“Children are resilient.” That was the statement I heard over and over during our years of family mediation.
What does that mean? Its an adjective, an attribute attached to a noun. And words like strong, tough, hardy, bouyant, and irrepressible are used as synonyms.
Children are resilient? No they aren’t. Maybe some are in some ways, but not all, and none entirely.
Strong? No, children are as weak as we humans come, helpless and needy.
Tough? No, children are tender and sensitive and easily hurt.
Hardy? Kind of, but only to the point that they can cry really loud and get the attention they need to be fed and cuddled.
Bouyant? As in having a sunny disposition? Sometimes, but it’s random. Children don’t have the capacity to choose their emotions, they can’t extract positive emotions from a bad situation.
And worst but not least, ‘irrepressible’? Children can’t be irrepressible, they don’t have the established personality to choose to be postive in the face of tragedy. Unless just surviving is enough.
The idea that children are resilient is wrong. It’s a wrong idea. And I fell into the trap of believing it.
My children are resilient, I was told. Much more resilient than I knew, I was told. I couldn’t be objective because I was their mother, I was told. “And all the research points to the fact they will be just fine.”
No they won’t, I wanted to scream. Nothing about what I’ve chosen is fine. But I was afraid to say it, afraid of being tagged “emotionally unstable”. I didn’t want to seem irrational. God forbid I appear irrational I’d tell myself as paranoia set in. If I say anything that could be construed as ‘unhinged’ my children will be taken away from me.
“Children can cope with anything as long as they know their parents love them.”
Breaking up a family is not love.
Say that again.
Breaking up a family is not love. Your children cannot know they are loved by you when you break up their family.
Separation and divorce is the opposite of love. And if we try to construe it to be otherwise, we are just plain old lying to ourselves.
Breaking up a family is not good, ever. It’s bad. And the consequences can be horrifying.
I’m sitting myself down. I’m looking at my twenty-one year old self. I’ve listened to her story. I’ve read all these pages of her life of woe, the big bad beginnings, the bad choices made when she was a person who believed she was unlovable. I know all the ins and outs of her long sad weary tale. I take her hand and when I say. “I know.” I mean it.
I let her cry until her weeping turns to snivels. I hand her a tissue.
Now, Linda. I want you to listen to me very carefully. You’ve been married for two years and you are desperate to have children. I understand. But do you understand what that means?
Let me tell you anyways. It means you are no longer the point of your life. Not for a long while ahead. Every ounce of every second of every day for the next many years belongs to your children. They come first. Then if there’s time now and then you can have fun. But the point of your life is to raise your children.”
“I know that.”
I know you know that, but here is what you don’t know. Every ounce of every second of every day is up to you. No one else is making your decisions. All your choices are yours.”
“I don’t think you do. Let me make this clear. When you blame your husband for being unhappy, say he hurts your feelings, you are using his action to justify your choice to be unhappy. But you’re choosing it, not him. Do you need me to repeat that? It was a lot of words.”
“If I’m unhappy, it’s my choice.”
Correct. The same thing about being happy. When you blame your husband for making you happy, you are using him to justify your choice to be happy.”
“Choice.” I repeated these two statements. “Everything is your choice.”
There are no buts. There is only that fact. Every choice you make is yours. And you are about to be a mom. There are no buts.
Every choice you make is yours. It begins and ends with you. Starting here, starting now, you have to get that straight. ”
And when you understand that point, then comes the hard part.
Here is my prayer for you young Linda. When you finally face your maker, yourself, and you hold your feet to the fire, when you are faced with the results of the choices you make, may you be strong enough and brave enough and humble enough to take responsibility for those choices. Because make no mistake lass, it will be the hardest thing you will ever do.
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