|This is not the type of weather that typically makes me a happy camper.|
I have been struggling with several things. I'll only cover one today as to not cause you to never want to visit me again.
First, as much as I don't want to be, and as much as I fight it - I am pissed and hurt and angry that my kids don't have the grandparents I always envisioned my parents being for them. The grandparents I watched them be for my step-sister's kids. The kind of grandparents that I hear about from my friends and see in movies, and read about on the blogs that I stalk. The kind of grandparent that I want to be. I want that for them. And, I want it for me.
I struggle with this one a lot. I have a dear friend, Ashlee, whom I have known since college. We have shared a lot in our history and continue to share a lot even though she is far away. One of the best ways for me to keep up with this little lady is to read about her little family on her blog. I love reading it. I love being able to watch her three beautiful children grow and to watch her blossom into the wonderful mother she was born to be. And I have never told her this (although the cat is out of the bag on this one now...she reads this collection of words I throw together and call a blog) but sometimes I really struggle reading her story. You see, Ashlee has the ultimate parents. The kind that have always been there, and yet continue to step up their game even more through their love for their grandkids. You can feel it in her words, and I have been lucky enough to witness it in person.
When I was just beginning my second trimester with my pregnancy with Rex, I was kind of a mess. The first trimester was wrought with worry and anxiety. We had suffered a pretty traumatic miscarriage of twins the year before, losing them toward the end of the first trimester, and I was scared to death that it was going to happen again. To add insult to injury, I was dealing with a lot of drama with my dad and step mom, and was not in a really good place. We had made plans to drive from Waco to Houston to visit Ashlee and her family for a long weekend, mostly at her urging because she had talked me through the first three months of yuck. She knew I needed her. She's just that kind of friend. She planned dinners and snacks for the kids and had all kinds of stuff set up. So the day we were set to leave, in the midst of packing, I started to break. I began to stress about anything I could. While packing my clothes, Shawn mentioned that I should bring some clothes for going out (do those really exist for a pregnant lady?!?!?).
Going out? Why? What does that even mean? I asked in the snarkiest voice possible.
Yes, nothing too fancy...just something to wear out. Clearly still keeping his cool and the secret he had been hiding.
How would we even be able to go out? We have a one and a half year old! We can't go out! And I don't even have freaking clothes to go out if we could! WTF!!! And who has even made this plan? Do the Fishers know? How could you set something up without telling me or knowing if I would be comfortable about it?!?!! I began to let myself spiral into a place that is far from pretty.
Shawn explained that he and Ashlee thought it would be good for me to go out and have a little fun, so her parents had agreed to come over and stay the night to watch Roanin and her two little boys so that we could go out with no pressure. And instead of being able to see this gift for what it was, it threw me into a tailspin.
You see, I had only had a handful of experiences even leaving Roanin under the care of someone else for a few hours. And only one experience EVER of attempting to leave him overnight with someone, the someone being my dad and stepmom. That little experience went something like this: we planned it for about a month....Roanin would stay at their house for the night while Shawn and I went to Austin for an overnight getaway. I had thought of every last detail...written it all down in case they had any questions. They had not spent very much time with Roanin, and I was nervous that it wasn't going to go well. But I knew Shawn and I needed this time. I had brought the pack and play over several days before and set it up in one of the two spare bedrooms they had in their house. I knew right where I was going to put the video monitor, the sound machine...I had it all mapped out to limit the anxiety/guilt/freakiness of this new experience. The day arrived...that afternoon we would drop him off at about 4, and get him before noon the next day. As we were packed up and driving to their house, I received a call from my stepmom informing me that my brother and his wife and their one year old were making a surprise visit and would be there for the evening as well. Great! I thought. This would really be helpful in that my brother and sister in law knew what it was like to have a little one and would be able to help out if they needed to. Once we arrived, I brought all of his things into the house. I began to go upstairs to set up the electronic mumbo-jumbo in the room where I had already set up the pack and play. My stepmom stopped me. She explained that since my brother and his wife were going to be staying the night as well, they would be in the other room upstairs. She went on to inform me that they like to have their daughter in a separate room from where they sleep and so they needed to have her in the room I had set up for Roanin.
