I’d often thought that the reason why I felt such strong urges to have so many children was because I had so much love and guidance to offer. But it wasn’t until my daughters were several years old that I realized I was afforded the privilege of becoming their mother because it was that I had so much to learn.
After a few years of bitter disappointment at my inability to conceive, I still remember the exact moment the doctor told me that I was finally pregnant. I was in awe that my life-long dream to become a mother was finally going to be a reality. And so time went on in the normal fashion that most young mothers’ lives do working hard to raise their family properly. I will never forget how hard it was to be a stay-at-home-mother to four children born shortly one after the other, the wife of a self-employed contractor. My work was ’round-the-clock, money was tight and my patience was often thin. I had such beautiful little girls, so active and alive. But I sometimes fell short of the mark as the demands on my physical, emotional and mental fortitude seemed to be without end.
And then my oldest daughter who was only 5 years old at the time did something to warrant discipline. I don’t recall what it was to be honest. I just remember how exhausted and angry I felt and at that moment I carelessly blurted out a horrible name directed at my baby. I scolded her for nothing more than merely being a child. And it was no sooner that the words escaped my lips that I began to feel shame, remorse and deepest regret for losing my temper. All of my girls were present in the bedroom that day. They had all heard me. They didn’t even know what those words meant because they were so young, but from my behavior they knew that I had done something that I felt I should not have done and because of it they could see that I was overcome with grief.
I was raised by parents who felt that no matter what the circumstance the parent was always in the right just because they were the parent. I am fairly certain (or at least that is what I choose to believe) that my parents had always done the best they could with the tools they were afforded. But as I grew into adulthood I realized there were circumstances when my parents had made clear mistakes. I’d long since forgiven them for their human weaknesses. I knew they could not take the past back. But I’d always felt that an apology would have helped to heal my hurt. Once I’d had this epiphany I made a promise to myself that were I to be fortunate enough to be afforded the privilege of becoming a mother myself one day, I would freely admit my mistakes to my children and offer a sincere, well thought out apology. I did not want my children to ever feel the way that I’d felt about my own parents. Little did I realize that this moment of truth would come when my children were so young and that I would be so horribly in the wrong.
I sat down and began to cry. I told my girls how wrong I was, how my oldest little girl was “just being a child” and how my behavior was a totally inappropriate in response. I told them all regardless of how tired and overburdened I was that there was just no excuse for speaking to any of them in such a harsh manner. Even as I write this today, there is no end to the depth of my shame. And then, it happened: the experience that would alter my life forever. As I finished my apology I began to say the words, “I am sorry. I will try very hard never to speak so recklessly again.” I never got past the letter “S” in the phrase “I’m sorry.” My little girl put her hand on my forearm to console me and said, “That’s ok Mami. I know you didn’t mean it.”
And I felt as though the earth had moved. I finally began to understand how much these little people that I brought here were going to influence me and teach me about life. Little did I realize at that time, that many years into the future on 1 MAY 2006 all four of my daughters would leave my home never to return leaving us in a position where we would be kept from one another for the remainder of their childhood.
On 19 AUG 2010, at precisely 1:12PM my oldest daughter will turn 18. She’s not spoken to me in over 4 years; not since she and her sisters became the victim of an ugly custody battle rife with all the horrible circumstances that accompany such events, all the while bearing the burden of the stresses of adolescence. I’ve received no Mother’s Day cards or birthday cards, no Christmas presents or even emails, text messages or any gentle little offerings of affection from her, my entire family completely shut out of her life as well as from the lives of her three younger sisters. To the contrary, she has said and done so many terrible things that when I do finally confide our situation to people I am often asked, “How could you ever forgive someone for doing and saying so many ugly things not only to you but to her sisters and to your family even if she is your child?” I don’t even have to reflect on the answer for a moment. As my little girl approaches the cusp of adulthood and an age where she will be able to reason and gain insight into her behavior she will most certainly feel as I did that day in her room 13 years earlier. Then it will be my turn to put my hand on her forearm never letting her get past the “S” as she utters the phrase, “I’m Sorry.” And I will say, “That’s ok baby, I know you didn’t mean it.” As I have come to learn that her behavior is no different than the behavior of the millions of other alienated children around the world.
I remind myself daily that while she lives I have hope. So many parents have only grave sites to visit. And still others don’t even have the comfort of knowing their children’s fate.They have only pictures of their children appearing on milk cartons in the grocery stores across the country. As a targeted parent I have the rest of my daughters’ lives to keep extending my love and where applicable, my forgiveness. And it is my duty to keep doing so; to keep offering my children my unconditional love. My children owe me nothing but that which I have earned every single day with my thoughts, my words and my deeds. In sharp contrast, I owe them everything. And that is exactly what I will deliver as long as I am amongst the living.
My younger 3 daughters have all come to see that I never gave up on them. It is because of this that my relationship with them has been restored though admittedly strained as they remain kept from me and my family. One day we will all be united again, of this I have no doubt. My lesson on unconditional love and forgiveness began and will no doubt come full circle when my oldest daughter comes home to me. But until that day I will continue to surround myself with positive influences, nourish my body and my soul and choose continue to focus on the fact that I am truly blessed to have been given so much.