A retired English teacher, I reflect on the many facets of my life: retirement, reading, writing, gardening, faith, parenting adult children, grandchildren, loss, grief, healing from grief, surviving the loss of a loved one by suicide, hair loss, alopecia, aging, and living life at the foot of the Rocky mountains.
Tuesday, May 9, 2017
On Being A Mom
I'd always dreamed of being a mom.
Always.Being a mother has brought me
more joy than any other experience in my life. I love being a mother.I guess we all were quite naïve when we
entered motherhood.Perhaps it is best
that way.Looking at what motherhood
might cost a mother might have scared me from walking down that path more than
half a century ago, but I doubt it.I
think no matter what, I would have chosen to be a mom.
Amy, Keicha, Ryan, Julie, Jonathan
Now, as I look back on my life
knowing the pain, the sorrow, the grief, the heartache that being a mother has
brought me I still would not change a thing.Truly, all grief I’ve ever experienced over the death of a child has
been tempered by joy and gratitude for being a mother. The journey through
motherhood is one I would never want to miss. I would do it all again.
In fact, sometimes I wish I could go
back and live all those days with my children over again. Just one more time,
I'd love them ALL under my roof again.ALL of them.
Julie, Keicha, Mom, Jonathan, Amy, Ryan
I’d listen to their banter, and laughter, and
I'd laugh with them.Oh how we laugh
when we are together. I'd watch them chase each other around the house teasing
and taunting and acting like a bunch of pups frolicking in the joy of having
spirited, like minded playmates and likely call out, "watch out or one of
you is going end up crying."
The household in which I raised my
children was anything but quiet. When the children were small they roller
skated and rode their tricycles in the house.They practiced their high jumping skills by moving the family room couch
to the middle of the room so they could run towards it and jump over it.The result was that Julie in particular could
not only jump high and wide enough to clear the couch.She also learned to stop running quickly
before she ran into the fireplace.Her
track coach once told me he loved how wide she jumped when she ran the hurdles
event.“She learned that at home,” I
said with a laugh.
Garbage bags or sleeping bags
provided were repurposed to slide down the basement stairs.An old bedframe with only springs and no
mattress perched under the apricot trees in the back yard provided a unique
trampoline, a place to build forts with blankets, and a place for summer night
sleepovers.My kids were inventive,
resourceful, and imaginative when it came to turning found things into just
another way to have fun.
If I were together with all my adult
children, I'd listen to their informed and insightful conversations that would
include very divergent points of view.I
would, and do, rest assured that no matter how different they all may be from
each other, they love and respect each other so much that they will remain a
pretty tight group.They may have their
squabbles, but I truly doubt anything could ever destroy the bond they have
with each other.
These bonds and this devotion to
each other was hard won.Even though the
early years of my children’s lives together were spent establishing and
creating childhood bonds with me and with each other, our family was split many
years ago by a judge in Utah.
It happened when my children’s
father and I went through a divorce.My
five children ranged in age from fifteen to five.In those days, custody of the children was
not an issue in most divorces.In the
case of my divorce, custody was not even discussed.As a stay at home mom, I was the major
caretaker.In fact, at the time of the
divorce, I didn’t even have a job.The
home in Utah was awarded to me, and so was the custody of the children.
A year after the divorce, I decided,
after much urging from my parents, to find a job in Colorado. I had no
restrictions on the custody I had been awarded, and the children only
occasionally saw their father, so I proceeded with my plans to rent out my home
in Utah and move my children with me to Colorado.Once their father learned what was happening,
on a day when visitation rights were to be established for him, he instead
surprised the court by filing for custody of all five children.
After a hearing, the judge could see
no reason why I should not maintain custody.He then did a very interesting thing. He asked my thirteen-year-old
daughter and my fifteen-year-old son what they wanted to do.Both said they wanted to stay with their
father so they could stay with their friends.Probably most teens would have said the same thing.
And so, the trajectory of our family
was irrevocably changed.After that
fateful day in court, my two oldest children remained in Utah with their father
while I flew home in a state of shock and devastation with my three youngest
Through absolutely no fault of my
own, I lost children legally before I was finished raising them, loving them,
and being with them as a mother should be with her children.
Being a mom has brought me some of
the greatest emotional pain in my life.I am not the only one who suffered because of this legal decision.My children, every single one of them, also
suffered immeasurably from this judge’s decree.
