So, there's this thing going around on Facebook. It's like a chain mail type thing. You are supposed to make a list of 25 random things about yourself and then tag 25 of your friends to do the same. It's supposed to be a light hearted, fun thing. It has proven to be anything but light hearted and fun for me.
For some reason that I don't claim to understand yet, two of my sons decided to include in their lists of fun facts about themselves a couple of things that would not only publicly embarrass me but would reach deep into the past and into my heart and rip off a scab and expose a wound so painful that it would leave me to spend the night crying away yet another layer of pain and regret.
To be clear, I am not mad at my sons. They said what they said and they feel the way they feel. Their childhood years were some of the worst years of my life and therefore theirs too. They bear the scars that those difficult years of me being lost in my own maze of drug addiction, alcoholism and mental illness caused for them. I guess I am just feeling really disappointed because I thought we had come to a better place than this.
On the surface it would appear that we have overcome the past and have forged a good relationship. I never saw this coming and I am stunned at how painful I have found it to be. Yet, I know that nothing happens without God allowing it, so there must be a reason for this gaping wound in my heart to be torn open to bleed once again.
I didn't ask to be included in their lists of 25 things. The list was supposed to be 25 things about themselves. But then, I guess who we are and what we say about ourselves is all so intricately intertwined that it's inevitable that there would be some reference or connection to me in at least one of the things they chose to include in their lists. On one level I know that they didn't really intend to hurt me with their words. But on another level I know that, if they were to be completely honest with themselves, they knew their words would hurt and cut, and they chose to say them anyway.
Only two of them made lists. The third one didn't participate in this fun, light-hearted activity. But, I am completely sure that if he had I would not have been hurt by anything he might have said about me. It's always just been in his make-up to extend grace upon grace and mercy after mercy to me. But that's not the point of this post.
So, after spending the better part of two days, including a sleepless night when I couldn't stop crying, and a day at work embarrassed to face my customers with my red puffy eyes and tears that wouldn't stop....and knowing it was irrational to feel that on some level they would know I was crying because I regretted being such a failure as a mother, but feeling it anyway...after 2 days of coming to terms with my own hurt and disappointment, I am ready to compile my list of 25 things I wish they would have or could have said when they chose to make reference to me in their lists...
1. I wish they would have been able to say that their mother planned her life well and lived out her childhood dream of getting married, having children, and living in a happy cottage with a white picket fence, happily ever after. But they couldn't say that. They couldn't say that because their mother dropped out of high school and married a man 11 years her senior three days after she turned 16 years old.
2. I wish they could have said that in spite of that terribly poor choice to get married to what basically amounted to a pedophile while still a mere child, things turned out ok. But they could not say that either. They couldn't say that because the truth of the matter is that the man their mother married turned out to be an abuser....and when that abuse began to be focused on her infant son, their 17 year old mother put her baby and a few of his things in a stroller and fled on foot to her grandmother's house a few miles away because she knew, even at 17 years old, that the only thing standing between her baby son and a lifetime of abuse, was her...and she had to get away.
3. I wish that my older son could remember far enough back to remember that even though I was only a teenager, I tried so hard to be a good mom to him during those early years. I did so many things wrong but I did a few things right. I spent every single afternoon of his young life reading to him and having a quiet time with him. I took him for a walk every single day, and as we walked we would stop and count things and read the letters on the signs, and repeat rhymes and such to each other. I wish he would have said that because of his mother's care and attention, he was able to read before he ever began school.
4. I wish that my older son could know that when he was a baby I washed his diapers in the bathtub and hung them on the clothesline outside because his father wouldn't give me money to go to the laundry.
5. I wish that they would have said that when their mother found herself pregnant and abandoned once again she chose to keep her baby in spite of the fact that she was scared half out of her mind at the thought of having another baby....alone and at 19 years old.
I need to stop here and say that I know with all of my heart that I am not a "victim." These things didn't just happen to me by chance. They happened because of the extremely poor choices I have made in my life. But I guess I am just trying to show that even in the midst of all these stupid things I did when I was young and foolish, I made some choices that I am proud of and I wish my sons were proud of too.
6. I wish they would have said that while I was pregnant with my second child and determined to allow him to be born, in spite of the fact most well meaning people repeatedly advised me to get an abortion, I made most of the clothes that this second child would wear after he was born.
