The first time I wrote a blog post, there was a generic heading “Hello World!” A coming out of trepidatious opinion within a kismet of understanding of another’s blog world.
You are not alone.
I feel much the same feelings as I write this post.
“Hello World. It’s me Christine. Writing something that is incredibly hard to articulate, yet I’m pretty sure others can relate. I’m raw with layers of regret and shame interwoven into the complicated fabric that is Mothering.”
I do believe we all do our very best given the tools we have. And I have been grappling with the loss of time with my son who graduated this year within Covid-learning-from-home and left my nest for another nest. He left so gradually I didn’t even realize he left; which brought me to a whole new level of sadness.
This is the hard part to share, because it’s intensely personal to my family and my heart. Through my grief I traced it back to the root, and I’m sharing because I know Mom shame is all so destructive and common.
You see, when my son was 4; he had a seizure on the driveway while I was carrying in groceries. I missed it.
While I was packing groceries away in my fridge, my neighbour’s son witnessed it, who alerted his Mom, who alerted me. We had (continue to have) this nice little protective U-shaped community of mothering one another’s most valuable treasures.
I’ve never come to terms with missing that moment. I feel like maybe I would have understood better if the fall he took off his bike caused the seizure, OR he fell because of a seizure. I didn’t witness it; so I don’t know. And when the doctor asks you questions, and you relay back to him the account of your sweet neighbour 5 year old’s eyes…Well, that’s just heart-breaking and too much pressure for young kids to detail.
As a Mom; it’s within those moments you seek clarity and compassion from your circle of friends who support you over coffee as the brow furrows, and the shoulders rise. You serve the shame, and they ease the pain with a “Oh hun, how could you have known that would happen?” The easing of Mom hearts melded with guilt yet paved with compassion.
Fast forward to further seizures in the year that followed, he and I would travel for tests at the U of A. A spider web of wires over spiked adolescent hair weaved with medical goop to gather results. The tests were extensive and thorough with a diagnosis of Epilepsy which also affected his sleeping patterns and learning. I switched modes from Mom to advocator in his school as his teacher often asked “are you ensure he is getting enough sleep as he’s often tired.” With the help of the principal, we contacted the Epilepsy Association who brought in a puppet show to the school to educate those around him. This furthered labelled him. I realize that now.
And so began our journey of son wanting to explore, and Mom needing to implore protection. The various vehicles of play: Water, biking, unsupervised playground visits were all now dangerous. Even a bath was out of the question.
You see it just wasn’t fair to him…he wore a light in his eyes, a natural problem-solver, a seeker of exploration fuelled by a wild imagination.
I wish epilepsy was never his childhood reality of 4 pills a day and a Mom always at bay. I literally stalked him for much of his childhood.
When he was a teen, on the direction of his doctors, we weaned him off the medications as it can be something children outgrow. After an intense monitoring year, he was still seizure free. Thank the Lord.
You see, I thought that would be our hurdle to overcome. I thought that would allow us to breathe and relax into a different dynamic between me and my amazing son.
Yet, those early years created a dynamic that I am now trying to repair. Today, he’s a young adult. Graduated. He’s spreading his wings, and leaving my nest. The sadness I feel is within grieving moments I wish I had given him as a child, carefree and without such stringent monitoring through my fear.
While I could not have changed his reality; I could have changed my approach to it. I’m really sorry for that.
I had a conversation with my trusted friend and confidant around the campfire the other night. I told him all I was feeling. I poured out all the shame and pain, and within the complex layers of mother guilt; he could relate as a parent and shared his own shame. Huh, apparently shame is not boxed into one gender or generation…Mothers, Fathers, Grandparents, Great-Grandparents, *insert pivotal role in a child’s life here. Yes, we can all relate.
As a society, it’s hard to talk about shame, but it’s actually the freedom from it. We need to talk, share within commonality, express compassion to one another, and create an atmosphere safe for the parent-confessions. As Dr. Jody Carrington says “Drop your Shoulders”.
And it dawned on me so clearly at that moment by the fire; I never related how I was feeling to my own childhood and further to that…my parent’s childhood. The common thread of parenting. I am not going to blame my own childhood for any of my parenting choices, but what I feel convicted to do is own my role and shift the cycle.
Stay with me here…
As much as I can sit and lament about my son leaving my nest and choosing his father’s home, I realized my Mom felt the same way with me. She can relate to that gross feeling of abandonment (it even feels gross to type it). You sit and wonder within the missing. Will my child see the love, effort, pain, and sacrifice? Will they forget me because I’m quite possibly a huge pain in their ass (quite probably)?
I ask too many questions.
I worry incessantly.
But I love feircly.
If you are a parent, you have made mistakes.
We are all children of parent(s) who made mistakes.
Our parent’s parents made mistakes.
While we can look at it as the cycle of blame-the-parent or the ex-partner who you share parenting roles, there is one element I am embracing and changing for myself.
I clearly need to seek self-compassion for the shame I feel within my mothering; but also within my own childhood choices of spreading my wings as I left the nest. Sometimes I showed one parent more compassion than the other which was a purely selfish need of a teen choosing the path of least resistance and seeking approval of whichever parent dolled it out more effortlessly.
But here’s my fireside revelation…the note I wrote in my phone. The thing I need to say most to my son (and all of my children)…
I love you.
I’m here for you.
It really is that simply, and a straight-from-my-heart-starting-point to drop our shoulders. Spoken in love and understanding.
Ok, I’m learning my friends. While I understand my choices, reactions and circumstances at the time of my children’s experiences through out their childhood (and my young parenting life), it does not negate the fact they did not deserve to shoulder that. I’m so sorry you had to deal with feelings that are hard to process, but I’m here for you! Never forget that.
Remember the day you realize your parents are flawed individuals and are just trying to do their best? For me, that day swiftly arrived when my own experiences mirrored that of their parents. Ahhhh, I get it now.
Through my shame (which can be oh so devastating depending how I work through it) I am seeking responsibility for my part. I made mistakes within my parenting. I will not blame that on the situation I was dealing with at the time. While I did the best I could with the tools I had at the time, hindsight and wisdom through experience has allowed me vision through new eyes. It does not denounce the pain my kids went through. So “I’m sorry” is something that I am learning carries with it a lot of power and freedom from the shame and blame. And I truly mean it.
I’m sharing this today because I believe we do not talk about this enough, parent to parent. Let’s talk about our sadness, fears, looking back through the years now that we’ve gained wisdom and clarity. Pass on the lessons.
I need to share this with my son as well when the time is right. And I will. He’s been very open with his trials, and we have had times of awkward laughter when we don’t know how to communicate (yet an unspoken commonality of feeling). Perhaps frustrated, yet with a whole lot of love and care for one another’s heart. I understand his need of space and time to find his way, to connect with all sides of his family without guilt that he’s “choosing” (I needed the same).
I love my children to the ends of this earth, even within the shame…we have that common thread.
From my heart to yours,