Throwback Thursday Reruns — The Clear and The Fuzzy

Today, I’m sharing an old post. I enjoy going back to see what I was writing about almost 3 years ago. It’s interesting to see the things that were on my mind.

I hope you enjoy this entry from April 2011.


A clear memory: 

I was 9 and in 3rd grade and I went with my sister to spend a weekend with my Aunt Bea and Uncle Alex.  My older brother and my two younger siblings were going to stay with a family from our school.  Mom was making a trip to attempt reconciliation with my Dad.  The whole weekend I was busy doing crafts and playing at Aunt Bea’s house, but I was anticipating Monday.  Monday, my dad was coming back with my mom.  I just knew it.  And then we were all going to live in Rhode Island together.  The nightmare that my parents were getting a divorce was over!

A fuzzy memory:

I have no idea what, in particular, I did during those days.  I remember going to sleep every night and waking up every morning wondering if it was Monday. 

When Mom picked me and my sister up on Monday, I don’t quite remember how it went.  Mom visited with Aunt Bea for a little bit and then drove us the 60 minutes back to Topeka and dropped us off at school.  We were tardy, but I was in high spirits..

A clear memory:

No one said we were moving to Rhode Island, and that Mom and Dad had worked things out…but I believed it with my whole heart.  Why else would Mom have been gone the entire weekend?  They were looking for a house where we could all fit, checking out schools, right? 

At recess, I was sharing my joy with the two girls I talked with/hung out with at recess.  I was parlaying my big plans for our reunion as a family when one of the girls laid it to me straight.  She said, “Michelle…your parents are not getting back together and you’re not moving.  I hate to see you get your hopes up for something that’s not real.”

I cried.  I tried to argue, but couldn’t find the words.  I wanted to scream that she didn’t know what she was talking about.  But at some point it hit me that I hadn’t actually been told for sure.  I mean, my mom said something about how her visit went well with our dad, but he didn’t come home with her.  And I began to realize that without the physical presence of my dad, I couldn’t trust the words that came from my mother and I couldn’t trust my feelings. 

*******

Looking back, of course at the age of 9, I couldn’t process what was happening.  However, in that moment, I was beginning to see the dashed hopes and dreams lying within the falsehoods of my pronouncement.  I can see now that the idea – the dream – that my parents were not getting divorced was entirely of my own making.

I died a little bit that day.  It was the beginning of my realization that Daddy wasn’t coming to get me.  And that Mom wasn’t taking me to him, either.  I remember that as the last day I ever thought or wished that my parents would get back together.  It was the beginning of what became an outlook on life that has stuck with me to this day:  “You can’t rely on any one person in this world.  Suck it up and shut up and move forward.”  Eventually, I learned that I could rely on my siblings and I could rely on God.  I don’t think I’ve ever completely believed again that I could go to my parents with a problem and get true help.

I consult my dad, sure.  We talk about things.  However, there’s a wall there that prevents his counsel from becoming something I completely turn to and rely on.  Bits and pieces of his counsel find their way into my reasoning, but many times I credit that to the fact that my father and I have a similar worldview and I’d probably go that route regardless of whether my father put words to it.

Later – when the days and weeks had passed and I got brave again and asked my mother why certain things were the way they were, I got told many times, “Your dad walked out on all of us, not just me” or “Your dad didn’t want you” and “Your dad doesn’t love us anymore.”  Only as an adult can I see the horror of those statements.  Only as a mother who would never dream of killing her children’s hearts, can I detest the hatred behind those statements and the hurt they inflicted. 

Yes, hurt motivated the statements.  I realize that.  My mother was hurting.  She was rejected.  She was desperate.  But to share that hurt with her children is something I find so difficult to comprehend.

I am blessed that the hurts my children experience are “children-type” hurts…however, it pains me to see my children hurt.  And if I am ever the one to inflict the hurt on my children (and let’s be real, I’m an adult and I’m human, so I have done it…I have hurt my children’s feelings) it absolutely breaks my heart back on myself. 

*******

Part of what led me to counseling three years ago was an experience where I was blessed to hear what I just said from my daughter’s point of view.  And I remember thinking immediately after that…”oh my gosh, that is something my mother did to me and I was so humiliated.” 

