The Worry of the Child

Parental Bird

Parental Bird

No one tells you about the worry when you have children.

The talk is of love, light, blessings- and so much of raising children contains these items and more.

The worry is the secret no one discloses when you hold babe in arms. People will “ooohhh” and “aaahhhh” and those who are parents will hold their lips in a sealed line and not reveal the legacy.

The worry…no one talks about the worry.

Growth. Development. Illness. Injury. The uncertainty. What is right? What am I supposed to be doing here? How poor can my parenting skills be and still be “good enough”?

You pray- “Please God, give me a resilient child, because I am pretty sure I am going to mess it up.”

You send your toddler off to preschool. The child looks at once so young and old to you as they run from your arms on their small legs in through that door.

And they will spend hours apart from you. Being free from the moment to moment contact does not free you of the worry.

The movement into school. More hours spent from home. More interactions. More possibilities. The child’s hopes and dreams begin to form, as you question, “Am I doing enough?”

A “graduation” marks the transition to high school- a sense of newness and hope ensues – while you also stand silently watching your child mingle amongst friends, looking SO MATURE.

And you can’t help, even while you hold a smile, to worry about what the future may hold. They are so much more on their own now, but they carry the mark of your parenting. Will it be enough?

The worry…no one talks about the worry.

Sleepless nights. Anticipation. Comparison. Prevention strategies. Proactive approaches. Coddling. Discussions. Hugging. Books. Holding. Seminars. Prayers.

A game to keep the child in your care safe.

The worry…no one talks about the worry.

You begin to understand this has been a secret all along.

The time between thoughts- when you are falling asleep, when you see them walking off to school, the time before bed when they disclose their heart ache and concerns- is when you understand wrapped in all the love, joy, and hope, the stone of worry has hung about your neck simply because you are raising a child.

I was reading an article in The New Yorker describing Edward Hirsch’s elegy for his son. And his words were the ones that alerted me to the silent secret so many of us hold.

How endless the worry can be.

My stepson is having some difficulties now and Lord, I tell you, I am weighed down.

Like any parent, I want to change it all for him, you know? I want to wrap it up, make it do-able, heal the wound and ferry him safely across to the other side.

They say worry is a waste of time.

I would say worry is the secret, silent, companion to all who parent.


The image is a play on this idea. I was thinking of a “Mama Bird” that must push here young out of the nest to fly, but perhaps even with their flight, she is never free. She continues to wear the weight of her heart and love for them around her neck.

It also plays with a reverse on the idea of an albatross around the neck and the image of a phoenix rising (the color of flames behind the bird.) Through our children, we are transformed and rebirthed in literal and metaphorical ways.

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Getting Real about What We Can and Can Not Give Our Children

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A Prayer for Every Child

My child-
If I could give you my love to use in this world-I would, I would

My child-
If I could give you my compassion to use in this world-I would, I would

My child-
If I could give you my peace to use in this world-I would, I would

My child-
If I could give you my grace to use in this world-I would, I would

My child-
If I could give you my mercy to use in this world-I would, I would

My child-
I would give you all of these and more to use in the world-If I could, if I could

But life requires more of us, my sweet child, than the use of the gifts of another.

Do not fret, my child, for this is my prayer-

I pray with deepest hearts that you may be so touched and overfilled by my love, compassion, peace, grace and mercy

That you, my beautiful child, will have more than enough to give.

The beauty of our growth, my dear child, is that you will get to choose what is done with these gifts.

Choose well, my child, choose well.

I do not have my own children, but I help raise my stepchildren. This is my prayer for them. I try to lead by example and give them all of my greatest gifts, but ultimately, as with all things in life, the child will decide what he or she will become. My only prayer is I do the best I can to help them use the gifts they have been given.

Another way to look at this prayer- if you believe in God- is to imagine God thinking about each of us in this way. God has given each of us- love, peace, grace, compassion, and mercy. God can not control the use of these gifts- that is the choice for each of us.

Children and Disappointment

meditativeecstasy
For those of you who celebrate the Easter holiday- Happy Easter! Short, little blog today about something that happened yesterday. My husband, stepkids and I went shopping. It’s a big deal for us, as we live out in the middle of nowhere. We went in order to purchase my stepdaughter some new jeans. She is at the age where on-line shopping simply is not going to cut it given how much her body is changing.

During the day, my stepson began to look more and more dejected. He managed to mope and drag his feet, slowly walking 15 yards behind us, through an entire wing of the mall. Although he had been allowed to purchase one small treat, he wanted more. His moping and feet dragging were designed to clearly convey how we had failed him, in case the tears and pleading had been lost on us.

