I must sit, I cannot stand, the pain manages my body’s energy.
I am disabled in ways that cannot be seen. There is conceptual understanding, I know. But the other understanding is not there. I can see it in the eyes of others that I love and who love me.
Sometimes a long time goes by with just the hum. I don’t know when or how the pain changes.
Yes, I am overdone, but I was just living! I didn’t do anything special or extra, look how active I was in my old life! Why can’t I work all day and have the satisfaction of a job well done?
Because the fibromyalgia is not listening to my old life. The fibro believes it is a new day and a new way to act on this body. So. the fibro marches forward attaching to each muscle and gaining in pain.
How does one function when life is this unpredictable? One day a bearable functioning and the very next, an unbearable existence steeped with pain.
How does one function when the pain puts you down?
What the hay? Everyone keeps meme-ing about giving teachers a jillion dollars and how hard it is to spend the day with their kids. What the, what?
One little afternoon with two kids is overwhelming that is because the kids spend so MUCH time everywhere else.
We take them to pre-K, then summer camp and then after school care and then, over and over, we take them somewhere else – not home.
Parenting has fundamentally changed in the last forty years and in some ways for the better. For purposes of this essay, we talk about how parenting has changed for the worse.
For the sanity of parents everywhere, some things should be decided on with caution. This new generation of parents seems determined to entertain their kids non-stop. This is a parenting mistake, a decision that is destined to make a failure.
There is well-documented value in boredom. Boredom is a basis for creativity and imagination.
What I really want to talk about is a philosophical difference in parenting. Forty years ago, when I brought my daughter home from the hospital, she was coming to a very busy house. She has two older brothers, a stepsister, dogs, and parents who were renovating and moving. We incorporated her right into the crowd. As a family, we want her well fed, happy and invested in our family routine. At three months old, she is going to lay around with us on the couch, listen to our discussions and otherwise be a part of an already active environment.
That is NOT the way that parents act today. Perhaps, out of their own feelings of neglect or because of the age-old promise to outdo our own parents; new parents today are acting quite differently.
First, before pregnancy, all must be perfect. Once all is perfect and the baby is born, the world begins rotating around the child. Everything hinges on whether the child is comfortable, feeling well, entertained (in a healthy way) and on and on and on. The parents continue to behave this way even with a second or third child. The world revolves around the child instead of the child becoming part of the world.
What just happened.
According to teachers I know today, every child has an allergy. Parents communicate this fact loudly and redundantly. There are no careless cookies and cupcakes at any grade school functions – oh no – that won’t happen without a lawsuit.
When my kids were in school, we all agreed with each other, that our own child was the best, the brightest and the most special. That doesn’t happen anymore. Now there is competition and it’s brutal. Parents set out to prove the specialness of their own child and it must be more special than your child. There is no universal agreement anymore, instead it’s “My child is better than yours.”
Because we (the 80s parent) were up close and personal in our child’s business, we could see their bad behavior for what it was: bad behavior. Today, people have a hard time seeing their own child’s bad behavior. Instead, they give reasons and righteousness for otherwise minor behavior problems. Of course this encourages more and bigger behavior problems. Again, you will see that the parent wishes to explain it all away, rather than “manning up” and taking the medicine that goes with the crime. Parents not only allow the bad behavior; they encourage it by trying to explain it away with reasons. “He doesn’t feel well and that girl made him mad.”
The 80s parent did not send children away in order to ensure constant entertainment. Kids had bicycles and found their own entertainment, usually with another pack of kids doing the same thing. While the boundaries seemed loose, the monitoring was not, parents spent the time getting to know all of what the kids were into.
The 80s parents made mistakes. It was a time when we still believed authority (think Catholic priests) and we were betrayed by that authority. Perhaps that is why todays parents are hyper-vigilant, they want to make sure that these kinds of mistakes are not made again. For this I don’t blame them.
I don’t think we need to worry about entertaining kids 24/7. I think it’s ok for kids to be bored. The most important skill we need to develop with our kids is trusting communication. That is a skill that is timeless, and it is a relationship that won’t encourage selfishness and excuses in children. When kids behave badly, they need punishment (gasp). I’ve heard some parents say that nothing in the punishment realm seems to work to encourage discipline. If that is true, then keep pursuing resolution until you find it. If kids and parents need counseling and education so be it. It doesn’t mean that you have failed as a parent. “Man up” and figure it out. The best thing you can ever do is help your child understand consequences.
Self and other honesty encourages health and well-being in every relationship. That’s a sentence that all parents can buy into.