That night I pulled my daughter into her bedroom and I hugged her and I told her that I was sorry.  I admitted my fault.  I said I was wrong.  I told her that sometimes, I need to learn to hold my tongue.  I told her that I loved her and that I would try not to talk to her like that again.

And I called to make an appointment for counselling the next day.

 

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Throwback Thursday Re-runs: My Kids Are Spoiled (And I’m Okay With That)

I was laid up for a lot of the past week and I perused some old blog posts. Since I am short on time today, I thought I’d do a re-run. 

I’m really glad I re-read this post. Lately, I’ve been disappointed in the things I haven’t been able to do for my kids monetarily and it is a good reminder that my kids really are spoiled…in the right way. 🙂 

And now, I give you my reflection from January 2011.

********************************************************************************
Recently, my sister was informed by a member of our family that her four children were spoiled.  Specifically, she was told that her children have “too much stuff” and that they don’t “need” it all and that “they are spoiled”.
That got me thinking.  (of course)
I think my kids are spoiled.  Truly.  But I don’t think they are spoiled because they have lots of stuff.  Sure, they do have more than they need and it’s a constant struggle for me to ensure they understand that their needs are wants for many others and to remember to give praise and thanks to God for the blessings in their lives, material and non-material.
Yes.  My children are spoiled.  Here’s why:  Because they have their mother and their father, living out a Catholic christian marriage to the best of their ability.  Because they have a secure and stable home life.  Because they have parents who are present and ready to love them, listen to them, discipline them.  I think all kids should be spoiled.

“Spoiled”
My life beginning at age 8 was a fairly unstable, insecure life without a father.  And many Christmases, the presents were not “wants” but regular things that I needed.  Often, Christmas was when we received an annual allotment of socks, underwear and clothing.  Very seldom was there something I had told anyone I “wanted” in my stocking or under the tree.  And even, then, when my father came to town and asked what we’d like for Christmas and we told him, we often got told, “You don’t really want THAT”.  I spent many a summer afternoon accompanying my mother into the Liz Claiborne section at Dillard’s so that she could pad her wardrobe, or sitting by her at the Clinique counter as she bought herself makeup.  I don’t begrudge her these things…I never really thought much about it until I became an adult and realized how often my own trip to get a new outfit or taking the time and setting the money aside to buy some makeup, gets pushed to “last” in the priority column.
My life was a constant balancing act of how to be a kid without further wounding an often delicate relationship with both my parents, even though I was not the one to break the relationship in the first place.  I’ve only just recently begun coping with the emotional and physical abuse I suffered as a child.  I mean, I’m only scratching the surface.  I can feel it brewing any time I start thinking of my next session with my therapist…there’s some big breakthrough occurring.  It’s slowly building and I can tell at some point, I’m going to finally hit that point where it all comes crashing in on me and I realize the magnitude of it all.  For now, I have bits and pieces.  What saddens me the most is how common my experience is.
However, I look at my kids and I truly believe they are spoiled.  They are spoiled with love and affection.  They are spoiled with a father who loves them and isn’t afraid to show it.  They are spoiled with a family environment they can count on.  They are spoiled because they don’t have to rely on their siblings to carry them through the day, they can come to their mom or their dad, cry on our shoulder or just cuddle.
And, honestly, I can say that my youngest sister and brother are quite possibly the most spoiled children on the face of the earth from my vantage point.  I see them as spoiled because they had MY DADDY…all their lives.  They still have MY DADDY.  Sure, he is their daddy, too.  But, I spend my time working on my relationship with my dad knowing it can never be what it would have been.  I’m moving forward and I believe my dad and I have a stronger relationship now than we have ever had in my adult years.  But, it’s still not what it would have been.  That can never be.  And that’s just my life.  There’s no changing it even if I wanted to.  But it doesn’t change the fact that they are spoiled.
I hope that I can always say my kids are spoiled.  I hope I can always say they have a dual-parental unit they can count on.  I hope I can conquer my demons and move on to a place where I can be a most compassionate, loving and merciful mother to my children.  I hope I can always say that every day, I look into the eyes of the man I love knowing he would lay down his life for me and our family.

