It's so easy to get caught up in the almost inhuman levels of stress we endure as parents. We love our children so much sometimes it hurts; the worry, the guilt, the imperfection within us all, the imperfection within our children, the reflection of us on them, and the endless distorted hall of mirrors and narcissistic chaos that ensues when we stop seeing our kids as people and take responsibility for everything, the good, the bad, the gifts and the challenges.
My sons have been away for three weeks visiting their biological father in Los Angeles. While they are away, I have had a chance to scrub the house, including their rooms and closets, sleep, go out to dinner with my husband, read, and think.
Missing them is always a part of their being gone and, while I love that they are having a lovely time and are not bored at home while my husband and I go to work in the summer, their absence also leaves a big fat space for me to speculate on everything I have done, currently do, and will do wrong as a mother.
It's absolutely dreadful.
As the weeks go by, I attempt to get myself into a space of loving how things have been going; reflecting on all the positive attributes of our family life together, remembering laughter, dinners at the table together, long walks by the water, fun with the pets, and kooky kid conversations.
I believe I have gotten to a point, in the last couple of days where I have come to realize that visualizing my children with love is more important than "getting it right".
As a mother, I remember giving birth with confidence, thinking, "I love this baby so much there is absolutely no way I can ever not protect him from harm." And then divorce, remarriage, moves across the country, school changes, anxiety disorders and family feuds took all of that away. My love hasn't gone anywhere, but my confidence and my ability to protect them from harm is laying battered, in shards on the ground.
Since my love is unchanging, I believe this is really what I have to offer my sons. To visualize them as perfect, whole, complete and healthy boys; not perfect because of their behavior or their accomplishments, but perfect because they are my only children, the ones I carried inside of me and hope to see grow up and grow mature, grow wise and grow caring. To see them this way, without undermining this vision with my own self doubt and guilt, without depleting my love for them with my own anger toward myself for not giving them what they really deserved (an intact family, stability in their physical location, etc.) brings me back to a place of positivity which, in the end, is their birthright and the true nature of our relationship.
Thinking of them with bitterness and regret, even if it is really toward myself, bleeds into my interactions with them in ways that are unfair and toxic. Leaving the past behind, I hold my image of my sons' blue eyes and joyful spirits in my heart, not because I did everything right, but because I wanted to so much.
Aimee Boyle is a regular contributor to EmpowHER. She lives and writes and teaches in CT.
Edited by Shannon Koehle