Sunday, May 11, 2008

On Being a Mom, on Mother's Day

B woke me up at 7:45am to wish me a Happy Mother's Day. I was in the middle of a very deep sleep, so my brain was in a thick fog. B didn't sound much more alert. He sounded a little irritated at me that I couldn't understand him. B talks fast, like so many teenagers. His words, at times, sounds like one long tongue-twist of vowels and gibberish. We did our little small talk and it was very awkward for me. I need to have eye contact when I'm having a conversation with my son. When we are together, I still feel a little edgy, but there are times when I feel like we can connect. Those times have been rare, in recent years. Of course, now that I look back, B was using and we were living in different worlds, with different values.

Now, it seems that most of what we do talk about is his addiction. It's good in a way, but it's sad in that I wish we could be talking about the things that mothers want to hear from their child. I still would like to hear B talk about his friends. I enjoy seeing the excitement in his eyes, when he talks about having played the best game of golf...ever! I want to hear my son talk about his job or about how he is doing in college. I know that these conversations could still be forthcoming.

But, for now, the most news I get about my son comes from my best friend. She talks to my son on a daily basis. I'm happy to know that B has a safe home to come to. He is renting a room at a Sober Living Enviroment (SLE) but he still comes over to visit my friend. It's kind of funny, because my BFF has a grown daughter. She is a very successful business woman, who managed to work full-time and to raise a young girl. Bless her heart, she has become a foster home to my son. She is one of the funniest people that I know, so I can see my B loves being around her.

Today is not a traditional Mother's Day for me, but I'm not sad about it. I'm happy to know that my son is at least safe, and that he is going to daily NA (Narcotics Anonymous) meetings. I'm happy to know that he is narrowing down to having a sponsor-- and that it is someone that my BFF knows. Nothing is official, but I'm going to pray about this. My son needs to have a good sponsor who can keep my son accountable for taking care of things.

This morning, I was thinking about my own mom. It's so very true, that we ultimately end up raising our own kids the way that we were raised. I've tried, very hard, to not do the things to my son that my mother did to me. More times, than not, it seems that I fail at that.

To try and write about my mother, would take pages of journaling. I'm in the process of working on Step #4-- writing my personal inventory of those people who have affected my life the most.
My mother, is definitely on the top of the list. On this Mother's Day, I feel a debt of immeasurable gratitude that my mother taught me how to be a survivor.

My mother's life closely mirrors my own. It's scares the hell out of me, to be honest, when I take a close look at it. My mother was a battered woman, and that is one area of my life that I have never been subjected to. Now that I am beginning to take a closer look at codependent behaviors, and how parents can pass down a lot of these traits to their own children-- I can see why my mother had such an anger management problem in disciplining us. I used to live in fear of being hit by her cooking spoon or that dreaded wicker tool from Germany-- a long broom like tool that was used to hit rugs, strung on a clothesline. That tool would leave large, angry welts on my legs and it was my mother's Ultimate Punishment against us. One day, my younger brother and I burned that beast. My mother never replaced it. My brother and I vowed that we would never beat our children the way that we were. I kept that vow, but I have lost my temper more times than I should have. On occasion, I smacked my son when he pushed my button. Often times, I would go to my son and apologize and I felt a deep shame for becoming my mother. Fortunately, those occasions can be counted on one hand. For the record, I do not believe that parents have a right to hit their children. It doesn't work. I know.

I have no doubt, that my short fuse is a result of so much suppressed anger at my helplessness against the beatings from my father and the spankings from my mother. My mother felt that it was her divine right to cuss me out and to criticize me. Hence, I have a button that can be easily pressed if I feel belittled, criticized or misunderstood.

On a more positive side, my mother was not an enabler. In fact, she was quite the opposite. I had to learn how to cook dinner for my two brothers, and father, when I was still in elementary school. Most summers, when my friends were all playing outside, I was having to dress up in a German dirndl dress and I was carted off to work in her delicatessen. Worse, my two brothers didn't have to work for her. They got to be boys, and I resented it.

For a teenager, working with my mother was a fate worse than death. This went on during my junior high and most of my high school years. I had to learn how to ring up sales, slice salami, cook and serve simple lunches at her small restaurant. I had to learn how to unpack, inventory, price and stock shipments. I had to learn how to write the bank deposit for her business. Eventually, she'd leave me in charge of the place, while she drove around to run errands. I didn't get paid to do these things. It was all part of being in the family.