My husband was very concerned stating that “Henry” (not his real name 🙂 ) seemed so disappointed.

Yes, “Henry” was disappointed. But, I pointed something out to my husband. Our job as parent and stepparent was not to raise two children who never experience disappointment. Our job as parent and stepparent was to raise children to grow up understanding how to handle disappointment.

A wonderful gift we can give our children is to help them understand they are not the center of the world. Life provides and life disappointments. A person of awareness and grace (a hope I my stepkidds will be) is able to handle both with a sense of compassion and understanding.

Legacies…Handle with Care

In the wave pool at Mandalay Bay on vacation, I was so close to breaking down in tears. I do not know why. Perhaps it was the lifeguard having to correct me in where I was standing- I was to be on the sidewalk or fully in the water- not the ankle-deep level I had chosen for myself. The world spun off this simple comment, and I thought to myself, “I can’t do this anymore”.

Back on the beach- safely in the proper location- I thought of my mother. She suffered severe depression for a decade. She had contemplated suicide several times. My mom was eventually able to pull herself out of this depression, much to her credit. But, I will always remember that time and wonder about the legacies we all end up living.

Reading another’s blog this a.m. helped me to realize how much we can be pulling along, deep within ourselves. I have found the best way to handle such legacies is prayer and a willingness to explore the feelings and emotions attached. For me, it means looking at what it meant to be a child with someone wanting to kill themselves. How did this affect my level of trust? Also, surprisingly, my belief that I can “fix” it all. My mom often confided in me, and used me to help her with her depression. This lead to a false sense in me that everyone’s problems were mine to take on and that the solutions were within me.

I wonder about the legacies of others. Who is living now with a sense of unworthiness or unlikablity simply because someone tried to pass this on to him or her long ago? As I have gotten older, I realize how much help we may need as we deal with such legacies, and how much patience and love we must be willing to give ourselves.

Being Clean

At years 30, or was it 40?
My mother quit –
living and life

She took up residency
upon back, in bed
for a decade

Dark, except TV light

TV light is not
real light and
Depression is not
real living

We had moments,
holiday celebrations.

Other families have
crest and emblems,
We had motto, during the
depressive years-

“Life sucks, then you die”-

A stake through the heart of
Every greeting card claim

Blame was not as forthcoming,
as confusion,
What sets one’s living back?

She was saved by cleanliness.
Her mental faculties hinged upon
not making a mess.

Our home growing up
was a testament to this belief.
Later, it became her profession
in the home of others.

She told me suicide
was an option, except
it would leave a mess.

Unsure, was I,
to laugh or to cry
at how death may play
out our lives.

Some may see her,
Flat upon back, and think
Mid-life crisis-ing

I would think
“land of the living”
And
“we should not judge the trying.”

Pain of a Child

Woman and Child

Woman and Child


As many of your readers have pointed out when I write about my stepchildren and their narcissistic mother, how difficult this must all be in relation to my concern for my stepchildren’s well-being. Bless you for being aware to state such things. The effect narcissism has on us as adults is somewhat limited to what a child experiences when interacting with someone of this nature- especially, when the narcissist is the “Mother figure” (I write “Mother figure” as narcissists are not truly capable of fulfilling the role of “Mother”).

Below is a poem I wrote about my stepdaughter who is struggling with her sense of self, as her Mother has never been able to mirror her in an effective way. Children need us to mirror them. From the young games of peek-a-boo to meeting the development level of the child at every stage, when that mirror is not present, a child struggles to create a sense of self.

Add to this, the dynamic of stepmom and you see my stepdaughter’s and my pain. I can help her to a point, but the point ends when my stepdaughter feels to bond with me as “mother”, means disloyalty to her actual Mom. So, here we are- she struggling to find a mirror; me, doing the best I can, whispering “Please open your eyes and see how strong you are…”, all the while trying not to take any power from “Mommy”.

Daughter of the Narcissist

Without a mirror, you take.

With no reflecting surface,
You must build from nothing.

You use materials of imagination gathered from others.

You want me to see you,
You beg me to see.

I whisper, “Open your eyes…please, open
Your eyes”

But, you can not.

From your birth in time, you tried
And were told there was nothing to see.

And, now you are blind by choice,
Grasping hands upon my arm,
“Take me with you”.

I turn to walk away, distance is the friend.

I can no longer and I never could
Give you what you seek.

Every spirit, every soul must find the path of awakening.