Please, Lord, allow me to always strive to spoil the heck out of my children!

So far so good.

The Clear and the Fuzzy

A clear memory: 

I was 9 and in 3rd grade and I went with my sister to spend a weekend with my Aunt Bea and Uncle Alex.  My older brother and my two younger siblings were going to stay with a family from our school.  Mom was making a trip to attempt reconciliation with my Dad.  The whole weekend I was busy doing crafts and playing at Aunt Bea’s house, but I was anticipating Monday.  Monday, my dad was coming back with my mom.  I just knew it.  And then we were all going to live in Rhode Island together.  The nightmare that my parents were getting a divorce was over!

A fuzzy memory:

I have no idea what, in particular, I did during those days.  I remember going to sleep every night and waking up every morning wondering if it was Monday. 

When Mom picked me and my sister up on Monday, I don’t quite remember how it went.  Mom visited with Aunt Bea for a little bit and then drove us the 60 minutes back to Topeka and dropped us off at school.  We were tardy, but I was in high spirits..

A clear memory:

No one said we were moving to Rhode Island, and that Mom and Dad had worked things out…but I believed it with my whole heart.  Why else would Mom have been gone the entire weekend?  They were looking for a house where we could all fit, checking out schools, right? 

At recess, I was sharing my joy with the two girls I talked with/hung out with at recess.  I was parlaying my big plans for our reunion as a family when one of the girls laid it to me straight.  She said, “Michelle…your parents are not getting back together and you’re not moving.  I hate to see you get your hopes up for something that’s not real.”

I cried.  I tried to argue, but couldn’t find the words.  I wanted to scream that she didn’t know what she was talking about.  But at some point it hit me that I hadn’t actually been told for sure.  I mean, my mom said something about how her visit went well with our dad, but he didn’t come home with her.  And I began to realize that without the physical presence of my dad, I couldn’t trust the words that came from my mother and I couldn’t trust my feelings. 

*******

Looking back, of course at the age of 9, I couldn’t process what was happening.  However, in that moment, I was beginning to see the dashed hopes and dreams lying within the falsehoods of my pronouncement.  I can see now that the idea – the dream – that my parents were not getting divorced was entirely of my own making.

I died a little bit that day.  It was the beginning of my realization that Daddy wasn’t coming to get me.  And that Mom wasn’t taking me to him, either.  I remember that as the last day I ever thought or wished that my parents would get back together.  It was the beginning of what became an outlook on life that has stuck with me to this day:  “You can’t rely on any one person in this world.  Suck it up and shut up and move forward.”  Eventually, I learned that I could rely on my siblings and I could rely on God.  I don’t think I’ve ever completely believed again that I could go to my parents with a problem and get true help.

I consult my dad, sure.  We talk about things.  However, there’s a wall there that prevents his counsel from becoming something I completely turn to and rely on.  Bits and pieces of his counsel find their way into my reasoning, but many times I credit that to the fact that my father and I have a similar worldview and I’d probably go that route regardless of whether my father put words to it.

Later – when the days and weeks had passed and I got brave again and asked my mother why certain things were the way they were, I got told many times, “Your dad walked out on all of us, not just me” or “Your dad didn’t want you” and “Your dad doesn’t love us anymore.”  Only as an adult can I see the horror of those statements.  Only as a mother who would never dream of killing her children’s hearts, can I detest the hatred behind those statements and the hurt they inflicted. 

Yes, hurt motivated the statements.  I realize that.  My mother was hurting.  She was rejected.  She was desperate.  But to share that hurt with her children is something I find so difficult to comprehend.

I am blessed that the hurts my children experience are “children-type” hurts…however, it pains me to see my children hurt.  And if I am ever the one to inflict the hurt on my children (and let’s be real, I’m an adult and I’m human, so I have done it…I have hurt my children’s feelings) it absolutely breaks my heart back on myself. 

*******

Part of what led me to counseling three years ago was an experience where I was blessed to hear what I just said from my daughter’s point of view.  And I remember thinking immediately after that…”oh my gosh, that is something my mother did to me and I was so humiliated.” 

