This entry is sparked by my last post… W.I.L.L. That last post is what I do…write when I feel some type of negative way. I struggle with whether or not to share or disclose what it’s like to live a Christian life with a less than Christian past, particularly where parenting is concerned.
My children and I… we are not speaking. Kids 1, 2, 4 & 5 are not speaking to me because they lied to me and betrayed my trust. As a result, I threw them out of our home, period. They were not on drugs or involved in gangs or any of the other types of nefarious trappings of post-millennial children. They were simply unrepentant, and I couldn’t take another day of lying, deceit and betrayal.
It’s a long, disastrous story that starts with their father, who is now deceased. While I could throw a dead man under the bus and blame him for everything, I won’t do that. What I will do is be completely honest. I spent over a decade in a relationship with a man who did not respect me, nor I him. We had an abusive and explosive relationship, and my children learned inappropriate behavior from us both. They learned how to tolerate and believe dysfunctional behavior was normal. It is the seed we planted. I allowed it. And it bloomed in a new chapter in my life, with my current husband.
I was not very good at expressing love to them. And while my mouth told them disrespect was not acceptable, my actions said something very different. I taught my daughter that taking care of a man who refused to help himself was acceptable. I taught my sons that having a man, a man who did not value himself or me was acceptable. I taught them that fighting daily and refusing accountability was perfectly normal. I taught them that people are who they are, and don’t change. I taught them that cutting people out of your life was the only way to resolve relational issues. I taught them that I was okay with being the ‘mean one’ and that was the only ‘me’ there was. I taught them to stay no matter what, that you can do whatever you want without consequence – or at least consequences that weren’t far reaching. That it was ok to do what you want, how you want as long as you aren’t hurting anyone but yourself. That you have to make your mistakes, and don’t need to follow the wisdom of others (meaning, find things out on your own). That playing Christian was the same as being Christian.
What they missed, however, is Jesus flipping me inside out. He stopped the shenanigans cold at the end of 2008, and allowed me to be completely crushed to fine dust for almost three years, ending in 2011.
What I didn’t realize in the years I spent with them and their father is I allowed confusion, rebellion and selfishness to reign, when I knew all along I had the power to stop it by standing up and doing what was right. And what was right? Me leaving the situation and taking them with me. But I was afraid. I was afraid I couldn’t do it alone. In my blindness, I couldn’t see I was already doing it alone – I just had a body present.
Don’t get me twisted and think there weren’t good times sprinkled in with the dysfunction. Sometimes, we were all quite happy. But when we weren’t, we weren’t. I had no idea my children were soaking in this environment, and their father was planting seeds of complete and total disrespect for me in them. Why? Because he knew I was gone and I wasn’t coming back. It was only a matter of time before the physical body caught up with my mind. Before he died, he realized what he had done, and tried to correct some of it. But really? How is a child going to listen to you after decades of defamation?
I was no better. I was selfish. All I could see was what I lost in having to raise them. In having to be responsible for all of these lives. It wasn’t that I wanted to be a party girl, or to flit about without a working set of brain cells. I just didn’t want to have to be responsible 100% of the time alone, and the freedom to choose myself over everyone else without guilt. Responsibility often fell to me financially, physically, and emotionally. I didn’t understand depression or burn out could happen to me too, nor did I recognize the signs. I had been at the corner of Moderately Depressed & Mildly Suicidal for at least 6 years before I decided I didn’t want to be there, and that I would live for me and not for anyone else, including my children.
The timing couldn’t have been worse. What my children saw was a person who did only the bare minimum, and checked out for the rest. They saw a woman who was resentful of her position and complained about it, but never took the initiative to change it until she finished college in 2008. They didn’t see the baggage I carried – they only saw their mom was not capable of showing them love the way they needed it. And didn’t have an interest in doing so.
Yep, I was that person. That mother. I could have been the poster child candidate for Snapped.
So, 2009 happened. It was the year I lost my job, my car, my identity. I was forced to look at me and deal with my issues. It was grueling. And I began to see exactly what I had done to my children. I started trying to fix some of the things I said and had done – and like the song says, it’s too late to apologize.
While the children themselves had begun to ask me why I was so different (when they would do things I didn’t approve of, there wasn’t any yelling, we were talking about why it happened rather than just me going off the deep end of what they shouldn’t have done), they didn’t really understand. I knew this. I just wanted them to see the change. This was a process, and wasn’t overnight. Eventually, they began to talk to me instead of avoid me. I asked them about therapy for us, they didn’t want to do it, citing some of the things their father said: “We don’t need it”, “Why waste money talking to people when we can figure this out ourselves?”, “We’re not crazy”, and other such things that are normal to hear.
I should have dragged them anyway.