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I found this letter that I'd written to myself many years ago. It broke my heart to see that I was in that place.  I think we all have these moments when we feel like everything we tried to do wasn't right at all. 

That girl so many years ago, alone and struggling to be a single mother and raising two little boys, she was so strong and never had any thoughts of regret.  I remember moments thinking that we just needed to get through this storm, and tomorrow it would be brighter. And it was, it really was. I learned so much about life and people.   There were strangers who did see my struggle,  who were also struggling in different ways. Like my neighbors, field workers who got up before the sun and went out into the heat to work.  Many of them didn't speak English.  But they saw my struggle and would bring my children over and feed them and allow them to play in the sprinklers with their kids.  Yet the people who drove nice cars and lived in big houses would turn their faces away and bark at those same children for playing too close to their homes on their long walks to school.

I went through moments of doubt through my motherhood, wondering if I did enough to prepare my kids for life away from home.  I wondered if I should have taken different paths or pretended more to be perfect.  I wish I could take that young mother out for coffee now, tell her that it is going to be okay and that she's the best mom for the children that she raised. In those years, she never turned away a child, took them in and gave them food and a home.  She was a great mom.  She just didn't need a mug to say it.




Bad Mother

I was a bad mother. I didn’t have a clue of what I was doing, except winging it. I was too young, too scared, too screwed up. Now they are all grown up and I want to go back to when they were babies and tell them they didn’t need to grow up so fast.

I loved them fiercely. But I didn’t love myself yet.

I wanted them so much. To be a mother is an honor. I just wish I had been better at showing them who I could be. I want more days like springtime when we walked slowly and talked about everything. And fewer days when we walked quickly, prodded by lack of time and discomfort of uncomfortable shoes and wishing we had a car like the ones that drove by us quickly in the summer heat.

I wanted to teach them everything. But I didn’t know much.

I was over my head, drowning in fear. I wish I had given them extra kisses when they fell down and fewer pleas to grow up and stop crying. We were a team, a family. We all had to be team players and do our part, even when you are only two.

I gave them all that I had. But I didn’t have much.

They are grown-ups now. Men, with jobs and homes of their own. I wish for more snuggles, more books, more birthday breakfasts in bed, more time. I want to go back and play pirates again, dragging sheets and pillows into the middle of the room. Stacking chairs and hiding “below deck” with flashlights. More giggles, more breakfasts of leftover pizza, more fun.

I could have been a better mother. But for no reason at all, they loved me anyway.


7 thoughts on “Confessions from a bad mother.”

  1. powerful, and a little bit of something I need to think about with regards to my own mother. Thank you for sharing. Do you think you would ever have felt like you could have loved them the way you wanted to?

    1. I think that one of the issues was at the time was the fact that I did not have a good role model to show me where I could do better. I was 17 when my first came along and 19 with the second. I was lost in a world where everyone looked down at me for not aborting my babies or having a shotgun wedding to a boy who was just as lost and confused as I was.

      I think I knew I loved them more than I loved myself, more than I understood how to love anyone. But I was over my head with trying to raise two small boys completely alone. I look back often and see clearly the mistakes that I made and feel the regret in the pit of my stomach that I didn’t know better, didn’t take more time to let the small stuff go.

      When the boys were 8 and 10, I married a wonderful man and he taught me how to love not just my family but to accept myself and find a way to love myself even with all of the flaws. He saved my family and helped me make sure that I could find a way to be the mother I wanted to, love them outwardly the way I always felt inside.

      I hope this helps. Mothers are very complicated. Sometimes they want to be saved and other times, they can’t.

    1. : ) Thanks. I think that a lot of mothers wonder about how they did when they look back. Perhaps wishing they had stayed home instead of going back to work, breastfeed instead of bottle, and so on. Thanks for the kind words.

  2. Pingback: A Word To Pregnant Teens – You Will Be Okay | Dancing with Fireflies

  3. I wish there were some agreement about what is expected of parents by society. I think I would be more forgiving of my own mother if she had any capacity for empathy. She actually does revel in proudly and loudly announcing, “You kids must have had a vitamin deficiency because every time I smacked you your mouth bled.” You are obviously human and I hope your relationship with your children is good. Having children grow up and leave home is hard on humans.

    Defining ourselves and our relationships as good-bad is how are brain works but, it’s not how we grow. If we remember the value of playing pirates, maybe it’s time to write that down. Make a book with photographs and pictures. Give it a special title and send it to them. Say “thank-you.”

    I did this by accident because writing a children’s story was an assignment in a creative writing class. My son recognized himself immediately.

    1. You are right. I think that we have moments when we look back at ourselves and wince at things that we wish would have gone better.

      Over the years we have been home to many many children, most of them coming from homes that we truly nightmares. Almost all of them are grown up now, successfully taking on lives and families of their own.

      My little pirate, now 26 calls home every few days to talk about the world, life, and flowers he grows in his garden. The relationships we all have are special, warm and fuzzy. Things did slow down and I made more time for making sprinkle cookies, sidewalk chalk, and make-believe.

      Thank you for your thoughts. ~C ~

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