When Your Child Breaks Your Heart

I have spent the last week or so trying to help my daughter understand how to be a friend. How she hasn’t yet figured out the fundamentals of this at age twelve is kind of a mindfuck to me, but it is quiet clear to me that lessons I thought were long since learned by my daughter have been eclipsed by her own personality and insecurities and low self esteem.

I see it clearly because I recognize so much of it.  These are the issues that plague me too when it comes to interpersonal relationships.  I am slow to reach out to people.  I am constantly comparing myself to others and often feeling inadequate in the comparison.  I pull back and spend time alone when I feel overwhelmed with the ease that others seem to live their lives.  And my daughter does all of this too, in spades.

But what my daughter has also done is betray the trust of her friends in an attempt to “step up”.

It’s the age, for sure.  She is clearly obsessed with popularity and making friends in the upper echelon social groups.  Groups she has always stood on the outside of, but knows people in.  She is trying ever so hard to bust on through, but has no idea how.  Because she does lack in self esteem.  Because she does not have the intuitive sense of what those types of girls are interested in.  Like me, she’s always a few steps behind the trend, the crowd.  So what she did instead was try and gossip her way into the group.

My daughter, unbeknownst to me, told a girl something her best friend had said about that girl.  And in doing so, betrayed a trust so completely that she has now lost that friend.

In addition, I know the mothers of both of these girls.  And because of my daughter’s loose lips, they didn’t speak for over a month, apparently.  These women are good, good friends, and also both friends of mine.

I am mortified.  I am confused.  I am angry.  And I just am at a loss as to how to help my daughter at this point.

I remember, of course, that need for acceptance.  I went through middle school thinking if I just lost ten pounds, or had the right mini skirt, or haircut, that Those Girls would finally like me.  That Those Boys would finally notice me.  But they never did.  And over the years it became less and less important as I found my path and people who were like me.

I want to impart this wisdom, all of the things I learned about cliques and peers and social groups to my daughter.  To tell her that she needs to be a good friend to those she has and treasure and value the friends in her life instead of worrying about those who aren’t giving her the time of day.  I am engaging her in endless conversations about friendship and trust and respect and feeling all the while that she isn’t hearing a word I am saying.

I am trying so hard to put aside my own feelings (fortunately, the women in question are wonderful women, have since mended their fences and were kind enough to share the story with me in the hopes I can help my daughter become less socially ostracized) and help her.  But underneath my concern for her, and my recognition of the things I know about myself in her is this fear that I am failing her.  That somehow, somewhere, I haven’t given her enough of something to know instinctively how to be a good friend.  How to be a good sister, daughter, partner.  How to be able to step outside herself and her own wishes and see things from someone else’s point of view.

I have never felt so inadequate or broken hearted as a parent. But I am resolving to keep talking, keep trying, keep at it.  What other choice is there?


Freedom of Religion?

I saw the sign outside of the church as we pulled in last Sunday and immediately knew that I wasn’t going to like whatever it was about.  “Fortnight for Freedom”.  At first I thought it was some sort of right wing, tea party movement.  But why would my church allow a political sign in front of it?  No, it couldn’t be that.

And then I remembered.  The whole thing about “religious liberty” that’s been bubbling and brewing for the last several months.

As we walked inside my church, our priest (of the three, my favorite) was giving a little intro to the Mass.  He does this from time to time, usually on holy days when most of the attendees aren’t in the know about the stand ups, the sit downs and special prayers.  But then I could hear he was saying something about “this time in history” and how our “conscience is being threatened” and that there was a special prayer we would be saying today during the service.

I sat down, flipped through the hymnal to find it, and nearly walked out of church right then.

I looked around, and didn’t see any such dismay or horror displayed on the faces of my fellow parishoners, so I tried to play it cool, instead.  After all, I was with my husband and my kids.  I teach religion at this church, have for five years.  I volunteer in the Eucharist, Reconciliation and Vacation Bible School.  This priest, my favorite, uses my first name when he puts the Communion wafer in my hand.   This is my church, my safe haven, my refuge from all of the crazy that bounces around in the world and in my head.  It centers me, it gives me focus.  I love my church and I have tried to live out my faith as much as I can.

But I knew, in that moment, that I wasn’t like most of the people sitting there in the pews.  For one, I’m not a born Catholic.  I converted when I was eighteen, when I was looking for more clarity.  It was an odd thing to do, most people thought, converting as a teenager, when most run away from religion.  But I needed my God, and I didn’t know where he was until I went to Church.

Since I am a convert, the Church was a choice, not a requirement.  And when I went through my classes, most of the “extra rules” were barely even discussed.  Not the biblical stuff, but you know:  the stuff about homosexuality, contraception, premarital sex, etc.   The bottom line, I was told?  If I felt something was wrong, and chose to do it anyway, that was the real sin; but if I felt like something wasn’t truly wrong (even if perhaps some people wearing vestments said it might be), then I was free to make a choice.  At the end of the day, I was told by nuns and lifetime Catholics alike, my choices were between my God and myself.

It’s how I’ve always functioned in my faith and how I’ve been able to take what is good and leave what is bad about the Church.  Even when they stood up in front of me and talked about how civil unions were bad (I don’t agree), even when they ask people to march in January against Roe v. Wade (I am fiercely against abortion but do not feel that it is my business to tell others how to proceed in such an awful situation), even when they don’t adequately address the situations going on with some priests and some children.  I know that’s all in there, but at the end of the day, I have always been able to leave those disagreements outside of my faith and my life.

