I’ve found myself lost in nostalgia these past few months. I’ll be honest, it’s been more bitter than sweet…I’ve cried more than I want to admit as I ask myself the unanswerable question:
Was I a good mom?
Maybe it’s the Catholic in me, maybe it’s the lack of self-esteem I struggle with even as I close in on 50, maybe it’s my anxiety getting the best of me…whatever it is, this question haunts me every day. There have been many, MANY times over the years I have said to myself (and poor Dan) that I wasn’t meant to be a parent. Someone should have told me that parenting rips open every old emotional wound. They should have told me it requires ridiculous amounts of patience, compassion, unselfishness and other qualities I struggle with. They should have warned me I would feel really bad about myself 90% of the time and that might not be a good thing for someone who already felt bad about herself 90% of the time.
I had a…challenging childhood. It molded me into someone whose worst fear is to not do things right, whatever right might be. I busted my ASS trying to do things right so I wouldn’t get yelled at. The sense memory of getting punished is so strong – I remember being absolutely terrified. This is where the part about “someone should have told me parenting rips open every old emotional wound” comes in. When I think of all the times I terrorized my kids by yelling, my heart breaks in the most painful way because I REMEMBER being terrorized. I hate myself for responding with anger – I know I should forgive myself but the shame is too much.
I know my girls love me as fiercely as I love them. I know I’ve tried my best to make sure they’re prepared for life and all of its bullshit. I know they’ve had a damn good childhood and pretty much wanted for nothing. But I also know I spent a lot of my parenting years being mean. A LOT. I have a tremendous amount of sadness in my heart for all the times I’ve screamed – and I mean SCREAMED – at them about school, or messy rooms, or other stuff that in reality they simply couldn’t process.
As I enter the last year of full-time parenting, the same prayers keep going through my head: Please, let them remember the good more than the bad. Please, let them not be damaged by the things I’ve said and done. Please, let their spirits not be broken by my hard words. Please, give them what I haven’t been able to give them so they can go out into the world, find their joy, and live a life free from the guilt and shame I carry. Please, let them forgive me for the mistakes I’ve made, and love me despite them…
Please, let the day come when they tell me I did it right.