That night I pulled my daughter into her bedroom and I hugged her and I told her that I was sorry.  I admitted my fault.  I said I was wrong.  I told her that sometimes, I need to learn to hold my tongue.  I told her that I loved her and that I would try not to talk to her like that again.

And I called to make an appointment for counselling the next day.

Unfulfilled Expectations

About the only thing I remember about the time of year when my parents informed us of their impending split was that it was winter.  I can’t remember if it was Christmas break or if it was just some other winter day.  I remember it was cold.  I remember that my father was stationed with the Navy somewhere really far away (as in, not down the street where I could see him all the time).  I also remember that I still had really long hair, so I must have been in 2nd grade, which means I was 8.  

All of us kids were on the floor sitting “Criss-Cross-Applesauce” as they call it these days.  Back then, they called it “Indian Style”.  I think my mom might have been holding the baby.  This would have been around 1982, so my baby brother would have been about 19 months or so.
The word DIVORCE fell like a bomb.  Oddly enough, my older brother seemed completely ready for it and acknowledged it as if it were a foregone conclusion that this is what was going to happen.  But me?  Tears flowed quickly and ferociously…and I remember thinking…wondering…would he say next that I was going to go with him?  I would sure miss my sisters and brothers, but surely I was going to stay with my Daddy.
But those words never came.  I don’t know if my brother asked what was to become of the children or if my parents just moved right into that part, but it was made clear that we would stay with our mother.  I didn’t understand.  Why would I stay with my mother?  Didn’t my dad want me?  I mean, I didn’t understand why he’d leave at all…but surely (in my 8-year-old brain) he couldn’t bear to just leave me there?!?!
I don’t remember anything else about that particular day.  It’s very hazy.  It’s probably best that I don’t.  I’m sure there was a lot of crying from my mother.  I think I was probably in some sort of state of shock.  I don’t remember feeling angry necessarily…just very confused and very unsure and maybe a little bit rejected and unloved.  I don’t remember if I hugged my sister that was old enough to process what was going on (she was 6) or if I hugged my brother.  I really only remember sitting there, wondering why I wasn’t going with my dad.
*******
I started seeing a therapist through Catholic Charities about three years ago.  My reason for starting was because I had all these pent-up, unresolved feelings about what happened to my Dad and to me.  I realized through talking it out that what I suffered was abandonment, in the classic sense of the word, though it took quite a few sessions for me to term it what it was and really accept it.
I’m really happy that I talked with this therapist about this stuff.  She reminded me about the climate for our situation in the early 1980s.  
It would be quite a fight for my father to “fight” for custody for me or for any of the children.  Especially since my mom had been and still was (at the time) a Stay-At-Home-Mom.  My father would have to try and prove my mother to be an unfit mother in order to have any sort of chance, and there was practically zero chance that a court would see my mother as an unfit mother…because, well, she wasn’t.
Besides that, my mother had cared for the home and children while my father had attended and completed law school.  My mother had cared for my father, the home and children for 16 years, while my father had been in the military, stationed in several different locations, including internationally.  
And…my father, in my adult opinion, “wanted out” and didn’t want to mess with a messy court battle that would upset the children or even my mother.  As it was, I am fairly confident that my father wasn’t getting a lot of support from his own parents with this move.  So as a man on his own, doing what I have come to see as what he felt he had to do…trying to take me with him was not going to be a very smart move.
The only way I might have had a chance to go with my father would have been to ask for it, to beg for it, to let the screams of my desires reverberating in my brain to overflow out of my mouth.  And, well…that’s a tall order for an 8-year-old, seeing her mother crying on the couch, being told by her father that he’s leaving and not knowing what that really means.  I mean, as an adult, I can look back and see that my parents’ relationship was far from healthy and that my father was trying to “get out” of a bad relationship.  But when I was 8, it sure felt near impossible to see my father leaving as anything but leaving ME.
*******
I realized after my post the other day, that perhaps writing about this stuff might cause some people to misconstrue my intent or my relationship with  my father.  While my relationship with my father is nothing like it would or could have been, I consider it strong at this point in my life.  That is possible only through the power of God’s forgiveness and the Grace He has bestowed on me to accept my father with all of his failings…as my Dad.  
God has granted me the GRACE to see as an adult what I could never see as a child.  
God has bestowed upon me precious gifts of my husband and my children to show me that the evil of divorce doesn’t HAVE to be a cycle and that I have a choice to love beyond myself.  Through these gifts, I am able to see that my dad was broken (as we all are broken) in sin and God has enabled me to believe that my dad really did love me and that it was probably very hard on him that loving me and my siblings wasn’t enough.  As a mom, I can’t truly empathize with it, but I can see it just enough in the way my dad has handled our relationship since I’ve been an adult to know that it was painful for him to be separated from us…because he was separated from God as well. 

