Since moving into a larger apartment, I started to feel lonely. My desire to have my children living with me under the same roof turned out a lot different from what I had envisioned. I’d asked each of them if they wanted to move in and of course their answers were all “yes” but when the time came for them to actually move in, they had second thoughts. At first, I was really pushing the issue on them but eventually I backed off and decided I would allow them the freedom to choose what they wanted.
During that time, I remember getting into a small argument with my oldest daughter. I went by my ex’s house to drop off my younger daughter and found the front door to be locked. It was strange for me to find the door unlocked because I knew my older daughter was at home and the front door was always unlocked. So I instructed my younger daughter to go into the back check to see if the back door was opened. When my younger daughter came out through the front door, she came to my car and started taking her belongings out. I asked her where was her sister and she told me she was in the back yard. I found that to be real strange, so I got out of my car and walked around to the back and found my oldest daughter smoking. Now, I had heard rumors that she was smoking but when I asked her about it, she denied it and I believed her. When I caught her in the act, I was completely shocked by it and I immediately started asking her what she was doing. Her response to me was “chilling”. Like any parent, I tried to take the joint out of her hand and that gesture made her upset. She stood up and positioned herself for a fight. Of course, I was not about to fight her, I was still recovering from a recent surgery and I was still having a hard time walking. We started arguing and what she said crushed me. She starting saying things I’d never heard her say. What hit me the most was when she said, ” I’ve been taking care of myself ever since you left. The only person you cared about was yourself and I’m going through so much and you’re not here for me.”
I had never heard those words come out of any of my children’s mouths and I didn’t expect to hear it from hers. Now, I understand, she could have been playing mind games with me because I’d caught her doing something she had no business doing, but it still hurt me to my core. The last thing I wanted was for any of my children to feel as though I had abandoned them. From my perspective, I did not leave them. I’d left the marriage. I felt like I was always there for them despite getting divorced and living in my own home. However, I quickly learned, just because I saw things one way, others seen it different. Those others were my children.
After my confrontation with my daughter, I got into my car and called her father and told him what had happened. I was not surprised by his response. He wasn’t bothered that I’d caught our daughter smoking, he was more pleased to hear what my daughter had said to me. I’m not even sure why I called him. I guess a part of me wanted some sort of validation. I wanted to hear words of affirmation from his mouth. I wanted him to say, “You’re a good mother” or “She didn’t mean what she said”. Instead, his response was, “Well, what did you expect?”. He then went on trying to remind me that I left him and I should have never done that. He told me I should have stayed with him and tried to work things out and blah, blah, blah. The thing is, I stayed with him for eighteen years. I’d tried to work things out after I left. I’d asked for us to go to counseling. I’d done all of those things and he was unaccepting of any help or suggestions I had made. At this point, it was done and I was over it and over him. There was no more going back to try to make things work and in that moment, there was no point in trying to discuss the past because it would always lead to an argument. This time was no different. By the end of the phone call, I was beyond upset. So I did what I’ve always done. I prayed. I’d asked God to remove any hurt or resentment my children had in their hearts for me. I understood they were older when I left but not really old enough to fully understand the dynamics of the relationship between their father and I.
This is the point where I knew I had to try a different approach, I had to practice patience. I knew I had to be patient with all of my children. At the same time, I knew in doing so, would mean I would have to back off and allow them to go through their own healing process. As parents, sometimes we forget that our children have feelings and experience pain. The difference from a child experiencing pain and an adult experience is, sometimes children don’t know how to process those feelings and emotions and start to act out in different ways. For my daughter, her way of processing her feelings was by smoking. For my son, his behavior began to take a turn in a bad direction, my youngest daughter completely shut down and stopped talking to everyone, and my middle daughter found comfort in her pets. As hard as it was for me to accept their pain, I knew I could not intervene, especially because some of that pain came directly from me. I’ve always taken responsibility for my actions and the decisions I’ve made. I did not blame others for my mistakes or my short comings. I knew that I loved my children and I also knew that in order for them to get the best version of myself, I had to leave a situation that was sucking the life out of me. I have no regrets for the way things ended because I knew my faith would make things work out for the good of me and my children, and in time, that is exactly what happened.