Until I sat in that pew on Sunday.  Here I was being asked to pray for the people who are “fighting for religious liberty”.  To pray.  To my God.  Something that is so sacred and so fundamental and so personal.  I was red hot angry, and I couldn’t do it.  It was all I could do to stay in the pew and not bolt out of the Church.  I found the thing so distasteful, for so many reasons.   Mostly because I find the argument flimsy at best; I don’t think anyone is threatening my Church or my faith by trying to provide health care to women.  There has to be a way that this can be settled without everyone digging trenches and declaring war on each other.  And even that?  That would be fine with me, as long as they don’t ask me to pray about it.  If I want to pray about it, that’s one thing.  But to put it in as part of the Mass, to be recited word for word.  That’s a powerful, sacred ritual.

Maybe it’s because I chose this faith that this bothers me so much.  Because all of it has been my choice, and I’ve always felt comfortable, as if I had a choice in what to believe and not to believe.  But this?  Putting this prayer in the Mass?  Telling me, not asking me, to recite it?  I had no choice, and it felt just like that.  Like my beautiful, sacred, peaceful place had been violated by some fight that has little to do with God and much to do with politics.

I felt violated, and angry.

And now I have no idea what to do.  I love my Church.  But during this “Fortnight for Freedom”?  I might have to exercise that free will that I have spent the last five years teaching children about and stay home.

Summer Is Nearly Here

The sun is shining and it is nearly summer.

No, really….it is.  The kids will be out of school next Wednesday, and each day in that direction will be less and less like school and more and more like a party.  The weather is warm and the air is ripe with the anticipation of what wonders will take place this summer.

For the first time in seven years, my youngest will not be attending summer school.  He is doing well enough at school and is at grade level in all subjects, so the academic summer school isn’t necessary for him.  He’s been going to school for a few hours each week day in July since he was three years old.  I’m not entirely sure how we’ll deal with the change.  He needs structure, and routine, and he can’t be allowed to backslide on his school work.   My current plan is that we’ll have a little academic time each weekday morning, work on the homework sheets that are supposed be sent home with him.  We’ll participate in the local library’s summer reading initiative for real this time (usually we start it but it falls by the wayside by week two or three….) since he’ll need to be reading a little bit each day.  We’ll have time to do lots of outdoor things together, because his sister is going to theater camp.

My daughter is spending four weeks in theater camp, for four weeks Monday through Friday, six hours a day.  At the end of the four weeks, there should be a full fledged production of Grease to witness.  Her girlfriend did this last summer and raved about it so much.  We went to their performance, “Bye Bye Birdie” and both my daughter and I were blown away by how good it was.  I am hopeful that this summer camp will introduce her to some new people and give her a place she feels comfortable.  For all of my relief earlier this year when she fell into a group of girlfriends, that has all changed (as it often does with middle school girls).   I’m not entirely sure what has happened, but it seems that the other three girls in the foursome she used to be a part of no longer want her to be involved….and it all came to a head the last two weekends, when she discovered she’d been excluded from two of the girls’ birthday parties.  So, so, awful.  She is so insecure, like me, and makes so many social mistakes to try and cover that insecurity up.  I hope that this program will give her both some confidence and a fresh start.

This is my favorite time of year; the days are long, the weather is warm and there are flowers everywhere.  I hope it doesn’t all pass by too quickly.

Trying to Change the Voice In My Head

I’m still here.

The reason I haven’t posted in the last two weeks is pretty simple….I am trying, truly, truly trying, to not be such a downer all of the time.  I find myself formulating these posts in my head about this or that, and I am shocked to realize how truly negative my self talk can be sometimes.  What the hell is wrong with me, I wonder on sometimes an hourly basis.  I’m not sick, I’m not going through some major life tragedy, my finances are stable and I have three amazing kids.  Focus, focus, focus.

That being said, here’s where I am at:

1.  My husband is truly trying.  I see him trying to communicate more (sometimes horribly; last night he insulted my whole family with a comment he made, but at least he was talking; baby steps) and he is trying to be more present.  It’s not perfect, but the effort is there.  So that’s something.

2.  I still don’t have a therapist.  I think this is where I’ve floundered so much in the last ten years.  I used to have a therapist, but when we moved from my hometown, I lost that contact.  I have to wade through the myriad of insurance and paperwork and get there.  Unfortunately the school year is nearly done and now I can hear my inner voice wondering when I would find an hour here and there to see a therapist during the summer.  I am procrastinating, and I know this is important.  I need to find someone to talk to, but it hasn’t happened yet.

3.  I ran our local 5K and was featured in the paper.   I live in, quite obviously, a super small town, which is the only way this “chunky runner” would get featured for a 38:24 5K time.  Still, it was kind of nice to have that pat on the back; I still am running and I still am trying.

4.  I went back to Michigan for my nephew’s high school graduation.  It was another surreal trip.  There’s something about being back there and being confronted with my very different past while I’m living my current life that always makes me contemplative.  I had lunch with my friend (ex? former teacher?  adulterous friend with benefits?) Dennis while I was there, and it left me feeling oddly empty where our previous get together had filled me with wonder and happiness.  Maybe it is just where I currently am in my head, or maybe it’s an acknowledgement of the reality of who we really were to each other.  I am still reeling a bit from it.

5.  My eldest is doing very well at work and in life in general.  Every time I want to feel badly about the choices I’ve made over the last twenty years, I need to seriously remind myself to look at him and where he is.   Most of those choices were either because of him or made with him in mind, and I simply have to allow myself some credit for how well he has turned out.  He’s gotten a big raise at work and continues to live and thrive on his own.   Having him at age 19 might have been the hardest thing I’ve ever done, but it’s clearly also the best thing I’ve ever done.  Must remember that.

Must figure out a way to change the voices inside my head.


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