7. I wish they could say that their mother, at some point, began to make better choices. But they can't. The choices got worse. Their mother married a man she didn't love, trying to find some sort of security and stability for herself and her sons. That marriage, ironically, did bring security and stability and I always have said that, knowing what I know now, I would never have left that marriage. I would have learned to love this man who gave me his love and his name, who gave my children a father...and who gave me yet another son. But I didn't know the things then that I know now. So I left that marriage as well and that is when my world began to crumble around me....and around my sons. It took a few years to really become apparent, but this is when it really started to fall apart.
8. I wish my sons would have said, "My mom is amazing because even with three children under the age of 6, she managed to go to college and become an LVN. She spent one year going to school during the day, coming home and caring for 3 young children and studying late into the night to get through school. It was one of the most difficult and demanding things she ever did but she did it. With a 9th grade education, she went to nursing school and graduated with the second highest grade in her class...and she did it while raising 3 little boys."
9. I wish they could have said that things got better after that. But they can't. Their mother continued to make really bad choices and drugs and alcohol became a part of her life. I wish I could say that I knew all of the reasons I made those choices or what it was that I was looking for but I don't. Well, actually, I do a little bit. First, I didn't know Christ. Now I know that the gaping hole on my inner self was the void that only Christ can fill. For reasons I don't claim to understand we each attempt to fill that void with one thing or another if we don't know Him. I filled it with men, drugs, alcohol, and the like. I am not proud of it but I did.
10. I wish my sons would say, " I respect that my mom gave us up when she knew she was heading down a path of destruction and didn't drag us along with her. As painful as it is that she "abandoned" us, it would have been infinitely more painful to have been dragged down that path with her."
11. I wish that my sons would say, "My mom is a hero because when she realized that if she didn't get herself together and get her life on track and take Courtney back, he was going to die of asthma, she somehow reached down deep within herself, through her drug and alcohol stupor and began to do what was necessary to climb out of that dark place."
12. I wish my sons would say, "I am so proud of my mom because she gave up drugs and alcohol.... cold turkey and began to do her very best to set right the wrongs she had done."
13. I wish my sons had said "My mom got a job within a couple of weeks of moving back to San Diego and within a couple of months had her boys back with her."
14. I wish my sons had said, "My mom worked full time and lived with her parents so that Courtney could get the specialized medical treatment he needed, because we didn't have medical insurance and it took everything she made just to pay for the specialist and the medications that turned his health around."
15. I wish my sons had said, "I am so proud of my mom because she overcame seemingly insurmountable odds and put our family back together."
16. I wish my sons would have said, "I love my mom and I remember her doing things like getting up in the middle of the night to help me put together a fiber optic model of the "Enterprise" because I was frustrated with it.
17. I wish my sons had said, "I am proud of my mom because she continued to pay my student loans while she struggled to make ends meet and even while going through a bankruptcy managed to pay it off completely."
18. I wish my sons had said, "I remember a time when my mom bought me a suit and all the accessories that go along with dressing from head to toe. In spite of the fact that she was continually broke and struggled to make ends meet, she did her very best to provide me with the things I needed to face a job interview or a company party with a beautiful girl I wanted to look good for.
19. I wish my sons would have said, "I am so proud of my mom because even though we had a really difficult start in our life, and even though she has made mistake after mistake, and continues to make mistakes, she has never stopped trying to make it up to us for the wrongs she has done."
20. I wish my sons would have said, "I am so proud of my mom because she has finally made peace with her feelings and has become a good and devoted daughter to her own mother."
21. I wish my sons would have said, "I am so proud of my mom because ever since she made the decision to put her life and our family back together she has done her very best to be there for each of us whenever we have needed her."
22. I wish my sons would have said, "I am so proud of my mom because time and time again she has been willing to give me her last 20 dollars if I asked for help."
23. I wish me sons would have said, "I am so proud of my mom because she may have struggled to do motherhood but she has this Grandma thing nailed! She is a wonderful, devoted and loving grandmother to my little girl."
24. I wish my son would have said, "I am so glad that my mother loves me enough to put her own feelings aside and support and love me through this difficult time as I remind her over and over again that she abandoned me and broke my heart all those years ago as if the last 18 years of her trying to make up for it never happened."
25. I wish, more than anything else my sons would or could say, "I love my mother with all of my heart because Jesus is the Lord of my life and His love has been shed abroad in my heart and allowed me to be healed from all of this past hurt.
That's my list of 25 things I wish my sons would have said. Just once I would love to think that my sons are proud of how hard I've tried and how far I've come and how much I have changed. I may or may not ever show them this list but it has been so very cathartic for me to write it.