Anyway, as I write of these experiences, I am still on a journey of discovery and forgiveness.  I’m able to write about this part of the journey BECAUSE God has enabled me to reach the point where I understand and God has touched my heart just enough that I can see the situation the way that I do.  I can’t predict how long this journey will continue as I am currently processing much related to my mother and her role in all of this, but I feel confident that I have resolved enough with regards to my dad, that I am able to share.

Always His Little Girl

A few years ago (when Helen was a baby) I began having serious reflections surrounding my relationship with my parents, my feelings about their divorce, the way I grew up and what that meant for my family. 

It’s a solid statistic that most kids who grew up with divorced parents, end up in a divorce themselves.  I had become aware of that.  It was something I didn’t want to face.  It was much like what I’d heard about victims of abuse.  Abuse perpetuates abuse.  Divorce perpetuates divorce.

I wasn’t contemplating a divorce by any means.  However, I began paying a lot of attention to my own interactions with my children and with my husband.  I was attempting to comprehend this idea that so many people come to the conclusion that ending marriage is a good idea.

One of the catapults into this contemplation on my life was my daughter Dani and her relationship with her dad.  Dani and her dad are very close.  Even now, while Dani will tell me that she loves me, she ALWAYS prefers her dad to take her to a practice or to her games.  When we “pair up” kids for outings in different places, Dani ALWAYS chooses…and usually gets to go with…her dad.  She looks at him with stars in her eyes.  Really.

I am a “Daddy’s Girl”.  I say that, but for some reason, that doesn’t even sound close to how I feel about my dad.  I think I probably look at him with stars in my eyes, too.  I literally have memories including my mother that I can count on ONE hand before the divorce.  Sure, I knew she was always around (she was a stay-at-home mom) but I remember the same recurring fights, and I remember a couple of traumatic instances from age 3-8 that include my mother…but everything else involves my dad.

Watching Dani with her dad reminded me of this relationship I had with my dad before he left.  I have memories…

  • there is the day he told me he was color-blind and I asked him how he knew which light meant “stop” and which light meant “go” on the traffic lights.  I was probably four or five.  He explained that he really disliked it when the stoplights were hung horizontally because that made things a bit more difficult for him. 
  • I also remember when I accompanied him to the barber shop on base and afterward, he got me an ice cream cone and told me that I shouldn’t talk about it when we got home. 
  • Another thing I remember is holding his hand walking somewhere and trying to come loose because I thought I was big enough to get to walk on my own (probably age 5 or 6) and he let me for a short while. 
Most of my memories of my father are just being with him…not an event, or special time specifically.  Tickling.  Laughing.  Teasing.

My memories, though, are dominated by my feelings.  My dad was EVERYTHING to me.  I remember being sad when he wasn’t at home when I was little and he would go to work or to school.  I remember the elation at his arrival home every night.  We played the game “Concentration” when I was very small.  “Concentration” is what we called the game “Memory” and it was played with a deck of playing cards (you collected pairs as you turned over the cards).  I was really good at this game for a little kid…or at least I felt like I was and my dad thought I was and I beat my older brother once in a while.  I remember always feeling happy because I could impress my dad.  His approval was my addiction.

One summer night, when my dad had finished law school and was studying for the bar exam.  It was hot.  We didn’t have air conditioning.  I wasn’t sleeping very soundly, but it was late and I was in and out of sleep.  My dad came into our room (I shared with my sister) to say good night, even though we had been in bed quite a while.  I heard him go to my sister’s bed and tell her that he loved her and good night.  He made his way over to my bed and I was feigning sleep.  Did he know?  Probably.  Because he talked a little more to me.  But I’ll never forget the words he said, “Michelle, Daddy loves you.  You will always be my little girl.  Good night.”  And he kissed my cheek.

