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.


When the Relationship Most Changed is the One with Yourself


One woman left for a trip. Another woman returned.

I spent the past 12 days traveling with my husband, stepchildren, and his extended family throughout Florida. We were quite the group of 16 individuals. I went into this trip as “wife” and “stepmom” and received little support for either of those roles.
I was suddenly – “object”- within the lives of others. A handy traveling companion while the needs of my family were met by Disney and others.

And I realized something on this trip- Don’t ever stop growing and changing in order to serve the base needs of others.

In books of personal growth, you will often read that something along these lines – “as you work on yourself and change your life, your relationships will change”. This trip was living proof to me.

Normally, treated as I was, I would have shut down. My motto would have been “As long as everyone else is happy, I am o.k.”.
But not this time and not this trip. I fought for myself.

We can fool ourselves on our journey to self-awareness. So caught up we may be in the ideals of “love and light”. Living in the ideal, we lose sight of the real. We would all love to check out and live in simple spiritual truths. The bottom line is that we are physical beings and our place in this world matters.

I would have buried my own needs in order to “live in peace and harmony” with others. Heaven forbid, I ever make(?) someone feel bad or guilty for what they had done to me. But my growth is calling me to a different place- a place in which I love and value myself, and subsequently, a place in which I will stand up for myself.

I do not suppress this need to grow in this way any longer, in order to “spare” the feelings of others. I am never harsh or mean, but I am authentic when I now understand my own sense of well-being matters as much as everyone else’s.

On this trip, perhaps the relationship that changed the most was the one I have with myself.

Hope for When You are Worn Down and Worn Out….

Sometimes when life feels overwhelming, we need to remember what resides in each of us and how we can be our own best friend or worst enemy.

Who Can?

If God be my peace,
Then who can disturb me?

If God be my joy,
Then who can restrict me?

If God be my focus,
Then who can deter me?

If God be my love,
Then who can hate me?

If God be my grace,
Then who can attack me?

If God be my mercy,
Then who can harm me?

If God be within me-
And this I know-
God resides in Love

Then who may be against me?
No one. Not even myself.

Children and Disappointment

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”
“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.

The Balance of Meeting the Needs of Others

Images don’t always tell the entire story. I feel this is especially true in the area of stepparenting. We have such a societal vision of the “ideal family”, and we work desperately hard to uphold this vision, that I don’t think we acknowledge what a stepfamily actually involves.

My stepchildren love me, yet they struggle to fully understand me and truly include me. It’s as if their lives, having been so torn apart and needing attention, do not permit the possibility of adding one more thing. Plus, no one truly wants a stepparent. It is a role never created in the original family dynamic.

At our family dinners, I am frequently ignored. I am not exaggerating or kidding. But the kids always want me present at dinner. They will talk over me, around me, sing while I try to speak, etc. It’s as if the children so need attention, that there is simply no space for my life at this table.

My time is important to me, so at times, I feel this family dinner places me in the bind of determining which means more to me- their needs or mine?

The poem at the end speaks to why I am there. I see my stepdaughter and I feel her pain at trying to create a family dynamic, so she can get what she needs- time and attention. And, she knows, if I am there, she will receive it. Once again, I see how the needs of others (good or bad) drive my actions.

“The ‘Family’ Table”

“Are you coming?”
The invitation sent with regularity

The “family” table is the marked destination.

Someone else’s needs have always been
a homing beacon for me-
Giving me sense and direction where I had none.

I follow a swerving, serving course. Needs, requests,
and wants pop-up as guideposts so I do not lose my way.

At your setting of “family”,
I am the interloper.

My part never writ in the original composition. The
screenplay set before my arrival.

I am never the understudy, though you bill me as such.
An understudy implies a role, of which I have none.

I come and I sit and I dutifully play my part.

While you, my sweet younger self,
with equal desperation,
holds together the fantasy in your tiny, tiny hands.

Being the Champion for Every Child

She Dances Freely

She Dances Freely

I once read in a magazine article that the preference of parents about to birth a child is to birth a boy. I wonder what this says about us as a culture and society. That one would be considered “better” than the other startles me. Being woman myself, perhaps my sensor is honed in keenly on this type of energy. Being a college professor of primarily female students may add to my sense of being a champion for the young girls I see, as does watching my stepdaughter grow up.

Not every woman feels this way. I have witnessed mothers of teenage girls begin to sense competition in the wind. The young, budding bodies a direct affront to what a grown woman will never reclaim. The following is a poem I wrote in reference to this energy.

Every young child in your life deserves you to protect them. Show them how awesome they are. Their simple beings are a gift to this world. May we help them heed their own destinies by being their greatest champions.

Woman’s call to the Young

Imminent domain
Consummate mother
So- why the rage?

Who did the bidding
Who teased that flame?

The flame you would use to uproot the soul within you
Never her, never her

Your crown not for the taking
Not all mothers love their daughters

Tiger- King of Beast, Protector of the Dead
Stalking you in heat

Slinky, feminine energy in undulating orange stripe
You – saggy breasted and womb worn
Defeated before milk flew through her breast bud

Young girl – keep up, keep up
Every woman’s call
Take the young ones – suckle and never leave
Mother them
Motherless daughters
The Wolf runs crying of destiny.

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

Had they ever
been mine?

To ask is to know

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.

The Beautiful Power When One Loves Another

All girls love their mothers.
The reverse is not necessarily true.
A young girl approaching her fifth decade- the wounded are always young- enacts her drama as if yesterday were today.
Life not envisioned with clarity, seen through the astigmatism of memories.
The young are not made for living lives of pain. Pain, the great disregarder, knows not of chronological boundaries.
The wound becomes the dance, playing with spirit and heart, the whirling dervish of the soul captures and heals.
Her soul sisters link her hands and pull, pull, pull.
They are her sisters whispering of her new birth.

I wrote this in honor of my stepdaughter. She hosted a party at our home yesterday. I was SO PROUD of her!! She had a wonderful day planned for eleven 12-year old girls. It went off without a hitch. She was a kind, gracious host, and I hope I can do as well at my next dinner party. This day was not ours to “have” her. She was scheduled to be at her Mom’s, but her Mom was busy, so we held this party.

And, then the party came to an end. My stepdaughter phoned her Mom to ask if some of the girls could spend the night at her home. She was told “No”. My husband then called my stepdaughter’s Mom. With eloquence, he said he would be willing to have the girls spend the night at our home, but he wanted to support her Mom. And, he was told “No”. It would not work with Mom’s plan for the following day (selling toffee, during which she expected my stepdaughter’s attendance).

My stepdaughter tried again- a friend, now, invited my stepdaughter to spend the night with her. My stepdaughter called her Mom. Now, she was really excited. She was not going to be bothering her Mom, and her Dad would not be getting more brownie points by hosting the girls overnight. My stepdaughter thought she had it in the bag. She called her Mom, spoke her request. And her Mom, her Mom, hung up on her. She felt there was nothing to be said to her 12 year old daughter- the one with the simple request.

One should never hang up on a 12-year old. Never.

But, my stepdaughter’s friends rallied. The hugged her, they said it would be o.k.. So importantly, they made my stepdaughter feel loved and wanted. They are her means to rebirth. They show her understanding that SHE is important and to be valued. The knowledge that her needs are important enough to be considered. They wanted to spend time with my stepdaughter and they wanted to make it work for her. For someone who has struggled socially, like my stepdaughter, this was such a gift. And my heart thanks these girls.