Do you remember sitting with your women friends while discussing MOMS? I do. I was a young mom, attending a women’s retreat with my church when the discussion came up. I wondered aloud if our daughters would have the same discussion when they became young women.
Fast forward 30 years and one broken marriage later, as I anticipate the birth of my first grandchild. My kids range in ages from thirty-four to twenty. I had my first as a single mom of twenty one. I married at twenty nine and my second was born when I was 30. The last two arriving when I was 34 and 36.
I separated from their dad when we had been married 18 years. He was narcissistic and emotionally abusive, to all of us, however had the gift of convincing us that all problems were ours. We lived a traditional suburban lifestyle, I knew all my kids friends and participated in all of their activities. Most of our activities centered around our youngest who is tremendously talented athletically, however was designated by his dad early on, to be molded in to the image dad wished he himself had been.
The girls participated in band and choir, mostly humored by their dad, the oldest played volleyball and was enjoyed by dad, but not in the same way as if he had been blood. The youngest boy played soccer, baseball, football, and basketball, excelling in all three. We followed him year round while his dad coached his teams, able to spotlight the kid every chance.
I was a good wife and Mom. I was as obedient to their dad as I could be (church told me to, and I believed it), I didn’t interfere in their relationships with their dad, leaving them to work things out. Things got pretty toxic, they felt controlled, I felt controlled, and until I left him, he reigned over us.
As can be expected, there was resentment on the parts of the kids. I didn’t stand up for them, and I didn’t stand up for me. When we talked, after the separation, I had girls who were relieved, an oldest boy who was mad, and a youngest boy who didn’t seem to care. I watched each one process, so aware of my breaking up their family, and my allowing the family to be as sick as it had become.
In many ways, all of the kids see me as they saw me in the marriage. I hear from the girls, their gratitude that I have always been stable, in spite of the dysfunction in the family; they could count on me. From the boys I hear nothing. They make obligatory gestures, but really nothing.
So, for all of the hopes, the dreams, the desire to do it differently than my mom, I haven’t. I have a life with a new husband. Each kid is relieved that they don’t have to feel obligated to take care of me. Their dad is alone, failing relationships, jobs, and they feel obligated. So, he gets the attention. Should I be flattered? No, just grateful that I am now blessed with a man who’ll let me follow him around on a motorcycle, who makes my house a home, who loves me above all other. The kids know I’m here, they know it’s unconditional, and they will return.