As a parent, there is nothing like the day you first meet your child. Whether natural born, or adopted, there is nothing like it at all. That ltitle person imprints their face on your heart and soul until the day you die. The heartache comes when you face your failures.
If you’ve never been a parent this is just one of those things you’ll have to empathize with. There are no words in the human language that adequately describe the pain you go through when your child experiences pain or suffering of any kind. It becomes, very literally, your own pain. Even as much as your own scarlet letter of failure.
You start to think…What did I do wrong? What could I have done better? Why didn’t I see? And you begin questioning what kind of moron you were to think, at any time in that child’s life, you had this parenting thing pinned down.
I have a good relationship with my children. We’re fairly honest with one another, even when the truth hurts. ..which it often does.
But today, I lie here reflecting on all the hardships they are going through as they muddle through the path to adulthood. I was fortunate enough that I could stay home with them until they went to school. Unfortunate that most of that time was spent in a divorce and nasty child custody battle.
I gained 50 lbs (maybe more), developed severe anxiety, went through severe depression, and then lost my grandmother, father, and step father. All within 10 years. I thought that at least being home giving up everything I had once longed and dreamed of was nothing because I was there 24/7 for my kids.
But I was wrong.
I was wrong because I taught them that I would always give up my hopes and dreams, and that they should give up their hopes and dreams. I was wrong because I didn’t have the extra income to put them sports, music classes, or other things to keep them away from idle hands and mischief. I was wrong because in my depression they could see how “not to cope”.
I didn’t think I did a horrible job. I still don’t. The sacrifices weren’t in vain and we did have good times. I think I could have done better. There’s no “do overs” with childhood. You have to face the next day, the next chapter, and keep it moving.
You have to weather the blame for the shit you did wrong. But you know what? You cannot carry that forever. You have to live each day in the present. The past isn’t coming back, and there’s no guarantee of tomorrow.
What you do today is the foundation for any tomorrow you may be graced with.
I remember these words when my child, who suffers from severe depression, says he wants to kill himself. I remember them when another is so full of rage that he explodes until he thinks nothing matters anymore, I remember them when another tries to make positive changes but can’t catch a break, and I remember it when the youngest has to watch the older ones go through all these things and is afraid of making the same mistakes.
Where is the light at the end if the tunnel? A new generation is already here; grandkids. They already say, “I’m going to be a better parent.” And I pray they are. I pray they can be, and have the strength it takes. I pray they can carry the guilt when they realize they did the best they could, and maybe it wasn’t good enough.
The thing is…I wouldn’t trade it for anything. They’ve taught me more about myself than I could’ve learned alone. They’ve taught me that life is worth living when before it seemed numb and pointless. They’ve taught me that no matter how bad my memory gets, how many times I look for my glasses which are sitting on top of my head…I will never forget their smell, their smile, their hugs, and the way they felt inside my belly.
Children are our immortality. They are the DNA that struggle to evolve. All we can do, as parents, is become the stars that look down on them and offer a little light and a dream or two.