A child, too young to be an adult, yes, you are.

Sorry my little one that the path you claim is not yours, truly is.

I will hold your hand and hope, I will, I will.

But to carry you now, my sweet younger one,
I can not; having never carried you in my womb.
My heart can not take you in the fantasy that persists.

The feet you plant on the ground are yours.
The mind that drives the movement is yours.
The voice that sings in each shower is yours.
The hands that craft your world are yours.

Now use them.

Please find that home within
Without the need for mirrors
Your value is within yourself. Amen.

To All the “Child-Less” Mothers during the Holidays

To Touch the Void

To Touch the Void

Not all women have children, but many (not all) women desire to have children. I consider myself a “child-less” mother. I alwys desperately wanted children of my own, four to be exact. Something about driving around in a mini-van filled with children appealed to me. Life did not work out that way, though. I do mother, now, two wonderful stepchildren, but they are not mine in the birth sense.

For a child-less mother, the holidays can be difficult. In no way with a sense of negativity or regret, we may ask “What if?”. Within our question of “What if?”, we also ask “What now?” and for one particular holiday, the “What now” was particularly hard on me. I traveled with my husband and stepkids to visit his family. As a stepparent, you often feel like an outsider, and for some reason that sense multiplied on this trip.

I wrote the following poem:

My Children Were Never Born

Some women
are made
For motherhood
others not

I was- I thought
The former,
The latter not my self defined

A woman in my condition –
childless stepmother –
should armor for the holiday

A degree of separation
multiplying- daily

Twas the night of
children
bornless

Had they ever
been mine?

To ask is to know

Mine
Lost
before
The Stars

Laid a kiss

Upon their cowled heads.

For me, this poem was inspiration. Others may say to me, “Your stepchildren are like your own”. They do not know what they speak. In my mind, my children were never born during this lifetime. Perhaps some life past, ages ago, or sometimes in heaven (however you may define it), I will meet my children. For now, I may be “child-less” to others, but within me beats the heart of a mother. This heart beats within all of us, and with it, we truly birth and care for our worlds.

Poor, but Not in Spirit- The Healing of a Wound

Some wounds are buried so deep. Some wounds are present for so very long. We forget. We learn to wall off, compartmentalize, and the pain is lessened. We cope, we adapt, and we pretend. And, we think we are successful. “It’s in the past” we tell oursevles, “I am beyond that part of my life,” we tell others.

And we forget that all wounds stay as wounds until we are loved. You can deny, you can pretend it didn’t happen, but the psyche does not forget. And it does not forget for one important reason- every wound is a call to your greatest self. The wounds are the opportunities. To deny our sense of pain, to dishonor ourselves by not wrapping our own loving arms around our wounds and whispering, “It’s o.k. Your’e o.k., you don’t have to hurt anymore” is to continue to live a life of pain.

The following pictures points to an opening of a wound I thought I had moved beyond.

Healing a Wound

Healing a Wound

The picture shows penetration of triangular forces. In some way, the events that transpired felt oppressive, pointed, injurous to me. I had a wound (the black opening) and despite my best protection (the rocks) the wound was found with deadly, targeted aim. I sat and I cried, only then remembering what I had longed to forget. And in that moment of penetration, the tiny core of the wound (green rock, green=heart), light entered and I knew I would survive.

The issue that had set all of this off I described in an earlier blog (which I have since removed). I had found out my stepchildren’s mother, who had informed everyone of her job loss, continued to be paid for another month and a half. She told no one she was continuing to receive income. I had watched my stepchildren live in stress and fear that Mommy had no money. And, I felt their pain. When I found out she could have lessened their pain, I freaked. I cried. I screamed. And, I finally asked myself, “Why?” And, I knew. I had grown up poor. I know the overwhelming fear of a child who worries that there will never be enough to take care of everyone’s need. I knew the thoughts of a child who is saving up pennies so a parent can afford food.

Having worked so hard in my life to earn a good living, I thought I had left the “wound” of poor-ness behind. I had not. My upset at this situation was that having lived this experience myself, I could not fathom why a Mother would place her children under such psychological stress without needing to do this. And, yet, that is what she did.
And I learned. A part of me was frozen in the idea of being poor, of not having enough, and my fear of not being able to take care of myself or others that I love.

Shame on her for manipulating her children in this manner. But, for myself, I learned I had a wound that I that I thought was in the past, only to realize it was a wound that needed light and my loving attention.
I am not poor. I have the love of my family, friends, and my own sense of self. Gifts to myself and others that are priceless.