My firstborn turns 18 in a few weeks. Something about that fact has caused me to become very reflective in my quiet moments. Because my life didn’t turn out the way I expected when I was her age, I find myself running through a lot of different emotions.
I always hope, when I talk about pride, that it’s the “good kind.” The scriptures are full of warnings about pride, but I can’t help but admire all that is wonderful about my daughter. She has shown great artistic talent throughout her young life, and her skills and talents will far exceed mine (if they don’t already) if she sticks with acting, singing, and painting.
My daughter is engaging and articulate. She is fiercely loyal to her friends. She possesses the spirit of a crusader, and, as maturity tempers that spirit, she will have the opportunity to be a force for good throughout her life. She is beautiful inside and out.
What mother wouldn’t be proud?
Sadness and Loneliness
My daughter is a casualty of divorce. Despite my best intentions, she ended up caught in the battle between Mom and Dad. She chose sides (a natural progression), and we are estranged. Up until that magic age of adulthood, I have been able to maneuver to have sporadic times with her and her sister — hoping that somehow, she would understand how much I love her, and that I’m willing to hang in there as long as it takes to build a good relationship with her.
The results have not been what I have wanted. There are walls that she’s not ready to let me through, and even though I respect that, time is running out. When she leaves our visit for the last time before she turns 18, it may be the last time I see her — ever. I accept that, and I will not force myself where I’m not wanted, but it hurts like crazy.
I have spent a lot of time trying to understand my ex-husband and why he has chosen and done the things that he has. I still think he has problems, but I have been able to find compassion in my heart for him. Nevertheless, I have to admit that, once I left him, he set out to destroy me by any means necessary — including the kids. Most of the time, I just ignore it, but I really do believe that he is responsible for the largest share of the mess that my children have dealt with. He deliberately filled their heads with things that would make parenting them almost impossible, and, now that those ideas have been internalized for years, those ideas may cripple them as adults.
I spent a lot of time wondering why a loving Heavenly Father would allow innocent children to have to grow up in such debilitating circumstances, fighting anger that God wouldn’t just step in and make things right. I still don’t know how things will turn out, but I know that I serve a Heavenly King who is more powerful than any mess that can be created on Earth. In my heart, I know He is watching over my girls and has a plan to bring them back to Him — the same way he reached out to me.
I’ve had well-meaning friends try to tell me that I’m too hard on myself over the mistakes I made while I had the privilege of parenting my daughters. The truth is, they weren’t there.
Yes, life in my home, especially as the girls reached upper elementary, was nuts. I endured threats of physical violence from my oldest daughter more often than I’d like to admit. My middle child lit fire in her room, poked holes in the walls, stole prescription medication from a family member, and threw food around the kitchen. Both of them exaggerated and fabricated to strategic adults in their lives — presumably because they were (and still are) convinced that I belong in jail. Seeking psychological help was seen by the kids as an attempt to “make” them behave. The counselors’ insistence that my ex be involved in the process turned the whole thing into a circus.
Knowing and remembering all of that, I still find fault with my parenting. I regret that I didn’t understand the power of faith the way I do now. I think I would have been able to be more soft-spoken and loving. I think I would have been able to refrain from physical punishment and anger and frustration more often — or even all of the time. I think my prayers would have protected them better. I think I would have been more understanding. If I hadn’t been dealing with the effects of abuse and codependency, I would have been able to set calmer, more loving boundaries in a way that helped my kids understand that my goal was to help them become the best adults they can be. I wanted them to be able to walk out into the world ready to do whatever the Lord led them to do.
I just can’t shake the feeling that I wasn’t enough — I should have been better.
The traditional opera cliche is that it’s not over until the fat lady sings. As long as we are all still living, there is the chance that circumstances and hearts will change. I can still fast and pray, calling on the powers of heaven in behalf of my children. I can still extend love to them, and hope that as they grow, they will begin to understand.