Nearly every mommy does her best to provide an environment of love and nurturing for their children. I am one of those mommies. I want my kids to feel loved and valued. I want my kids to have the freedom to express themselves, their creativity and their ideas. I want my kids to know how important they are and that the most important thing they can give or do in this life is build loving relationships with others. I want to guide by example and be present to them. These things are important to me as a parent.
Years ago when I was in ministry I had a mentor who believed in the strong bonds between parents and their adolescent kiddos. He believed so strongly that he and some colleagues formed a group to nurture relationships of parents and adolescents. This is not an easy job! Parents of teens and preteens are often overwhelmed and frustrated. I would have him speak at the churches I ministered in several times a year. I was always happy to have him. He was a great mentor to me, not only professionally, but as a parent. He spoke of setting goals for the outcome of our own parenting and then would give loving, poignant, and humorous examples from his life and experiences.
When I was mentored by him, I was a new parent. His family was grown. I had a baby on my hip and felt so lucky to have people around me who were years ahead of me on the parent continuum. Along with him, I had women I worked with who had grown families and friends who were a bit further down the line than I was. When my big boy was little, I really felt like I was on my game as a parent. I felt like Dave and I were doing pretty well. I listened thoughtfully to other parents, to Dave, and to my child. I even had more time to listen to myself. I had time to form goals and put them into action as a parent.
Well, you know the story…then my life shattered.
With my big boy only six and a new baby boy in my arms, I buried my husband. When he left, the parent I was died too. For the first year, I did my best to hold our family on the same path we were on as a two parent family. I nearly killed myself. I was reeling from my loss, trying to make sure we had the help we needed to keep breathing, and well, to be that family even though we felt so broken. After the first year or so, I realized that we couldn’t be that family anymore. I realized that no matter how much I didn’t want it to be, our family was different. I realized that it was up to me to figure out how it would go from here.
I’ve adapted over the years, but still have never felt back on my game like I did when my big boy was younger. I often look around and wonder how my little one feels about our life. He’s at the age now that his brother was when his dad died. Although he didn’t have much time with Dave, as he gets older the loss impacts him in deeper ways. He really has never known a family with a dad here on earth. What he does know now is that his friends have dads and he can see the difference in his little seven year old life. He has really only ever been parented by me. In the past, this seemed ok, but now I think he realizes the difference, the discrepancy. It makes me sad. It makes me wish I was back on my game again.
Here’s the thing though…I can never be back in that game again. It was a totally different playing field. I’ve had to learn to adapt and gain new skills, but I can never go back to the mommy I was then. I can never go back to the woman I was, the wife I was, all that has gone…it has been changed, transformed.
I remember the goals. I remember the plan. I still think those things are important, but a key player is gone. I have to go with the back up plan. I have to convince myself and my family that this plan is as good as the original plan. I have to somehow blend the mommy I was…the one who had extra time, energy, who felt loved and easily spilled that out onto my children…with the mommy I am…the mommy who is the only emotional, spiritual, physical support, the mommy who is taxed and exhausted a lot of the time, the mommy isn’t always on her game.
While I miss the mommy, the woman I was, I still forge on to the woman, the mom, I am becoming everyday. I learn new things everyday. I am stronger and more competent than I’ve ever been…
But, I still don’t feel like I’m on my game yet.
I’ll get there. I get a bit closer every day.