Parenthood is the most heart wrenching thing I’ve had to deal with in my life. The deep unconditional love, the gripping fear of their harm, and the shame and torment when you can’t give them the things they so innocently want.
Now I am all for my kids not having every single thing they want so they’re not spoiled, and for them to go through the ups and downs of life, so they can grow some character… in theory at least, but it rips me up when I see my kids disappointed or hurting, especially when I am the cause behind it.
Years ago, when my kids were a lot younger, I made a decision. I decided that the best thing I could offer my kids was an alive version of myself. To sacrifice the light inside me might make them happy temporarily, but it would give them an example of living that would make them miserable as adults. Realizing that we adopt the culture of our parents, I knew that teaching them to be alive by being alive myself, was the best I could offer. To do this would break the culture I had been given by my mom. She sacrificed herself, becoming the perfect mom, putting her own light out to nurture ours. And I always felt it as a child. Felt that there was something wrong with her. Some underlying cloud in her eyes. And as an adult, I saw myself going down the same path. Saw myself with that same sadness. I didn’t want that for my kids. So I chose.
Since then, I have followed my heart, dragging my kids all over, living in 15 different cities, homeschooling them, putting them into school, involving them in radical religion, then taking religion away all together. Divorcing my extended family, selling everything we own, and even canceling commercial holidays for a whole year. And all in the name of finding myself.
This has not been done without consequence. I have hurt and confused them at times. In fact, I’ve probably given one of my daughters a mild form of OCD just so she can feel a sense of control. I have promised things I could not give them. I have shared my dreams that they wanted just as badly as I did, and that I did not achieve. And they have seen my breaking. My gut wrenching, balling my eyes out breaking. All things I am sure they will have to forgive me for at some point in their adult life.
And when I think of all the disappointments they’ve gone through, and all the change they’ve had to endure, I feel shame. I feel a great sadness that I couldn’t give them all I wanted to. I couldn’t travel the world with them and show them everything we ever wondered about. I couldn’t nurture all their artistic abilities, or save all their friends. I have caused them to lose friends multiple times because the parents were afraid of my thinking or beliefs. All me. I have done this to them. And their childhoods are swiftly fading away, so my chance at perfection is lost.
So I’m owning it. I’m accepting it. And I’m letting it go. I cannot be what they want me to be. I cannot lose my own heart. I have found it and will never let it go.
And yet, when I look through another lens, I can see all the gifts I’ve given them. All my children are polite, open minded, strong at heart. They have a sense of adventure and crave change. They are intelligent and look at the world in a way that sees the systems for what they are. School is not “the way it is” or “the way it should be”, it is just a place to learn and have friends. They could take it or leave it. They see people with broader eyes than many of their peers. They’ve been exposed to all types of people from many different walks of life, so someone who is “different” doesn’t scare them. They can usually see that person and make a judgement about them based on who they are rather than what they are. They embrace their emotions. They don’t try to be happy or good. They try to be real, but in a way that doesn’t invade on others. They have strong opinions. They aren’t attached to “things”. And they love me. They talk to me and tell me their secrets. They trust me with their hearts.
I never tried to teach them any one of those traits. They learned it all by example, as I was learning those things. That I can be proud of. That makes me happy. I have to remember all those lovely things when I feel bad for all they’ve lacked. I have to see all they’ve gained.
But it’s hard sometimes. Hard to think of their character being built or what good it will do them in the long term when in the moment their heart is breaking over another move we’re going to make for mom’s new job. Another dream we’re chasing that may not pan out. And I want to tell them it’s different this time. I want to say, “But I’m a butterfly now!” But I can’t. I don’t trust it to be true for them. Not another broken heart slain by my promise. And so I wait and hope. Hope that in the end, my decision to be alive, was good for them. And believe that they will stand on my shoulders and become greater than me, instead of being afflicted with the pains I left behind.