There is a quote, which pops up regularly on Pinterest, that says something like “If they wanted you to say nice things about them they should have treated you better in the first place.” And then there is the golden rule applied to language, “talk about others as you would like them to talk about you.” I’m trying to muddle through the middle ground. My goal in sharing my story, successes and failures, is to assure you that you are not alone but also to encourage you to make better choices than I some times did!
My husband and I claim 4 children. 3 were born before we ever met. The 4th is a joint project. The oldest 2 came into our marriage as a package deal with my husband. The third was raised by a maternal aunt and that’s a long, sad, complicated story, filled with regrets, but topped off by restoration and love, that I might, or might not, tell another day. It’s not really my story to tell. But 1 & 2 … they were raised here. The only way they could be more mine is if I had borne them. They were 2 and 3 when their daddy and I met and married. I wasn’t always a perfect mother. Who is, right? But I loved those kids with my whole heart! I poured my life, my heart, my hopes and dreams into them. Was that love different than it was from the love I felt for the one child who did come from my body? Maybe … But the love I felt for the boy was different from the love I felt for the girl too! Not less. Just different. They were unique individuals and the love I felt, continue to feel, for each of them was, and is, unique!
In a lot of ways those “kids” … 1,2 and 3 … pay a high price for the choices and decisions of the adults who went before them. They all struggle with abandonment issues … wondering what they could have done … as BABIES … to drive people away. How were they not worthy of parental love? Why were they not fought for? How could their mother, who carried them in her body, just walk away from them with barely a look back?
Given those issues it’s not surprising that the teenage years were not an easy time in our house. In addition to normal hormonal angst we had some deep anger and resentments. So much pain that we never talked about. Such wounded hearts. I saw what was coming. The increasingly angry young man who wanted assurance that he was enough, that he was loved, that we were proud of him. The young woman who ate, in tiny bites, while watching herself in a mirror, silently screaming for help that I didn’t know how to give her.
I went to my husband then and told him that we needed help, that we were not okay, that we were losing these children and we needed to do something about it NOW. He didn’t agree. He thought we were okay. And I, trying to be a submissive wife, and even more so being “just the step parent” tried to believe him and didn’t insist. Maybe I was even relieved because who knows what counseling would have dug up! I had skeletons that I would just as soon leave hidden in my own closets.
Eventually the tomorrow, when we will deal with those issues, the tomorrow when we will say “I’m sorry,” the tomorrow when things were supposed to get better … all those tomorrows became yesterdays. The kids grew up and moved out, taking some of their pain with them, leaving so many shattered pieces in their wake.
They are not children anymore. They are adults, in their 30s, with lives, families, choices, successes and failures of their own. I cannot claim responsibility for all the things that have gone wrong in their lives! But I do believe I failed them when I wasn’t more insistent that we ALL needed help! And I wonder when , if ever, I will get to quit regretting that choice.
I fought with my teenagers, trying to keep them on the straight and narrow, trying to encourage choices, behaviors and attitudes that would make their lives better. I wish I had fought with them less and fought for them more …