This one is long and cathartic and very step #4ish. Don’t read it… I just need to write it.
I’ve had two people in the last week ask the same thing… “Have you forgiven yourself for your past?” I answer quickly, “Yes,” I say, “I’m forgiven. It’s my past,” and I move on with a joke and witty transition to another topic because the truth haunts me and I don’t want to talk about it.
You see, I needed a Savior because I was desperate for absolution. I needed forgiveness. I needed a power greater than myself to say my sins were forgiven because my sins were too great to not be punished. I guess there are people in the world who have little guilt. I suppose there are those who have never done anything so bad they feel deep, enduring regret, but regret and remorse for what I’ve done haunts me, every… single… day.
There are things I’ve done, things I’ve never admitted, I need to confess. There’s a particular part of my life that possibly reflects the sins of my youth. I have two choices. Hide, hush, not say anything, whether it’s right or wrong to do so, or, breathe it all out, for once, whether right or wrong.
I choose to breathe it out.
So here goes…
I have failed as a mom.
I’m not talking the little mom regrets most mothers with good intentions have. I have failed my children miserably and I am watching helplessly as one is letting his life nose-dive and fear if I had done different it wouldn’t be this way.
We’ve all seen them, the kids we know are the way they are because their parents are the way they are. I’m that parent. I wish I wasn’t, but I kinda think I am. I tried hard not to be her, but I was, and probably in this very moment I am. I am utterly, completely alone and lost and clueless to know what’s right and I stand back and watch and fear it is largely my fault.
It’s no secret that I was a methamphetamine user in my past. I’ve adamantly professed that I didn’t use while I was pregnant.
The truth is… That’s a lie. I’ve lied all these years. It’s time to confess…
The truth is… I stopped using when I had the pink line on a stick in my hand. I knew good and well with both my boys long before I peed on that stick that I was pregnant. I just ignored the truth because I wasn’t ready to believe it.
With my oldest I was “only” smoking weed, popping pills and drinking. I suspected earlier with him and quit using earlier with him (except for smoking… I smoked like a chimney the entirety of both my pregnancies). I probably used some sort of illicit drug or alcohol for the first six weeks of his gestation.
What else can I confess? I was prepared to abort him, but by the grace of God, his biological father demanded that not happen. If for nothing else, I respect that man for that one demand. One of my absolute most favorite humans in the history of the world is a known entity because that man (really only a boy at the time) demanded I not terminate the pregnancy. I owe him my eldest son’s life and my utmost gratitude.
My second born, third oldest child, wasn’t so lucky. By the time he came along I was knee deep in a mire of methamphetamine addiction I was powerless to control. I had birth control pills that I took sparingly. When I realized I’d skipped a day or week or however many I’d missed I caught up in one day and told myself it was cool. That, coupled with rolling days of tweaking and partying and crashing and surprise, surprise somehow I missed periods.
I figured it was the meth or missed-and-caught-up-pills and ignored the facts. Honestly, at that time in my life I was so messed up and fried I cannot remember the sequence of events. But I remember the bathroom I was in when I expected my period for the second or third time and it didn’t come. I knew what I didn’t want to know. And so… I peed on the thing and wasn’t surprised when the line showed up.
I hid it though, from everyone but the father. I was a mess, with a blind child already. We were a joke of a couple bouncing from house to house, family member to family member, jail cell to jail cell. The last thing we needed was another kid. And yet, I was knocked up. Again. Idiot! What a colossal failure I was, at life, at everything.
I’d like to say I quit with my second son right there and then, after eight or maybe possibly twelve weeks gestation. In truth the meth and weed did stop. But I still smoked, and one time, around five months gestation, when he was still a hidden secret, I drank a shot of blueberry schnapps from someone because to have turned down the shot would have been too obvious.
That’s horrible. I did drugs while I was pregnant. I’m the worst of the worst. Can I forgive myself for that? Do I have the right to? Maybe I could … if my kids turned out OK, but that’s a big, fat ????? that only time will tell.
Some people can boldly say they did the best they could and their kids turned out bad or good and they can own that they at least did right by their kids. I can’t say that. I failed my kids before they were even born.
And after… Still failed… My second son was born August 15th 1998, I was drunk and high the first night home, August 18th or 19th. I didn’t quit using for nearly a full year. These boys, these innocent kids went through so much. They were powerless to protect themselves from our binges, our fights, our moves and parties. They were victims, collateral damage. And now I am haunted by the fear that I messed them up.
I got my free pass in May of 1999. I can’t explain it on human terms. All I can say is I knew one night in May of 1999 that God was giving me one chance to be free of my addiction and I took it. I had no withdraws, none of the stuff that should have followed an addiction like mine, only a drastic and dramatic change in lifestyle.
I let go of everything that was behind and pressed on to a new and clean life. I took my boys with me.
