Monday, June 13, 2005

Good Mothering

The most important thing she'd learned over the years was that there was no way to be a perfect mother and a million ways to be a good one.
Jill Churchill, O Magazine, May 2003

I am glad there is no way to be perfect, so I do not feel quite as bad for being so very imperfect. I failed my children in a million ways, not with malice of forethought, but failure all the same. When they were small I failed to protect them, now that they are mostly grown I continue to not live up to even a shadow of the ideal.
They have my love, even if they lack other things. I cannot change the things that helped pack the trunks that they carry. I cannot make up for abuse suffered, or slights of old that color the past in shadows for especially one. My sorrow for my failures is real, most times I think they forgive me. But I am smart enough to know that there are very complicated feelings involved that resurface from time to time.
I do not mean to imply that there is trouble. My children and I deal with each other on a reasonable level. Much love exists on all sides. But they each suffered differently, the oldest most, the youngest hardly at all, and I see the way the past has molded things in their lives. I see the safe distance kept by one, the mighty struggle of another, the promises rarely kept by the next, and the independence of the youngest as traces of the past manifested in their reality. I am proud of their strengths and much to blame for any of their weaknesses.
I was a much better wife than a mother. He deserved my alliance hardly at all, he certainly did little to earn it the first twenty years. I am lucky to have such forgiving children, and I pray that in some little way they can look back past my failures to find some good somewhere. I hope they look at me and realize that I am scared as well. I do not view it as a justifiable excuse, but it is the truth, all the same.
If you live in an abusive relationship protect your children. Do not simply keep trying to fix the abuser and hope for the best. I had the joy of seeing a man change, but sometimes I ache with thinking of the price we all paid for his metamorphosis. He knew his guilt as well, and admitted it to the one he had hurt the worst, but left his daughter wondering about many things.
Thank God she does not wonder about my willingness to help her overcome the obstacles the past placed in her path. I relate what I know first hand about things I begged him to write down himself. In real ways I am still mopping up the mess he left behind. Of all my children, she is the one that echoes the past in actions that mirror its negatives.
My oldest rose above the rubble. The two youngest were mostly left rubble free. But my girl child lives daily in the shadow of the past, but she is becoming more aware of the why of things and that is the first step to change. The odds seem kind. If there are a million ways to be a good mother, I hope that each of my children can find at least one way that I was good, but if not I pray they can at least forgive my many failures.