I knew that having kids would bring up my own "stuff." I didn't expect it would be so much so soon, and I didn't realize how raw or how healing it could really be.
I was a difficult kid. I was a biter, a hitter, a tantrum-thrower, and I once was so frustrated by not being called on by my kindergarten teacher that I kicked her in the shin and gave her a bruise. I still remember how my mom dealt with that. I was taking a bath, and she came in and asked me if I wanted to hear a story. Yes, I definitely wanted to hear a story! Then she told me the story of a little girl who kicked her teacher. I bawled. I felt so guilty. But my impulse control and ability to deal with frustration were lacking, to say the least.
I often felt like I was simply bad. And when I was asking for TLC and was rebuffed, I took it personally. I felt too needy, too sensitive, too much. Always too much. And when I was sick or injured I especially felt I was too much.
I got to thinking about this on my run this morning. I've been holed up in the house with sick kids for five days and starting to feel like I have no more to give because I haven't had a real chance to recharge my own batteries. I have done much snuggling, given much extra patience, gone many extra miles to meet more sensitive needs, and sat on my butt keeping my kids calm. The Beast has done a little extra cooking (it's difficult to cook when two kids need snuggles), he came home a little early from work one day, we've both been up in the middle of the night taking turns with a croupy baby, and he has also given extra patience and extra of himself in general.
Out for a run this morning, everything came together in my head. I thought of my mother feeling just the way I was feeling - only probably more so as a single parent. She wasn't telling me I was bad, but that's how it felt. And I gather that Bean often feels the same way when I tell him I'm not doing anything else for him at the moment because I need a break.
Running - recharging my batteries - I suddenly felt a lightness as I forgave my mother, my kids, and myself. I didn't feel I was forgiving my mother because I was angry with her or blaming her, but because I would imagine she felt some guilt and would benefit from hearing my forgiveness and appreciation (hey, even if she does have to hear it from her grave!). Especially the appreciation that she must have been exhausted - I am exhausted, and I have an incredible partner in The Beast. She was doing her best. Which brought forgiveness of myself - I am doing my best.
The forgiveness of my children is more a deeper dimension of acceptance that they have deep and intense needs for attention, affection, and understanding. I forgive them those needs, and forgive them for not realizing how much they are demanding of us as their parents. It's not their job to realize. I don't want them (yet) to know and understand pain and suffering so well that they know how lucky they are. I forgive them their naivaté.
I know that sounds silly - that I forgive my children for lacking sophistication, wisdom, understanding. But it is awfully easy to fall into resentment when my needs are not met. I forget that my children are, well, children. I become a bit of a needy child myself - after all, who is going to mother me? Why is nobody taking care of me?
Perhaps this is all compounded by the mothering I missed out on and not being able to resolve some of this stuff with my mother through my teen years and into adulthood. Maybe. But I don't know, because this is my only experience of motherhood and adulthood.
I'd love to hear other perspectives, as I sort of suspect this is not unique to me or to those who have lost their mothers.
Similarly, I suspect the closeness I am feeling to my mother - the feeling that I "get it" now - is not unique to me. Of course, there is some grieving that comes along with it for me. It is intensely bittersweet.