Sooo...I was thinking that we would either put Roanin in my closet or in the laundry room (which, FYI, was a tiny little tile space that not only housed the washer and dryer but three THREE!! freaking cat litter boxes) she suggested and waited for my response.
The response I wanted to give was to grab my baby, cancel our hotel, dinner and theatre reservations and run. To haul ass far away from there. Far away from what had started as a nervous mother leaving her baby for the first time but had grown quickly into a full blown panic attack.
But I didn't run. I didn't want to be high maintenance, or dramatic. I didn't want to change plans and make them feel bad about themselves. So I chose the laundry room, and privately let my tears stream while I set up his little make-shift bed amongst the cat shit and the heaps of dirty laundry. And of course he did fine. I, however, did not.
Fast forward to the surprise that Shawn had planned with Ashlee. A night out! A break! Competent and loving babysitting in the comfort of a friend's home with playmates! As I put my "going out" outfit into the suitcase, my insides began to feel like they were going to explode.
I managed to make it to the car, packed and prepared, with Roanin and Shawn holding on for dear life and triple thinking their every word. We were 20 minutes into the 3 hour car ride to Houston...not even out of Waco yet, when I lost my shit. I didn't want to go anymore. I didn't feel like I could go. It was all too much. I made Shawn turn around and watched him as he made a sad attempt at an explanation to Ashlee's husband on the phone. And Ashlee and her family did what you would expect them to do in this story. They accepted me and loved me for being high maintenance and dramatic and went with the change of plans.
And Ashlee's parents don't even know me that well. But they do know one thing. They love their daughter. They love her enough to fully embrace all the things that are important to her. Ultimately, their love for her spills over into the lives of her children, her husband, her friends. It is inspiring and beautiful to watch. And the love goes both ways. I will never forget the day Ashlee explained the relationship between her parents and her kids. She said, "There is nothing quite like watching the people you love the most in all the world being loved on by the people you love and who love you."
And here is where the struggle seeps in. Because those words are a mixed bag for me. While they inspire me and move me and I love that a dear friend is experiencing them, they are like a dull dagger that is continually carving a growing hole in me filled with longing and desire for the same thing.
I have always known I had a "mother hole" in my soul from the loss of my mom when I was 5. Sometimes it was noticeable, and sometimes I was able to ignore it. But in the back of my mind, I found comfort in the idea that someday having kids was going to help to close it. Becoming a mother, I thought, was going to heal that ache. And it wasn't until Roanin was born, that I stumbled on a sobering reality. Becoming a mother had actually torn that hole wide open. I never saw it coming, but now the missing mother piece had grown twice it's size and had transformed into something much more sinister - the missing grandmother. And the pain derived now from someplace much more intense...one I wasn't familiar with. The place where a mother keeps her hopes, aspirations and love for her children.
And watching my father, the only person capable of carrying the double burden of the grandparent in our equation, slowly turn his back on me and my children in order to make other people in our blended family feel comfortable has only added salt to my raw and unruly wound.
So when I watch Ashlee's family, on the screen of my computer, I struggle. I am jealous. I am sad. I am bitter. I feel sorry for myself. I feel sorry for my children. I mentioned this to my therapist, and he suggested I stop looking at it. Simple as that. If it is making you feel that way...turn away.
But I disagree. I don't want to stop looking. And after reading this, Ashlee, I hope you won't stop posting. Because although it hurts, a struggle is the exact description of what I am going through. Because I am determined to fight the feelings of self-pity and bitterness. I want to lean into them in order to get a full understanding but then break through them. Because I am on a journey towards unconditional love. It was what I was denied growing up, but the one gift I want to give the little men I am helping to grow. The ones who denied me the unconditional love will be the ones I will use for practice in honing my skill. They will receive it if I am able to learn how. But the real beneficiaries will be my real family. Shawn. Roanin. Rex. I want to be able to give them unconditional love, and that often will mean when it is difficult and doesn't seem fair and they don't deserve it. And I think watching examples of real love, even if it is hard, will only help me in my road to learning how to love others, unconditionally.