Eventually, I grew to hate my mother with a bitterness that evolved into being a very disrespectful 16 year old teenager. In retrospect, I didn't really hate her. I resented her. She wasn't the kind of mom who could lighten up enough to do fun mother/daughter things with. She was just too controlling, and she didn't know how to listen to me.

Today, I am thankful to my mom for teaching me survival skills. Because of my mother, I know how to manage money. Eventually, I opened my own business and kept it going for almost 15 years! This is where my life mirrors my mother. She struggled, very hard, to keep her business going. Like me, she finally shut it down when competition from large grocery store chains forced her out of business. For me, the internet and doctor's offices forced me to throw in the towel. I saw the light, and I am now working at a school district.

My son has a total contradiction in parenting from me and from his father. Our son was 8 years old when his father walked out on the marriage. In my home, I pinched pennies because I had to. Because of my own mother, she taught me to live within my means. When I moved away from home, at 18, I never looked back. My mother's last words were that I was not to call and ask her for money. If I was hungry, I could come by her deli and she'd give me some sausages. I'm not making this up! It's the truth!

B's father was indulged as an only child. His father enabled him by giving him money whenever he ran out. B's father has overindulged our son. Even my son admits that.

Back to Mother's Day-- I do feel secure in knowing that my son loves me. I am disappointed knowing that my son has heard so much negativity about me from his father. I am disappointed in myself when I behave like my mother behaved with me. What I feel most sad about is that I cannot shut my mouth when I see B making mistakes. That's where I feel as though I'm more like my mother than I wanted to be-- I tend to impose my beliefs, values and systems on my son. I desperately want to help him, but I have to realize that he's not me.

I need to let my son make his own mistakes. That makes such personal sense, but I still have a hard time following through on not meddling.

I can only hope and pray, that one day my son will truly realize how much I love him. I hope that, one day, he will realize that my unwillingness to enable his financial excess needs is my way of trying to help him cope with the real world.

I hope that, one day, he will realize the financial sacrifices that I made so that he could have what he needs will have a true meaning to him.

I hope that, one Mother's Day, my son will give me a card that was personally picked with care from him...that he will want to spend Mother's Day with me because he understands that-- despite my faults and backfired attempts to help-- that I am a mother who loves him so much.

My mother passed away 5 years ago. I'm thankful that I made peace with her, weeks before her death. I sat down on her hospital bed, held her hand and told her that I was sorry for all the times that I was so disrespectful to her. I apologized for whining and complaining for making me wear a stupid Catholic school uniform and for going to a stupid Catholic school. Until I became a single mother, I never realized the sacrifices that she made to pay the tuition. How that must've hurt her! I remember the look of relief on her face, and I do believe that she accepted and believed my apology. I made peace with my mother, before her death.

While I wish I had a close and loving relationship with her-- I could not. Sadly, I always felt like I could never measure up to her high standards of perfection. No matter what, I will always admire my mother's ability to survive against a lot of hardships in her life.

I do know that my mother loved her three children. We kids still joke that she loved the younger son the best. But, I think that she loved us all for different reasons. I truly think that my mother wanted to live her life, vicariously, through her kids. Unfortunately, our lives didn't fill the void in her life. While she believed in God-- and I had the honor of praying with her to accept Jesus in her heart, I don't think she ever felt the joy and peace in her heart, that our Lord can give us. At least I know that she is forgiven and that she is in Heaven. I believe that.

I finally know what it means to have the Peace of Christ.

I pray that for everyone who is reading this blog, today.

Proverbs 31 (New International Version)

10 [c] A wife of noble character who can find?
She is worth far more than rubies.

11 Her husband has full confidence in her
and lacks nothing of value.

12 She brings him good, not harm,
all the days of her life.

13 She selects wool and flax
and works with eager hands.

14 She is like the merchant ships,
bringing her food from afar.

15 She gets up while it is still dark;
she provides food for her family
and portions for her servant girls.

16 She considers a field and buys it;
out of her earnings she plants a vineyard.

17 She sets about her work vigorously;
her arms are strong for her tasks.

18 She sees that her trading is profitable,
and her lamp does not go out at night.

19 In her hand she holds the distaff
and grasps the spindle with her fingers.

20 She opens her arms to the poor
and extends her hands to the needy.

21 When it snows, she has no fear for her household;
for all of them are clothed in scarlet.

22 She makes coverings for her bed;
she is clothed in fine linen and purple.

23 Her husband is respected at the city gate,
where he takes his seat among the elders of the land.

24 She makes linen garments and sells them,
and supplies the merchants with sashes.

25 She is clothed with strength and dignity;
she can laugh at the days to come.

26 She speaks with wisdom,
and faithful instruction is on her tongue.

27 She watches over the affairs of her household
and does not eat the bread of idleness.

28 Her children arise and call her blessed;
her husband also, and he praises her:

29 "Many women do noble things,
but you surpass them all."