In the years when our family was
divided down the middle with two children living with their father and three
children living with their mom, so much was lost.I think of all the time I lost where I could
have been involved in those teenage years with my two oldest children and my
heart nearly breaks.I wasn’t there to
watch over their schooling, their choice of friends, the way the spent their
time, or the choices they made.I didn’t
get to make or help pick out prom dresses, or even a wedding dress, for my
daughter.I wasn’t there to advise,
console, comfort, or admonish when two teens needed a mom in daily
attendance.So much was lost.One never gets back time once it is gone.
My younger children also lost all
those times they could have spent with their older siblings.One never gets back the occasion once it has
To that judge in Utah that ruled to
split my family down the middle, I would like to say, "You, with all of
your legal power, hurt my family more than you will ever know.”
I wonder if he ever again wondered
about the welfare of our family as a whole, or of each child as an
individual.I wonder if he ever even
thought of us again.Did he really
consider the financial, the emotional, and the spiritual costs that his
decision would place upon all of us?Did
his decision ever wake him up at night?Did he spend sleepless nights wondering how to restore all that was lost
by his decision?
When faced with making, as my
daughter has said, a decision worthy of the wisdom of Solomon, this judge
abandoned his responsibility and asked two minor children to decide their own
custody arrangements.These children
were not old enough to vote.They
couldn't be licensed to drive.Under
law, they still had to go to school, but this judge left a decision, that they could
never have had the skills to make in their hands.I would say to this judge all these years
later, “You did great harm to them and to all of us.The legal system failed my family dreadfully,
and each of us paid the price."
All those years ago, when my family
was shattered and broken into two distinct pieces, I wondered how all the
problems that were created for all of us as a whole and for each individual
would be resolved.It was ordered that
all the children spend as much time together as they could.The order seemed to place precedence over the
children visiting each other over the children visiting with the parents.Or so it seems to me now.Perhaps, what really evolved from the
situation was that the children spent more time all together with their father
in Utah then they spent individually or collectively with me.
As a single mom, I had to work to
provide for my children.My earning
capabilities were severely limited due to a lack of education and a lack of
experience.I worked as a very poorly
paid secretary school secretary.The
irony was that while I had spring breaks and summer breaks off, I did not end
up having those times with my children because their father, a teacher, was
also off of work and the two teenage children were by that time beginning to
work.They seldom were able to come to
visit me or spend time with me.The
three younger children spent every summer with their father and siblings.Spring and winter breaks were also nearly
always spent with their father.
Practicality was not the only
deciding factor that led to the visitation arrangement that developed.In my heart I had determined that I wanted my
children to spend as much time together as siblings as they could.The relationships they forged with each other
was of great importance to me.I wanted
them all to experience and create a sense of family that would surpass the
limitations that time, money, and a legal decision had placed on the family
Early bonds are not easily broken
when they are carefully established.My
children and I have endured as a family.We love being together.Each
family gathering is a cause to celebrate each other and the family we are.
The law has great power, but it can
never have the power that love has.Love
wins.It always wins.
My children have lost a sibling and
I have lost a child to death.That loss
was another loss that was painfully woven into the fabric of our family.As a family, we experienced much of the
sorrow, the shock, the pain, the grief that came from the death of our dear
Julie together, or by sharing our grief with each other.This experience gave us another thread that
has sewn our family together into a beautiful covering to provide mutual love
and healing for us as a family and as individuals.
Ryan, Keicha, Amy, Jonathan
Death is often seen as the ultimate
show of power, but death cannot destroy love either.Again, love wins.Love always wins.
When I think back to those years
when I dreamed of being a mother, I wonder what I thought being a mother would
look like.When I brought my first born
home from the hospital, did I have any idea of all that being a mother would
bring to me?If I had, would I have had
The answer to the first question is:
No.I had no idea what being a mother
would mean when it came to how I lived out my life. None of us ever do.The answer to the second question is:Yes!I
would not have wanted to miss out on being a mother.I love being a mom.
Somehow, my children navigated those
teenage years and became successful adults.They are pretty amazing as far as I’m concerned.There are no other adults I enjoy hanging out
with as much as I enjoy my children.
I have been blessed beyond measure
by each of the lives of my beautiful, bright, articulate, funny, complex, and
thoroughly delightful five children.Knowing the pain, the sorrow, the grief, the heartache that being a
mother has brought me would not change a thing.I’d do it all again.I’d do it
and savor every single minute of it.Thank you Ryan, Keicha, Amy, Julie and Jonathan for being my
children.Thanks for letting me be your