8.17.2011

Differently

Another blogger, who I love, has written a beautifully honest post about a mother's different feelings for her children.  I started to comment over there, but did not (and still do not) want to stir up a hornets nest.  This woman's honesty is refreshing, even if it stirs up a whole ton of feelings I'd rather leave buried.

I think I will begin with the response I started to leave on the post:
I'm not a mom, so I can't say for sure how I feel about this from the perspective of a parent.  I see that other mom's have felt the same way, and honestly that does give me some peace.
What I am, though, is the daughter of a mom who often said to me 'I love you, but I don't like you very much right now.'  The granddaughter of a woman who said 'Oh, L (my mom), you are so blessed, you finally have your boy,' when my brother was born.  And, when I pressed my mom about my brother being her favorite, she quickly looked away and then said 'I just love your brother differently than I love you.'  And finally, when, as a married adult being introduced to someone at my mom's parish was greeted with 'Oh, I didn't know you had a daughter, I only knew you had a son.'
So, while I find your honesty beautiful, my heart is breaking as I read these words.  Breaking for the child who asks 'do you love him/her more than me?' and is greeted with an answer similar to the ones I got.  No matter how many times I'm told that I'm loved as much as my brother, in my heart I know it to not be true.  I saw and heard the truth.
I stopped there.  I decided at that point that this woman didn't need such a comment on her post.  My words, I feared, would hurt her, and really, they have nothing to do with her.  They are more about my feelings, my experiences.  And that is why they belong on my blog (and that is also why I didn't name or link to the other blog).

It's interesting that this topic comes up now, as I just had a conversation with a friend on the phone about fears I had/have related to having children.  One of those fears is just this; that I would have a favorite child and his/her siblings would know it.  I'm not talking a little fear, but suffocating, paralyzing fear.  A fear that paralyzed so that for quite a while I had no desire to have children.  I truly believed in my heart that it was better for me to not have children than to risk having a favorite.

One of the biggest struggles of my life is my desire to be accepted, to 'fit in.'  My parents' divorce tore apart my family; and the parent I lived with preferred her other child.  While my Dad tried to compensate, I know it caused pain for my brother, and that only adds guilt.  I know I have come a long way to learning to be comfortable in my own skin, but there are times I'm thrust back to that teenager whose mom doesn't like her and loves her brother 'differently.'

And lately, it is in these times that I wonder if God doesn't know what he's doing after all?  When all of my fears are as strong as they ever were, when I am paralyzed by them, that I think obviously God is right in not giving us a child.  I mean how can I possibly raise stable, well-adjusted, secure children when I am such a mess?  I am scared of my own shadow and I think I can care for an infant, toddler, child, teenager, etc?  Please don't leave comments telling me that every woman feels this way.  Please.  I've tried to tell myself that my fears are normal, but when I sit here, barely able to breathe as I think about passing this feeling of not being enough on to someone else I just have to wonder if maybe I'm not getting my answer to the question of 'why?'

Finally, my mom is a good mom, and while my dad was always involved in our lives, for every 12 out of 14 days, she was a single mom.  I know it wasn't easy and I wasn't always the easiest kid to raise, while my brother was much easier.  I know that in the times that I saw the truth in her eyes, it was immediately followed with the pain in her eyes that I was hurt.  I don't want it to sound like I'm bashing my mom here, I'm not.  Just as this was not something about the other blogger, this is not really about my mom.  It's about me.  How I feel.  My fears.  My insecurities.  It would have been easy to hit 'publish' without this last paragraph, to leave this sense of 'woe is me, my mother was horrible' but that is not fair to her.  At the same time, while I've accepted that she does indeed love me 'differently,' the fear of passing that on is almost too much to bear at times.

13 comments:

  1. Oh, Rebecca, thank you. Thank you for your honesty and courage, because you have put a mirror up to me, and some of the things I have said to my own children. Thank you, as I will be keenly aware of what I should never, ever do.

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  2. R, I worry about this very same thing for a couple of my friends. And it makes me conscious to make sure I don't do these same things in my house. I try very hard to be conscious of gloating on their accomplishments. If I say it about one, I try to make sure I say something about the others. Poor OJ gets the bad rap, but honestly? He's the one I kiss first when I walk in. I hug Evelyn first, and Turner gets it last....and most try and pin Turner as my favorite. He's not. I can honestly say I don't think I'd even say I love them differently. I know that Turner seems to favor me the most with actions and feelings, but I don't think that's a GOOD thing at all times. I love Owen and Evelyn's independent but needy natures.

    I want to caution you that recognition of fears and errors is WHAT you need to go forward with children, if you choose to do so. We all have screw ups in us, waiting to happen, but being aware and being thoughtful in your speech each and every day will help you. If I dwell on OJ's nature as a child ages baby to 2, I don't say it to him. I won't "jokingly" talk about he was awful and his brother was the perfect baby. It doesn't matter because they're both special and fun and mine. :)

    If you choose, you'll be a wonderful parent. And if you start blogging about the greatness of one child, I'll hold you accountable to brag about the other tomorrow. LOL Because I know YOU know you'd want to. Keep that score even, in your mind....in your heart....always.