30 Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting;
but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised.

31 Give her the reward she has earned,
and let her works bring her praise at the city gate.


Katherine said...

Wow! Thank you for sharing you thoughts...I'm glad that B is trying to take the right path..I'll keep him in prayers, yet.

Your thoughts/story about your Mom reminds me very much of my youth and relationship with my Mom.

She'll be 81 in June. I'll visit her over the Mmorial day weekend. You have me thinking about words to say....
Thanks for sharing your good news and thoughts....

Debby said...

I just received this email from a mother I have met online:
Dated today/My son has relapsed and my heart is broken. He's disgusted with himself and, I believe, wants to get back on track. He's back in his intensive outpatient program, so I'm praying this will be a small setback. I just keep reminding myself what they told me in the family program at La Hacienda. "Relapse is part of recovery and is to be expected in most cases."

He used drugs, off and on, for 10 years and was never arrested or in any legal trouble. He lives in a sober living environment, where he's tested regularly, so I believe him when he tells me he just relapsed within the last week. Ironically, he was stopped because of an expired license plate, searched, and was arrested for drug possession for the first time in his life. God stepped in here. This was a big, scary wake up call at a time when he desperately needed one and before he got too out of control. He sat in jail for 36 hours, for the first time in his life. He had a lot of time to think and pray, and I believe he got the message like he's never gotten it before. He's so disappointed in himself and sorrowful for what he's put us through. I'm both angry and compassionate. I'd give anything to take this monkey off his back, but I know that only he can do it for himself. I have to find the blessing in this, but I continue to be soooooo angry at these drugs and what they're doing to our kids.

Please pray for us. I continue to pray for you and your son.

Your new friend through our horrible shared experience,

P.S. Happy Mother's Day.

Robyn said...

Hi I wanted to leave a comment as I have started reading your first entry and have made it to this one. I plan on reading start to current. I first, want to thank you for sharing your story! It takes courage and strength to share what you are. I know because I wish now that I would have done this on a regular basis, versus only once in a great while.

July 28th was the one year anniversary of my would be 22 year old sisters overdose and death. She was addicted to opiates. She was more of a child to me, then a sister. I am 37 years old.

I hurt still today, like it was yesterday I got the call I prayed I never would get. I have went from angry, to self blaming, to just pure sad, then repeated.

Even though it has been a year since I lost my sister/child. I still find myself reading others stories online. None of it will bring her back, but I feel like it is the only way I can overcome my anger and hate (which is a word I do NOT use lightly) to the pills.

Maybe I worded that wrong? I will always dislike the pills. I am more hoping reading others stories will help me with some closure. I wasn't naive when my sister passed away. Because addiction is something I have dealt with most of my life. What hurts the most is that my sister was so young, beautiful, loving, giving, compassionate, among many other things. And had her whole life to live still. And it all ended because of a little pill (many little pills).

I will add a link to 2 posts in my blog that I have wrote since her passing. I have SO much I could write just to simply vent and let my feelings out on my blog. But just don't have it in me.

My mother is a long time alcoholic herself. And I had gotten to a point that I became so numb to her or my sister being placed in "another" treatment to "work" another program. I am resentful towards my mother, because I have a hard time not blaming her for numbing me to these treatments.

Then just 4 months ago my mother who has always been addicted to drinking and drinking only. Decided to try to take Xanax while drinking. Not just swallowing them, but crushing them and snorting them, and also chewing them. I got a call at 9pm that she was unresponsive and overdosing. I spent almost a week in the ICU with her, while she was on a ventilator. So did my 15 year old daughter. Who refused to leave her side. The doctor told us that it was very important for family to be there if and when she woke up.

When she woke up, even in a very weak state she was going to be ok. Which was a huge relief. But, she was more angry at me than anything for the fact that she was going right back to treatment. Which is where she still is until March. She had only been out of treatment for 3 days when she overdosed.

Maybe this is what is making my healing, and grieving process so hard. Is while I lost my sister, I am still living and dealing with my mother's addiction.

This comment has gotten very long. I really just wanted to introduce myself to you since I plan on reading your blog start to now.

Thank you again for sharing your story!


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