Where It Matters Most
I arrived home from work a couple weeks ago to find that Sadie, my "almost daughter", was gone.
Not just mentally and physically "checked out", as she had been for the better part of the month prior, but actually gone. As in... all of her belongings were removed from our house. All traces of her presence gone along with her. Except for a few stray items I found in the laundry.
Without her the house has felt empty, weirdly silent, and just plain different.
There are nights where I lay awake and wonder if those feelings of mother/daughter closeness I once felt, were only on my end. If not, how could she so easily and quickly pack up and leave the one time I was pushed past my limit and yelled out in pain and frustration? Was our relationship really that tenuous? I didn't think so.
As the weeks go on and I continue to mentally beat myself up for the raised voice and colorful swearing I added to that night's argument (okay, so it wasn't one of my finer moments), I feel regret. And sorrow. But not guilt. As I look back over her behavior and mine, and the build up to the "fight", I know in my heart I would do most of it the same way all over again. (Minus the swearing, of course). Hey, a person can only hold it in so long.
In retrospect I wouldn't change the honesty I brought to the conversation, or the comments I voiced (because someone had to), even if it meant that she would have stayed put. I made myself a promise to be nothing short of real, and I am sticking to it. It is sometimes super hard, lonely even, to be real. But at the core of it, to me it feels like the right place to be. Which is why there is now regret in my heart over this situation, but not guilt.
The "mad" I felt at her for leaving me so bluntly only lasted a moment and then quickly faded to heartache. I wish I could stay mad, it is so much easier for me to deal with being mad, than it is to deal with being sad. Because in my "sad", the self doubt, self criticism, sleepless nights, and what ifs...creep in.
In my head I think Sadie wasn't ready to leave our nest. I think she needs to be stronger before she takes the leap she so badly wants to take. But in my heart, I try to be positive and pray that it was her time to fly. That she is ready to test out her wings.
As I look through the pictures we have taken together over the last three years, Sadie's brilliant smile catches my eye. And I find myself being hopeful that it wasn't all just a dream. That the love I feel is not just on my side. And that although we may see things from opposite sides, we are still connected where it matters most.
Here is the post I wrote late the night of the fight. It is from the terrispaulding.com site that I am in the process of figuring out how to set up. Most of this post is directed at the really tricky place I so often find myself in, between being Sadie & Jeffrey's friend and being their "almost mother", and some of it is directed at raising my own strong-willed child, who may never see me as anything more than a thorn in his side.
May 15, 2012
I am not your friend.
Don’t misunderstand me, I’d love nothing more than to just be your friend, but it is not my job.
I’m your parent.
And with that goes the biggest responsibility I’ve ever been entrusted with.
So as to not mess up this assignment…I am going to follow the rules of what it means to be a parent, even when it sucks to be me. Which honestly, is often.
Wouldn’t I rather just agree with you, exchange a few surface niceties and go about my merry way, instead of endlessly dragging out of you whatever your latest problem is? Oh heck yes.
But that isn’t the job I took on. And I’m not one to brush things aside, let half truths lie, or hold feelings inside, for long.
So I will scold, prod, encourage, advise, push, pull, question and challenge my way through your week. Every week.
I will even say “no” to you, and I will say it often, without reason, with reason and every place in between.
Because I love you. Because I care. Because I can. Because I am your parent.
I won’t attempt to buy your love with special treats, or adventures. I’ll instead buy you “real” food, boots, underwear, deodorant, glasses, shampoo and all the other necessities required. I won’t help you buy a car you can’t afford, instead I will take you to the doctor when you are sick, navigate through your medical bills, bank statements and job applications when they don’t make sense, stay up half the night when you have had too much to drink, all in hopes that someday you will learn to be independent. That you will make better choices.
I’d really rather go with you to the flea market, or bowling, out for Chinese or shopping…but instead I will work, so I can pay the bills. I’ll do the laundry, clean the house, do the grocery shopping and make sure everyone has a safe, clean and healthy place to live and thrive. A place where friends are welcome and wanted. Where birthdays are celebrated. Where accomplishments are celebrated. And failures are discussed. I’ll go to the boring school meetings, the conferences, and attend any baseball games I can fit into my work day.
And when things go wrong in your life, or you face disappointment or failure, I’ll still be here—living my boring, predictable existence. Ready to lift you up or bring you back down to reality. All the while doing my best at the hardest job I will ever take on, being your parent. So you can have a chance at a life beyond what you were born into. A life with choices. A life where you can live to be anything you want to be.
I’m your parent, I’m not your friend. And I will always be here.
It actually hurts to say that I am not your friend, because someday I sure would like to be.
In the meantime I’m right here. I haven’t changed, even though you have. I am still the reality check. The thorn in your side. The fun sucker.
The one who loves you more than you can ever imagine.
And I will remain that person, no matter how far you push me away.
Because it is my job as your parent. And I intend to be the best parent I can.