He brought his grief with him. He apologized for interrupting me. He was completely unconscious of his thoughts and emotions. I think that he believed that if he could control the universe that is visible to him that he could ultimately control his universe. He brought his grief with him. It weighed heavily in the air and when he sat across from me I could feel my chest contract and the breathlessness followed. My eyes teared up as if it was my own grief. He told me that people did not understand. I do not wish to feel his grief but it pervades the atmosphere like humidity, it is heavy and its weight is laying on all of the surfaces in my office. The round conference table stands between us and I am grateful for its presence. The conference table stands as an anchor to reality in a world where people die and spiritual things happen which have no physical explanation.
He tells me again that “people do not understand, they think I am taking this too well.” I am thinking to myself that I do not see how anyone could mistake this man’s grief. How could anyone not see how heavily his grief lays upon all things? As this man walks, his grief precedes him. I am thinking that he apologizes for interrupting me, but he should apologize for bringing his grief with him. As h e speaks to me, I feel his grief. My eyes tear up. Then I remember my own mother’s death, there are no specifics and no details, it is simply a matter of the grief. He speaks to me some more and his words are not important. Again I feel my eyes burning; it hurts to be near him. I wish for him to go away. I know that there are things that I may do to help him, but first he must go away. I will help him when my intellect returns to replace my grief – my grief that is his grief.
Kahlil Gibran said something to the effect of: your children are not of you, but move through you. They have their own path to be taken by them and not you.
I want to come from higher thinking, accepting of all that my child does or is and yet…
I saw myself as sacrificing so much when he was young. I thought my sacrifice would equate to his success, as if it was equidistant to each other. It was not. No matter what I gave up for the boy, it didn’t matter because he didn’t take the path to success.
I offered him a white collar education, and he turned it down, beating his chest about blue collar blues. I offered him ease of youth, but he turned it down and lived his difficulty instead.
I was jubilant when his IQ was tested, doesn’t he demonstrate the best that a mind has to offer? Isn’t he the one who will give us new knowledge and insight? No, he told me, manual labor was his destiny. He claimed he was a good and hard-working man and didn’t need higher learning. But, he suffered, his brain moved faster than manual labor could provide and so he chose an altered consciousness.
His altered consciousness brought him a dishonest marriage and disappointment that he began to cling to. His life was one sadness after another all leading to a crumpled and vulnerable soul that would not function in the light.
I, who gave him my dream of a youth with freedom, an education with purpose, was disappointed and hurt that his choices walked so consistently to the dark side of life. Where was the brilliant smiling boya, that I loved so deeply? Why couldn’t I find him in the 45 year old man?
Who am I to ask that he make his life different than the one he chose? Who am I to ask that he choose a different path, even now? He is the man that he chose to be, he walks a path that he chose, I am no one to choose. I am only to sit on the sidelines and love.
Who can say why we must love our children? Some say it is the oxytocin. Some say that it is the genetic likeness. Some say that you cannot withhold from what comes from you.
All I know is this. I love them unmitigatedly. I cannot stop my love for my children any more than engineers could stop the direction of the Colorado River, can they? No.
There are those parents who do not care. Who are they? I have not met them. I do not know them.
It’s daunting if you are new to poor health. We healthy ones vastly take advantage of our health. We never give it a thought that we wake up, ease ourselves out of bed and can use any fingers and hands to brush our hair and teeth. What a wonderful gift that arms are!
Being sick usually comes on abruptly and without warning. Typically, we react with denial. We can’t be sick, “I’m not sick, that is just allergies.” Or, just as often “that stomach-ache will go away (and when it doesn’t) I must have eaten something bad.”
Denial is a big part of getting sick. There are so many over the counter cold remedies because people don’t want to have what they have, which is: illness. We take the cough medicine, the nasal decongestant, literally anything to keep us going. There is something un-American about being sick. For some reason, we do not want to be seen as weak or vulnerable in any way, and that includes illness. So, we deny and get angry.
“It’s not fair that I am sick, look at Tom, he is never sick!” or “this is bullshit, I shouldn’t be sick, I take good care of myself.” Or “I am never sick; how did this happen?” In all of these various ways, we keep reminding ourselves and others that the situation is temporary and will shortly be over, because we are good people that take care of ourselves.
If the illness is over quickly, then all is well, and we can move on with our theories of illness and weakness and vulnerability intact. We change nothing about how we think, as we recovered quickly and easily.
