Thursday, June 14, 2012

BOMBS OF REGRET

Mother's Day card Maricelle gave me this year
I've been working on this entry for over 6 months with painstaking revisions and a large dose of self-doubt. Vacillating between completing or deleting it, I left my incomplete draft waiting in the shadows. This wasn't an entry I could haphazardly slap together and press publish because it involved the hearts of my children. Although they should be handled with the utmost care I wasn't always cognizant of doing so.


Last night, I decided to complete this entry because I'm participating in Jeff Goins's Great Writer's SeriesYesterday's challenge was to practice writing publicly and Jeff provided a handful of ideas, one of them causing a tremor of terror in me. Publish something on your blog you've never shared with anyone. I thought of this blog entry waiting in a long list of incomplete drafts and knew it was time for it to be shared despite my fear of being vulnerable. In the past year my friends who are now parents of pre-teens have approached me for guidance, reassurance, and advice. I was able to provide all three and more. The common theme in the advice I give my friends is: spend good quality time with your children. I don't want a parent living with the heavy burden of regrets I carried for years.


As a young, struggling, and stressed out single mom I gambled with Time believing I could win more of it to spend with my kids. I learned a terrible lesson: Time is merciless to those who squander and discount its value. Quality time is never regained. Fortunately, God is a god of second chances, redemption, reconciliation, and restoration. Although the damage I've caused in my children's hearts can't be undone, I'm now in a place where my kids and I value our time together. It took many years of confronting my faults, admitting them, and desiring to change myself to arrive at a healthy place with my kids. In my moments of solitude I weep with gratitude for the second chances I've been given because my kids and I have a solid relationship with each other. If someone asked me 7 years ago if I thought my kids and I would have an amicable relationship, I would have answered NO! For years I assumed we would be estranged.


A few months ago my friend, M, posted a quote on Facebook. The words made me cringe because the truth stings.


Never regret anything because at one time it was exactly what you wanted. 

Ouch! I've lugged my regrets as if I were carrying bombs strapped to my body. Each year I walked through life like a suicide bomber ready to detonate with the regrets I kept close. If the quote above were true, it meant I wanted to hurt my children by depriving them of quality time while they were growing up. That is the A-bomb of my regrets-not spending enough quality time with them. I erected a barrier between my children and me built on stressors, 3 classes, 3 jobs, self-absorption and selfishness. During our years of counseling and therapy sessions my kids expressed their need for my presence in their lives but I was deaf to their pleas. Their voices, cries, and requests haunted me in the darkness of my self-reflection. I knew it was imperative to release my hold of those regrets in order to appreciate the beautiful time we have now. I couldn't continue looking back at what I've lost and destroyed but derive pleasure in the precious moments I have today. 


I decided to make myself vulnerable to my kids and questioned what I could have done differently as a mom. I reminded them that it wasn't the time to attack me but to provide constructive and honest feedback. It was one of THE most frightening moments of my life but a necessary move to place the past behind us. Their responses made me laugh, cry, cringe, and raise my eyebrows. 


My oldest daughter, Maricelle (24-years-old), e-mailed her response to me because she lives in San Diego and was immersed in graduating SDSU at the time.


Hahahaha I love this. First, props to you for doing this, I commend you. Okay, you could have shown more affection. Lastly, just increase communication. There's too much shit-talking in our family, and things would have been better if we just confronted issues & problem-solved. That is all I can think of. Oh ya, and you always made me late to school when you gave me rides. I got in trouble a lot. Haha. Well that seriously is only all that I can think of. Other than that, you're a magnificent mom, & still raised us the right way, thank God. 


(***My note: She's right on all counts. Since I received her response I've been more communicative with them and tone down on the "shit-talking.")


My middle daughter, Chloe (23-years-old), gave her response over dinner at a Korean BBQ restaurant. I was apprehensive with her response because out of the three kids ours was the most volatile relationship. I rolled my eyes at her sarcastic "Oh, I have a long list for you, honey." (Please note: my daughters are 10 months apart and Chloe's response is referencing that.) 


I wish you would have done better in trying to cultivate my personality instead of always making me the same as Maricelle. It was horrible because she was always so dominating and I was quiet. I hated that you dressed us alike, had us go to the same school, do all the same things and all that. 


(***My note: I had to break some of Chloe's misconceptions. I couldn't believe she thought it was MY idea to dress them alike. I did my best to cultivate their respective personalities and reminded her that if I bought a dress for one of them, the other would throw a fit because they wanted the same one. I ended up buying identical dresses in different colors to avoid the impending friction. Also, I fought hard to make sure they didn't have the same classes or participated in the same events.)


My son, Tristan (almost 21-years-old), gave his response over dinner, too. His response was unexpected and shocked me.


I wanted us to eat dinner together as a family. You always came home from work, cooked, and then we'd eat in different places. You'd do your thing and I'd be doing mine. But it wasn't like it was bad or anything. I just think we should have spent more time together as a family. 


(***My note: This one stung because he was right AND I should have known better. How many books, talk shows, and articles talk about the importance of a family eating dinner together? Hundreds, if not millions! This was a no brainer and I failed!) My son's response made me ache for what was lost because we don't live under the same roof anymore. We do eat dinner together now but not in the kind of environment he desired while growing up. I hope when he becomes a father he will ensure that his family eats dinner together every night. 
 
I've stopped hobbling hunchback laden with the weight of my regrets. I've worked extremely hard at confronting past issues which released my death grip and abandoned them behind me. Moving forward without a glance backward has been liberating, freeing up space in my brain to confront present issues. My kids and I now treat each other with respect. Although we still have moments of friction we've been able to work through them without bitter recriminations. Without fail, I say a daily prayer of gratitude for this season of redemption, restoration, and reconciliation my kids and I are in. I'm glad I never gave up on them...or me.