You will always be my little girl.

He has said this to me numerous times in my life. 

My father has four girls of his seven children.  And maybe he hasn’t had to remind his other daughters of this as much as he has felt the need to remind me.  But even today, when I am 37 years old and a mother of five, I wouldn’t be shocked to hear him tell me this.

Words are sometimes a double-edged sword.

You will always be my little girl

The words always made me feel good to hear him say them.  I always did and will want to be his little girl

You will always be my little girl.

The words made the abandonment when I was 8 years old more difficult to process.  How was I still his little girl when he wasn’t in my day-to-day life anymore? 

My Kids Are Spoiled! (And I’m Okay With That)

Recently, my sister was informed by a member of our family that her four children were spoiled.  Specifically, she was told that her children have “too much stuff” and that they don’t “need” it all and that “they are spoiled”.
That got me thinking.  (of course)
I think my kids are spoiled.  Truly.  But I don’t think they are spoiled because they have lots of stuff.  Sure, they do have more than they need and it’s a constant struggle for me to ensure they understand that their needs are wants for many others and to remember to give praise and thanks to God for the blessings in their lives, material and non-material.
Yes.  My children are spoiled.  Here’s why:  Because they have their mother and their father, living out a Catholic christian marriage to the best of their ability.  Because they have a secure and stable home life.  Because they have parents who are present and ready to love them, listen to them, discipline them.  I think all kids should be spoiled. 
My life beginning at age 8 was a fairly unstable, insecure life without a father.  And many Christmases, the presents were not “wants” but regular things that I needed.  Often, Christmas was when we received an annual allotment of socks, underwear and clothing.  Very seldom was there something I had told anyone I “wanted” in my stocking or under the tree.  And even, then, when my father came to town and asked what we’d like for Christmas and we told him, we often got told, “You don’t really want THAT”.  I spent many a summer afternoon accompanying my mother into the Liz Claiborne section at Dillard’s so that she could pad her wardrobe, or sitting by her at the Clinique counter as she bought herself makeup.  I don’t begrudge her these things…I never really thought much about it until I became an adult and realized how often my own trip to get a new outfit or taking the time and setting the money aside to buy some makeup, gets pushed to “last” in the priority column.
My life was a constant balancing act of how to be a kid without further wounding an often delicate relationship with both my parents, even though I was not the one to break the relationship in the first place.  I’ve only just recently begun coping with the emotional and physical abuse I suffered as a child.  I mean, I’m only scratching the surface.  I can feel it brewing any time I start thinking of my next session with my therapist…there’s some big breakthrough occurring.  It’s slowly building and I can tell at some point, I’m going to finally hit that point where it all comes crashing in on me and I realize the magnitude of it all.  For now, I have bits and pieces.  What saddens me the most is how common my experience is.
However, I look at my kids and I truly believe they are spoiled.  They are spoiled with love and affection.  They are spoiled with a father who loves them and isn’t afraid to show it.  They are spoiled with a family environment they can count on.  They are spoiled because they don’t have to rely on their siblings to carry them through the day, they can come to their mom or their dad, cry on our shoulder or just cuddle.
And, honestly, I can say that my youngest sister and brother are quite possibly the most spoiled children on the face of the earth from my vantage point.  I see them as spoiled because they had MY DADDY…all their lives.  They still have MY DADDY.  Sure, he is their daddy, too.  But, I spend my time working on my relationship with my dad knowing it can never be what it would have been.  I’m moving forward and I believe my dad and I have a stronger relationship now than we have ever had in my adult years.  But, it’s still not what it would have been.  That can never be.  And that’s just my life.  There’s no changing it even if I wanted to.  But it doesn’t change the fact that they are spoiled.
I hope that I can always say my kids are spoiled.  I hope I can always say they have a dual-parental unit they can count on.  I hope I can conquer my demons and move on to a place where I can be a most compassionate, loving and merciful mother to my children.  I hope I can always say that every day, I look into the eyes of the man I love knowing he would lay down his life for me and our family.

Please, Lord, allow me to always strive to spoil the heck out of my children!

So far so good.