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  3. Be afraid... it is only through some fear that we are cognizant of our actions in raising GOD'S children. I mess up every day in some small way with my child and I am scared to have another... how can I love another kids as much as the one I have. Those mess ups, however, add comedy to your day. Like today... I asked him if he wanted waffles for breakfast and I needed to ask again for an answer. He says, "Yes, Mom, just relax." Ohhh... didn't sound so good coming from him, but I know I've said it to him. Parenting takes a good sense of humor... yours, the kid's, and God's!

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  4. Wow, what a beautiful, honest, and yet heart-wrenching post. I come from a different perspective in that I routinely was called the "golden child" by my other siblings and it has continued into adulthood. While I was growing up of course, I was happy about this designation and ashamed to say that I did flaunt it at times with my other siblings. However, as I got older, I saw how some of the sayings of my parents in comparing me to my other siblings was very problematic and I hope to make a concious effort to not do that with my children - God willing we have more than 1. I know my parents' intentions were good, but in regards to school and grades, I don't think it helps to say to one child "Why can't you be more like your sister and work hard and get good grades?". I cringe now when I remember those times.

    And you are a right, a lot of it I think comes down to who is "easier" to raise. I saw this a lot with my Grandparents. My Grandpa was a wonderful man, but had a temper (but not abusive at all with us), so I would avoid bringing up topics or getting involved in topics that would be controversial. One of my sister's - was not like that and would wade right into the hornets nest and tensions would flare and ugh, it wasn't nice. Even if I felt the same way as her, just by keeping my mouth shut I was viewed as someone he could get a long with better. But really, it was just a difference in personality between my sister and I and how we react to conflict - not necessarily an "easier to raise" issue. I don't know if that makes sense.

    Anyway, sorry for rambling, but this was a good reminder that I don't want to repeat the mistakes of the past (even though they were well intentioned) and strive to love all of my (future) children for the beautiful and unique blessings they are!

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  5. Rebecca - Wow, thanks for sharing this. I relate to the divorce aspect (and oh how SO true that even with an involved father, when the family is split, he just *can't* be as involved as a father in an in tact home. And it does affect us kids into adulthood. Even without the favoritism issue, I've questioned if I could really be a successful wife and mom coming from a split home and feeling extra fragile). And honestly, at times I've wondered if my parents *were* more proud of my sisters than me. I've been blessed with parents that have very successfully counteracted my fears and put them to rest. My dad recently went out of his way, without me even asking, to make sure I fully understood that me being different is really a source of pride for him, not a source of frustration or disappointment. Honestly, had he not done that, I probably would have continued to feel haunted by that fear.

    Praying for you... families can really wound us, and I think only God the Father knows how to fully heal those kinds of hurts. :(

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  6. There are probably at least 16 things that I could cheer for you in this post, starting with the fact that you made it a post in your space rather than a comment on another's blog (which is not to say that the blogger in question doesn't need someone to kindly help her out--I haven't read her post).

    I know that your fear is valid (though certainly not helpful when it is paralyzing and crushing the life out of you!). But it is also helpful because it makes you aware of something which most mothers (parents?) will never admit, and thus cause great harm through their denial. Pretending that it is okay to love children "differently" is the antithesis of true parental love.

    I wish that every parent could ask him/herself *why* it is they "love differently." As long as the difference is rooted in a loving response to the unique needs of each child, then great. But reality is that most of it is rooted in selfishness. And we "love" what we like, which means we end up not truly loving at all!

    I have hope, a hope which is as strong as my fear, that we can overcome our selfishness and really love our children if we are willing to prayerfully face reality.

    My hope was strengthened as I watched one of my sisters. I knew that she loved her children "differently" though of course she would never have said so in the sense that we are talking about here. But in response to the situation she went out of her way to love the "differently loved" child in the way that he really needed. And now, a few years later, it really does seem that she loves him in the same way as the others. Perhaps this is due to putting in the time and effort to appreciate him, perhaps just as much due to the fact that he is now easier to love because she put so much extra effort into him. But she gave me a great example of dealing with this really common situation and actually fixing it.

    I don't share your same pain because I never loved my parents enough to want to be the favorite. But I do know what it is like to be able to clearly see through the denial.

    And I can also see that you wouldn't choose to have children if you weren't willing to put in the incredible effort it may take to love each of them completely-- not "differently."

    And on a more sarcastic note, maybe you've been away from your old job for too long if you are starting to think that life is as reasonable as the "why" being answered by "you'd be a bad mom."

