I survived the day, one set aside to honor mothers. Mine is gone and my children are both choosing to pretend I don’t exist. I survived the day. A motherless child, a childless mother. Unable to spread my pain out with friends who would surely help carry the burden as each are thriving in their motherhood. Each would be getting cards, hugs, flowers, lunch. I couldn’t share my agony with my husband who was running a restaurant, sure to work 14 hour days, exhausted and excited with the rush at the same time. A successful weekend.
I am a failed mother, one who no longer gets to know her children. My daughter has chosen to cut off contact, believing her truth and ignoring the reality of more truths. Every attempt to seek forgiveness for her perceived wrongs, accepting all responsibility, becoming so deeply honest, have been judged not enough. My mailbox is empty, no phone calls, no texts. On good days I remember that God is handling this. There are few good days.
My son has battled addiction since he was 15. After almost 4 years in prison, he just came home to us in September. We bought new clothes, new bedding, new coats, a new phone and even a car for him to use after we took him to get his license. We stocked the house with food he might like, he wasn’t sure anymore. Four years of taking his calls which we had to pay for, sending money we didn’t have, pictures of his son to always keep him included, visits which meant time off of work and more money for vending machines and gas and lunch as we traveled. He turned 21 while inside and thought that even though he is a drug addict he could still drink. He chose to drive while under the influence. He chose to hide alcohol in our home. This young man chose to listen to those who tell him lies instead of his mother who tells him the hard truth. I had to tell him no.
I was a wonderful mother who sang songs every night after bath and books. I made real dinners from family recipes. I took my kids to the park and played with them there, no cell phones to distract. I made crafts pre-pinterest. We planted things, dabbled in science. I taught them that they owned their bodies, they never had to hug or kiss anyone if they didn’t want to. I needed my babies to be safe from the horrors I knew when I was a child. I wanted little more than to be a mother to my children.
I was a wonderful mother who made terrible mistakes. I reverted to childhood coping and didn’t seek the help I needed when confronted with sexual overtones from someone who scared me. I allowed the little girl in me to take over instead of the adult with choices. I was raped. By a 15 year old emotionally unstable adolescent who was in the group home where I worked. He had been removed from every school and was deemed too aggressive for other settings. He was. But because I didn’t report and tried to manage it on my own, after telling my husband at the time, I eventually was charged with the crime. He was sent away to a boot camp for boys with criminal tendencies. I was sent to prison.
I was away from my children for 2 1/2 years, the worst time of my life. I begged God to let me die in those early days of jail when I couldn’t even have visits. I sat on the steps one day and just pleaded with Him to let me out of this pain. My mind was flooded with the story of the Footprints. I tried to push it away, I got images of the beach and the one set of prints in the sand. I knew I had my answer. Whatever happened, I wasn’t alone.
I survived. I used the time to become the woman I wanted to be, not one defined by childhood abuse. I continued counseling, sought truth, accepted my role in becoming a victim when I had resources. I also forgave myself. I allowed for the whole picture: a flawed professional in a broken system, red flags ignored, cries unanswered. I learned to say no. Loudly. Fiercely. To keep saying no until someone listens. Or to walk, run, away until I find safety. Sometimes it is an emotional exercise, other times I have to remember the steps and follow through with a safety plan. Women who have been sexually abused as children are more likely to be raped as adults, women who have been raped are more likely to be so again. We just don’t know how to protect ourselves. We communicate victim to a predator. I work hard to change that message, some days more successful than others.
I accept that I was a wonderful mother while trying to keep the parts of my life separate, keeping my children safe from a young man who tried to steal them from daycare, threatened my husband. I did the best that I could. My children were safe. I was not.
When I returned home, after years away filled with weekly visits, nightly phone calls, daily letters and handmade gifts, I found my children still wanted their mother. I had realized while away that I could never love a man who didn’t protect me when I came to him with this trauma, thus the marriage was over. I was without a home but I had my family. We started over and we laughed, read books, made food, planted things.
I can see the patterns, I know the genetics of addictions passed through our lineage. I tried desperately to protect my son from this, I failed. He chose. I knew one day my children would be ready for adult talks about our past, one I freely discussed with them at each developmental phase. I didn’t anticipate not getting to talk, not being able to listen. I learned to say no to my son, I know how to listen to my daughter, she just won’t talk. I taught them both the value of forgiveness and grace, they saw the destruction of shame in my life. They know the hurt of grudges yet both are on their own path. They have to walk through anger, hurt, accountability, acceptance, forgiveness. Until this happens, my mailbox is empty, my phone stays silent.
I am a wonderful mother. I pray for my children with most breaths I take, my love is unceasing. I bake cookies and always have fruit for my grandson. I say no to him and teach him to own his body. I make mistakes, I try again. I have survived this weekend and the intrusive thoughts of driving the car into a pole, drinking myself into oblivion, walking until I just couldn’t. I survived by remembering that I am still a mom. I will always be a mom. I am a wonderful flawed mom who loves her children and knows that their hearts still include love for me. One day God will show them how to tell me. Until then, I have to trust those footprints on the beach.