I was a mess but for once we stayed in the same house for more than a few days or weeks and stayed in an apartment I paid for, by myself, for months. It wasn’t a perfect time but it was a walk into functional living. It was a time for me to break free from abuse, addiction and blame and for the first time own my life and put others ahead of me.
Up til then, I blamed my life, my choices, my sad state on my upbringing. When I surrendered my life, and pledged my fealty to Christ, for once Someone mattered more than what I wanted in life. In that transition, I realized that it wasn’t “just” Christ that mattered more than me and my wants, my boys did too.
There was great power and responsibility in being their mommy. For once I didn’t want to just be better than my other drugging acquaintances, I wanted to be a good mom. Honestly, I had no clue what that looked like. There was a therapist that came to see me and my boy every… single… week. No matter where I was staying, where I lived, she came, she taught me how to work with him. I have always been academic, even at my lowest point, so I applied the techniques but I started asking questions after I got clean and saved. I wanted to know what good moms did. I wanted to be a good mom for my boys.
I listened to her. I checked out books from the library. I found ladies at my new church that I thought were good moms and asked them how to be a good mom. I took my boys to parks and watched the other moms and picked out the good ones and did what they did, said what they said. I wanted to be a good mama. And I tried. And I prayed that my mistakes, my sins, my drug use and fights and parties wouldn’t damage my boys. And I moved on.
I don’t know if I was able to forgive myself. How does one forgive that? The closest I could get was that Christ died in my place. I deserve death for putting my boys through that. It was so bad sometimes and I put them through that… and I didn’t care. They had no choice.
I just moved on and hoped and prayed my past would fade away.
I thought it did. I gave myself a year to be just me, Jesus and my boys. To figure out who I was in Christ, who I was without a man, who I was clean and sober and as a mom. And then when the year was done, I was ready for a man.
You see, I prayed for a man like The Leaver… specifically like him. I saw him with my friend and I thought he was such a good man. I didn’t envy her, but I remember praying for a man like him for my husband. And then, like a fairy tale, like a sign from God, two days after my year to be alone, he came and knocked on my door. Their relationship had ended and he was standing at my door. I thought it was meant to be. I thought he was the man for the rest of my life. There were differences, difficulties, things to sort out, yes, but there was kindness and love and a promise of safety and companionship forever. He also looked at my boys, with a gentle smile and wanted to be the father they didn’t have.
It worked well enough. We were a good family, honestly the kind of family I wished I would have had growing up. Dad went to work and came home to a wife waiting for him, unless I was working. He played with the kids while I made dinner then we ate together, did the bedtime ritual and yeah… it was good. Did we have flaws yes, faults, plenty, but good and godly and fun and full of life and faith and love of nature and natural living.
There were times with my oldest when he’d have horrific temper tantrums. We didn’t understand them, no one did, and I was so afraid someone would think we were hurting him that I recorded most of his fits. They happened at school too and so I worried less but I feared it was because of how I did him wrong those first few years.
There were times with my step-daughter’s mom we fought about time with us vs. time with her. It wasn’t good for any of the kids. I still wish she could have been with us more. But that’s not the way it played out and I was a reformed junkie pulling my life together so what could we really offer?
I remember one time, I’m not sure why, but my youngest boy made me so mad I backed him up against a wall when he was probably 7 or 8. I was yelling at him, maybe I did it before and don’t remember, or maybe that was the first time. He doesn’t look like me, but his eyes reflected the way I felt when my ex-step-dad used to yell at me. I stopped yelling, mid-sentence, and promised him I’d never do that again. And I walked away. I didn’t finish the lecture, whatever it was about, I just apologized for yelling like that and walked away.
Then, after all those years of doing wrong, of mending and figuring out how to “do it right” I, we, got to the place where we could give back. We decided to be foster parents.
Michael. Michael Jonasson was our first boy. I failed him. His brokenness, the abuse he suffered, his behaviors were too much for us. So this little boy, this sweet little man, who was entrusted to us to help heal and keep safe was thrown back to the system because we couldn’t do it.
It devastated me. I’d tried so hard to be better for my God, for my boys, for my husband, for this little innocent 6 year old who was, like my boys, a victim of his parents drug addiction, and I failed. Once again I FAILED. It killed me. I worry over that boy to this day. And I don’t even know how old he is, maybe 12. He’s why I’ll never change my phone number. My address, my name, my life may change but maybe one day he’ll call me the way I called that one number I memorized.
Then came our oldest. From the moment I read her report from the state I felt a connection to her. I can’t explain it but I did. I wanted her. We got her. It was supposed to be temporary and then life changed on her. Drugs gripped her mother by the throat and she was suddenly in need of a forever home, as were her sisters. Without praying, I worked with the state to bring the girls together.
