132 Days Remaining
Sometimes I wonder if my children have any idea - any idea at all - of how very much I love them.
I think that they know that I love them, but I really have no clue whether they see how very much of my life is based around them, their happiness, their needs and wants, and their schedule.
It's hard, because in the aftermath of our splitting up, the kids ended up spending most of their time with their dad. This was partially due to the fact that I initially had a very small place where there really wasn't room for three children, and also partially due to my own emotional difficulties (see my earlier post, Admitting It is the First Step, and its following post, Borderline Genius, about that). It was not a good situation for any of us, and with my extreme emotion versus their dad's level-headed calmness, of course they would gravitate more toward wanting to be with him. When Crumbs and I started dating, it only made the situation less comfortable for everyone. I intended to keep Crumbs completely separate from my life with the kids, but they found out about him, and it cemented in their minds the thought that I would rather be with him than with them. Nothing could have been further from the truth: I desperately wanted to be with my children...I just didn`t know how to emotionally deal with the fallout of my marriage to their father. He knew that I was emotionally unstable, and he wanted to protect them from me and from any foolish mistakes I was making at the time. As a result, when I finally had a large enough home for the kids to come and live with me at least part of the time, they wanted to be back at the family home with Dad. Things have changed over the years (we've been apart seven years now, and lots of healing has taken place), but even though the kids spend a lot of time at my place, they still in their hearts feel that "home" is the house they live in with their father. That can be hard to hear, sometimes.
I warn you all again how I warned you in that post: "After any relationship ending, a grieving period is necessary. After a marriage ends, the first priority is the children - get over yourself for whatever time it takes to be there for them...you can cry and wail when you are alone, but be strong for your kids." This is hard-earned and regretful advice! I was not in that place. I did not allow myself a grieving period. I was not there for my children the way that I should have been. It was torture to go to see them in the house that used to be my home and was now a "bachelor pad", and instead of sucking it up and showing them how much I loved them, I allowed myself to be overwhelmed by the feelings that attacked me every time I crossed the threshold. I did not make my children my first priority, and that is my biggest regret. Over everything I have ever done stupidly and impulsively and irrationally in my life, not being there properly for my children is the only thing that I absolutely would change if I possibly could. It forever altered my relationship with my daughter, and even talking to my youngest son today I realize that he has been affected by it as well. I think my children believe that I would rather not have them in my life. That`s the saddest, saddest - and most incorrect - thing that they could possibly think.
I wish that there would have been some way to prepare myself - and my babies - for the extreme emotional aftermath of the end of my marriage, so that I could have better been able to support them in their needs and things would perhaps have turned out a lot differently between us. As it is, my relationship with my oldest - my beautiful daughter - is tenuous. The boys were younger, so it appears that it hasn't affected them as much, but still, the damage has been done. I suppose the only way to ensure that they would have been completely happy would have been to stay with their dad...but he and I were both so miserable that I can't imagine that still wouldn't have affected them negatively.
Now my children are almost grown - well, the two older ones, anyway - and I see them getting ready to step into adulthood. Sometimes I look forward to them being old enough to commiserate with, and for them to understand how difficult life as an adult can be. I have hope that my daughter will eventually be able to see things from my point of view, although my unwillingness to ever say anything negative about their dad in their presence means that they will never truly hear the whole story. Maybe just seeing how hard it is to make ends meet as a grown-up, and how difficult relationships can be, will help them to have more clarity. Although I don't wish a bad relationship on any of my children - I hope they find their true love young and stay happily married forever! - I see the possibility of it happening and hope that I can be there for them as they go through it.
Sometimes I'm just terrified that the kids growing up means that then they will forever be separate from me. My daughter is almost eighteen. She graduates from high school this year. She was ten years old when her father and I split up and has since become a beautiful, strong and independent young woman. Her heart is still hurting from how I wasn't there for her all those years ago, and she resists my attempts to hold her or have any kind of meaningful talk with her. It's painful...not as much for my own selfish reasons - although of course I long to be able to just cuddle her until she can feel my love for her reaching into her very heart - but because I know that deep down, she is longing for her Mommy and feels like she can't trust me enough to allow me to be that for her. I can see it in brief moments of vulnerability when she just wishes that I had always been available to her. I ache for her loneliness for her mother. I want to give her what she has been hurting for all these years, and she is at this point unable to allow me in. What if she grows up, moves out completely, and takes that lonely heart away with her? What if I never get the chance to really be the Mom that she so desperately needs, because of those foolish decisions and painful moments from years ago?
My children mean everything to me. There is no way to express that with everything I do, in the forefront of my mind is the concern of "how will this affect the children?" There are things that I could never even consider doing at this point, because of my children. Even if they were full-time with their dad and never stayed at my house, I still need to be in the same town as - and preferably less than a ten-minute drive away from - them. When they are away from me I long for them. When I pull into the school parking lot on a Friday after school and get to see my eleven-year-old after three and a half days without him, my heart swells with the joy of loving him so much. When my daughter calls me and wants to hang out - even if it's just because she needs me to pay for something for her! - I jump at the chance to spend time with her. When my six-foor-two 15-year-old wraps his arms around me and says, "I love you, Mom", I relish the feel of his lanky boy's body and the rare words of affirmation that somehow, despite everything, I still have given these children a good life. They are, for the most part, happy, and even if that means I have them for less of the time, and in some ways less of them, that is still my ultimate goal. I want my kids to be the best people that they can be. I know that even though I messed up, many, many times, I still have had a part in creating and raising up these three beautiful people. They are who they are - good parts and bad parts - partially due to my influence and my love. My determination to come out the other side of a bad marriage and keep my kids intact has paid off to a point.
One day they will be grown. One day they will have children of their own and know this impossible pain of seeing your babies hurting and being unable to stop it...whether they are in pain from someone else's actions, the children's own choices, or from decisions they as parents have made. It is so true what Elizabeth Stone wrote: “Making the decision to have a child is momentous. It
is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your
body.” It's the hardest thing I've ever done, the most painful, the most overwhelming, and the most rewarding. But they really have no idea.