What if the illness lingers on? The illness does not leave us and thus our lives must necessarily change to accommodate the illness. We believed that we were healthy because
a) I am a good person
b) I take good care of myself.
While these two statements might be true, it doesn’t necessarily follow that we can have good health. Poor health has etiology in so many places. There are so many ways and reasons that we can become sick. It is never through our own fault, or because we are a bad person.
“Am I ever going to be well?” She sighs sadly as she gazes out the window at the green trees and blue sky.
“No, you’re not!” says the angry child in her head.
And so chronic illness goes. There is so much chronic illness in the world today. Medical consultations abound on the internet. “Drink probiotics to cure everything!” “Use the Keto diet to get rid of pounds!” “Leaky gut is your enemy!” The trustworthy and the shysters share space on the internet trying to convince anyone and everyone that the answer is just a click and a $50.00 dollar bill away from you.
The truth is that chronic illness is here to stay. You won’t find the cure on the internet; you won’t find a cure from your doctor’s office. There is no cure. So, what changes and what do you do?
The answer is different for different conditions. For me, it’s fibromyalgia. My pain requires a lot of doctor visits = money and time. I am fatigued and there is a definite limit to my ability to do. Doingness just stops, hard stop.
Accommodations: First you don’t want accommodations because it casts you as a weak person, one who cannot accomplish. Ugh. Now you must admit to the understanding of your condition, which is never.going.away. Ever.
You resist accommodations because you don’t want to be “that person”, the needy one who has to have “extras” just to get the job done.
You are clearly in anger at this point, you have done your fair share of denial and now you have moved into anger. “Other people” don’t need accommodations, “other people” don’t need anything special to do their work. And so, your thinking goes. It’s not fair that you are suffering from your illness and you are angry that you need help.
It’s un-American to need help. We are all rugged individuals, tough and ready to take on anything.
If you have a chronic illness, if you are disabled, “other people” are likely to dislike you or ignore you, and this can be disappointing and discouraging. At least part of our denial and anger is because of this concept. It is hard to accept the loss of the “rugged individual” in illness and disability.
It’s important to recognize that it is just a concept and a bad one at that. There is nothing wrong with being disabled or with having a chronic illness. Yes, you do need accommodations; this fact does not mean that you are bad, or less of a person than before you became ill or disabled.
You are still the wonderful person that you have always been. Possibly you have new insights and perceptions that make you an even better person than before your illness.”
You may be bargaining “God, please take away my sickness and I will be a good Christian, Jew or Muslim.” “If you give my back my health, I’ll never complain again.” But, guess what? Illness knows no reason and attacks everyone and anyone indiscriminately, all the bargaining in the world will get you nothing. Bargaining is part of the process and leads us to depression.
Depression is the first sign of acceptance. You begin to realize that you are sick, and also realize that you are helpless against your illness. These realizations can make you very sad. Depression can take over, but it cannot be a place to stay.
The final stage of consideration for your loss is acceptance and with it, a kind of peacefulness. You make peace with your body and you let go of any blame attached to your thinking.
The five stages of grief that Kubler-Ross wrote about were never meant to be linear. One day you can feel acceptance and the very next day go back to being angry.
Make no mistake, losing your healthy body is cause for grief. After that, you are then free to choose. Am I incredibly sorry for myself and hateful to everyone? Or, do I love life in a very new way? Choose wisely, it is the rest of your life…
If I didn’t understand trauma
informed care, I wouldn’t understand her story. She told me that she couldn’t exercise
because the harsh breathing evoked by her exercise brought her back to the harsh
breathing she experienced when she struggled against her rapist. When she heard the breathing coming from
herself, she would have a mini blackout and it always scared her. She could not exercise. She took long walks because, she could always
run away if she felt scared and she could always control her breathing when
walking. Her rapist was her brother, as
a child, she was often raped.
She noticed that she was not comfortable naked, she wanted to
be covered and wouldn’t go to bed without underwear. She felt vulnerable and oftentimes when in
the presence of others, she thought that she was in danger.
When she was breastfeeding, she had to stop as soon as the
babies were old enough to pull on her shirt.
It made her think she was being raped, oh hell, she couldn’t believe how
vulnerable she felt.
When she finally put it together and figured out why she didn’t
like exercising she was fully adult and couldn’t put it in reverse, the damage
She wondered if others suffered the same type of mental agony from their own childhood molestation and abuse. She read research once that said women often gain weight after being raped. As if the extra skin and fat will protect them from being raped again. Or perhaps it was because an overweight woman did not fit in with the sexy ideal of a woman, thus making her feel safer.