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  7. Rebecca, I love this post. My experience in a divorced family was so much the same...yet different. I was Daddy's girl. But I know that we all were (my sisters and me) but I was just old enough to know it when he left. Then after the divorce, my mom set out to "win me over" and THAT was a mistake (I think). First of all, it made my siblings dislike me because they thought I was "mom's pet" and they told me so. I hated it. But I had no control over it. I did NOTHING to encourage her to treat me as her favorite, but it could not be helped that she did things that, in turn, caused all of my siblings to view me as the favorite. Grrr. I know now, as you do, that my mom was trying to do the best she could and viewed me (due to my extremely previous close relationship with my father) as an adversary or as someone who did not like or accept her and she needed to change that. But the effects were hurtful to all.

    I kind of cringed when I realized how the explanation of loving "differently" could be perceived. I was an adult before anyone used that on me. I was discussing with my dad the fact that I knew (as a mom of two at the time) that he could not possibly have regretted having seven children. And he simply said, "I hope you're old enough and wise enough to understand what I'm about to say. First of all, I must admit there have been times I have wished that perhaps I hadn't been blessed with 7 children. However, to take you all individually...you are correct, there's no way I'd give up one of you. And, I hope you also know that I love all of you children, but I have a different relationship with each of you and that is because you are different people."

    I think his comment is more along the line of Rae's thinking that loving differently is bad when it means loving differently, but loving differently is good when it means loving completely. (Does that make sense????)

    Also, sweet woman, I completely agree with the sentiment of Rae's last part that perhaps you have been away from your old job a bit too long. Seriously? YOu will be a wonderful mother. Whether that means physically or spiritually (for all women are called to be a mother in one form or another)...whomever it is that you mother will be blessed to receive your love and care.

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  8. Tooje - 'it doesn't matter because they're both special and fun and mine.' I love this. I love how your love for your children is reflective and considerate of their personalities. And your awareness of it is beautiful.

    CMuss - thanks for the reminder that, just like in my former classrooms, parenting will one day be one day at a time, with many 'oopses' along the way.

    JBTC - I have learned in my 'old age' to not cause conflict. Sometimes I'm still amazed I have a tongue left, but I have {most of the time} figured this art out.

    Sarah - I too am the 'different' one, and I still see the times that my parents just shake their heads at me and I know they are thinking 'where did this one come from' - and there are only 2 (mom) 3 (dad) of us!

    Rae - You've touched on so much here. In a sense all children need to be loved 'differently', but that different should never be used as an excuse for 'less'. We all need the love that people have for us to be shown in different ways. And you make an interesting point in never wanting to be the favorite - I often think my sense of independence and willingness to go find answers for myself are two of my biggest strengths, where if my mom had loved me the way she loves my brother, I would be much more dependent (as he is). So, while it hurts in a way I can barely describe to know that I am 'second', I try {most of the time} to see the gifts that I have been given because of it.

    Oh, and yes, perhaps I have been away from my previous job for too long. But I'm not going back! Ha!

    Michelle - you know, I never considered that my mom saw me as an adversary b/c of my close relationship with my dad. I think you may be on to something there. And I will say I am *shocked!* that there is something similar about our lives - ha!
    And yes, perhaps I have been away from my previous job for too long, but as I said to Rae, I'm not going back - ha! I was constantly experiencing kiddos who I just wanted to scoop up and take home with me OR parents who I just wanted to get to see how they could better relate to their children.

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  9. ((((Hugs))) Please remember that someone's love (even someone important, like a mother) does not define your worth. I am trying to figure out a lot of this type of thing for the first time with my own kids, and sometimes I still hear phrases come out of my mouth that were used to hurt me as a child. Thank you for the reminder to keep this issue in the front of my mind and not on the back burner.

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  10. A very honest and brave post that will encourage many of us who do have more than one child to reconsider and guard our tongues! Thank you for the directness and openness with which you open your heart to us!

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  11. I love that even if you felt you didn't want to post a comment over there you still went ahead with your own post-good for you!!

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  12. I can say this: When I had my second child, I had doubts about whether I could love him as much as I did my first, and when I had my 3rd, I wondered the same thing. I've tried very hard to treat the boys the same way, and maybe it was easier because I had 3 children of the same gender. I would hope that if I had a girl, they would've all been loved as much as the other. I bought a book called "You're All My Favorites", and it's a running joke around here because I tell each of the boys they're my favorite. It is hard to treat them all the same, because they each have their own personalities. It's a fine line between treating them the same, and knowing how to treat each of them in certain situations because they are their own person. I'm so sorry that you had to go through that. I see that happening in some families, and it does break my heart. Look how great you turned out in spite of it! :D

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  13. You've gotten some wonderful comments already, and I'm coming late to the game, but I do feel called to say this: Perhaps the answer you fear--that God is withholding a child because of this inner conflict--is both right AND, at the same time, misdirected. Maybe this crisis point in your life is being given as a gift, to give you the chance to work through unresolved feelings and come to peace with them. It doesn't make it any easier to bear, any less frightening, but perhaps it can give you a sense of purpose.

    (I know, easy to say from the outside. Hugs.)

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