That one decision ruined everything. It was a tragedy of Shakespearean proportion. Kids, doing more than kids should ever know how to do, got caught in the act. We reacted in panic. The state reacted according to WACs and RCWs forgetting common sense like it didn’t matter. Our girl and the sisters were ripped from us and thrown to the system. I cannot speak for the sisters, it appears they have happy upbringings in forever homes but for our girl, she ran away… and so did we.
The pain and the humiliation of it all, of having a child that did “that,” or housing children that infected our own, and of losing our girl was too much for our fragile relationship.
The family unraveled.
We were never the same. How can you be the same after that?
We got counseling for our kids who were involved. The foster agency we worked with did some family counseling but we were broken and didn’t mend.
We had a chance to run and we did.
If you have to run, might I highly recommend Leavenworth to run to! What a beautiful place! I mourned losing Arlington, my church (Christ the King – Arlington), my volunteer activities and friends but I LOVED, still love Leavenworth. You can’t be there and not feel at one with the Creator. It’s a place of such beauty and majesty. It’s a place of escape. A vacation destination, a shelter at the feet of the mountains and a place of refuge. With God, and in the shadow of the Cascades, I mended but my children struggled.
I was so wrapped up in my own healing I neglected them. It’s hard to be a parent. I was more focused, I think, on running from the shame and finding our girl than focusing on the three kids I still had.
I tried to look the part, be a good mom and do the right things. But time after time I felt like, still feel like, my actions and motives are questioned. I felt like I couldn’t do parenting right, no matter how hard I tried. My blind one was still unhappy, my spirited one was still getting into trouble, the tension between the “ex” and my, now, ex-husband caused drama every time my step-daughter was with us and our girl was still a run away.
We were a farce of a family. Or maybe not. Maybe everyone could see the reason the kids were the way they were was because I was a failure as a wife and mom.
And then our girl came back. It should have been a “happily ever after” and it was for a bit, then the youngest boy acted out, The Leaver wanted him gone, I resisted but then acquiesced. We adopted our girl while our boy was essentially a runaway.
We were a farce. A failure of a family. The commissioner swore us in as parents to one child as another was lost to us.
Then The Leaver left. And I was left with two phrases #1) “You are an alpha female” and #2) “Good luck”
So I tried to take charge, power through it and keep together the joke of a broken family that we were. I tried to make dinners and sit at the table and read the bible with only 3 of 6 people who made up our “blended” family.
I tried to enforce rules and insist on propriety. I failed.
I tried to keep our house. I failed.
I tried to keep our town of Leavenworth. I failed.
I tried to keep the youngest intact until he was 18. I failed.
I tried to smile through it all and have faith that it will all work out. I AM FAILING. I AM A FAILURE.
I can’t do it. His hurt, his defiance, his pain, his need to be his own man is too strong for me. I fail. He’s not 18 and I’ve let him go.
He doesn’t live with me anymore. I’ve tried. As God as my witness, with everything I am, I promise I've tried. And I’ve failed. I’ve studied, I’ve applied, I’ve listened to advice, I’ve prayed, I’ve searched scripture, I’ve consulted friends, the law, the state and what I come up with is I AM A FAILURE. I cannot parent my child. He is gone to me.
I hope and I pray that like his eldest, adopted sister before him, like his eldest (only) 100% blood related sibling, like his adopted-half-sister after him, like his mother, he chooses to fight for what’s good and right.
The thing is … maybe I don’t forgive myself. Maybe I do. I fucked up! BAD! I can’t take it back. I can’t erase my past or make it disappear no matter how far I run, no matter how much “good” I do. I fucked up! I’m sorry. I’m sorry to my boys. I’m sorry to Michael. I’m sorry to the sisters and my girls but I can’t take it back.
What I know is the four children I claim as my own are remarkable kids! They are bright, super intelligent kids, young adults, actually. They are able to separate my mistakes from their own choices. They are able to sift through the mistakes and see the motive. They know their mama loves them no matter how much I failed. I pray to God they know I love them and since I gave my life to Christ I have done my best to be the best mom I could be.
Have I forgiven myself? ???
Is my forgiveness contingent on my kids turning out “OK” despite my failures? ???
Can I forgive myself? ???
This fearless and moral inventory stuff sucks… and yet the thing is, with all of this... I CHOOSE life, I CHOOSE Christ, I CHOOSE to make tomorrow better than today, I CHOOSE not to give up, not to grow weary in doing good, not to quit. I am strong, I am brave, I am FORGIVEN! I don't know how it all plays out, all I know is that since I decided to do it right, I've done my best and I have repented of my sins. To my children... I am sorry. To anyone that has seen the farce of a family or a mother I presented... I am sorry. Since July 1999, with God's help, I have done my best. I can only pray I am seen for who I truly am since then... and that my kids turn out ok despite my failure.