When my children hurt. I hurt.
It doesn’t matter if they are 2 or 32.
After my children were born, they may have cut the umbilical cord, but the connection was never severed.
I will always be inexplicably connected to my children.
When my children were young, I could fix everything with a kiss, a cuddle or a well-placed band-aid.
It didn’t matter how bad things were; how tired and exhausted I was, or how frustrated and overwhelmed they were … I could always make it better.
But as they grew, so did their problems, and so did my inability to fix it.
The Bond Between Mother and Child Lasts A Lifetime
As a mother, I mirrored their emotions and I felt their pain.
It went from sleepless nights, teething troubles and scraped knees to schoolyard bullying, peer-group pressure and anxiety of friendship cliques, heartache, and the inconsolable tears of failed first loves.
I felt every heartbreak.
I experienced every fear.
And I endured every despair and discomfort they felt while they navigated their teenage years.
With vivid recollection, I re-lived their turbulent journey as they evolved from childhood to embarking into the world as young adults.
Even though ups and downs, wins and losses, happiness and heartbreak are inevitable, it was unbearable to watch them suffer.
The realisation that I could no longer fix everything, and that a comforting hug from their Mumma would no longer be enough, made me feel helpless.
“You are only as happy as your saddest child”
The saying goes “you are only as happy as your saddest child”, and if this is true, then I’m destined for a life of unhappiness.
As the mother of 3 adult daughters, there is always some sort of drama or personal issue that is impacting one of their lives at one stage or another.
I have always encouraged my daughters to reach out to me, to confide in me, to offload on me, and I am grateful that they do.
They unload their woes and distress, their difficulties, their heartbreak, their fears and grief; and I’m relieved and comforted that it lightens the load for them, but then, it burdens me.
I find myself consumed with their troubles. Ruminating and problem-solving, and it ties my stomach in knots as I try to work out ‘how the hell I am going to fix it!’.
It’s no secret that I am a worrier. A glass-half-empty type of person at the best of times.
Unlike when they were small, their problems are now big.
They are experiencing life.
And it sucks when life is being a bitch.
My World, My Life, My Daughters
It took her a long time to trust and love, to give herself wholeheartedly to another. Then that trust was abused, and resultantly, she is going through a nasty custody battle.
With my youngest daughter, I didn’t cut the proverbial apron strings as quickly as I did with the other girls. I held onto her and tried to shield her, but I failed. I let her down in many ways, and I will never forgive myself for not protecting her.
She is stuck in another State, alone and unsupported. Unable to return home with her young children due to a relentless, soul-sucking, financially crippling custody case that keeps getting adjourned.
And I am useless.
I can’t do anything to fix it.
I can’t make her pain go away.
I can aid her financially, assist her emotionally and be there for her physically when I’m able to travel the 1,200 kilometres. But I. CAN. NOT. FIX. IT. and the sense of helplessness I feel devastates me.
My middle daughter has gone through more in her 28 years than most will in a lifetime. She has valiantly faced gastric cancer in the form of a genetically acquired mutation. She has had a prophylactic gastrectomy and bilateral mastectomy with breast reconstruction. And if that wasn’t enough, has to decide if she will proceed with future Preimplantation Genetic Diagnosis (PGD) to eradicate this pathogenic mutation once and for all in our immediate family.
Her problems are real, and she faces daily challenges of a stomachless life but she does so courageously, with determination and strength.
But as fearless as she is, I feel an immense sense of guilt and despair that I inadvertently passed this debilitating and potentially deadly mutation onto her. I worry endlessly about her health and the difficulties that may transpire if she undertakes IVF to bear a family of her own.
Yet, my eldest daughter is self-sufficient. Determined. Independent. And no longer reliant on me.
She loves me and I love her.
But she solves and deals with her own dramas and difficulties.
I picked up the pieces many times in her younger years. But now, as a 30-year-old, mother of two beautiful children, with a supportive, loving and solid partner, she doesn’t need me as often as she used to.
And this both relieves and saddens me.
It means I’ve succeeded in nurturing her into the strong, independent woman she is today. But a small part of me yearns for the years when she looked at me for support and comfort.
Even though, regardless of her fierce independence, I still worry about her.
And I quietly watch as she emulates similar fears and concerns with her own children, though thankfully, nowhere near as neurotic as mine.
I May Not Be Perfect But When I Look At My Children, I Know I Got Something Perfectly Right
“Life has many different chapters. One bad chapter doesn’t mean it’s the end of the story”
Being a parent is one of the most rewarding, profoundly meaningful and joyous experiences a person can ever have. And regardless of how well you’ve done your job guiding your children through the trials and tribulations of growing up, there are always going to be uncomfortable encounters and unfortunate circumstances which are outside your control.
All you can hope is that you’ve given your children the correct tools to navigate the hardships and difficulties that life throws at them.
At the end of the day, my children are all reasonably happy, well-adjusted and successful individuals.
There are always going to be stressors, dramas, upsets and unforeseen crises that arise.
But these are just chapters in their lives.
One day, they will look back and realise these hardships and difficult times are what helped mould them into the amazing women they are today.
“Being a mother is learning about strengths you didn’t know you had … and dealing with fears you didn’t know existed”
And as for the saying “you are only as happy as your saddest child” … in my situation, this is both correct and incorrect.
Whilst I will always share any pain or grief that my children individually experience, I am still happy and content in my own right.
I am satisfied that I have done my job as a mother, even though I’ve had immense failures and I am far from a perfect parent. I look at my daughters with awe and respect which fills me with tremendous pride.
My daughters are all perfect individuals, who are experiencing the highs and lows of life.
Worry does not take away tomorrow’s troubles, it takes away today’s peace
As for my angst and anxieties, they are mine to own and mine to manage.
Constant worrying is exhausting and mentally draining. And it doesn’t help change anything, it only robs you of peace of mind.
It’s necessary for me to change my mindset, and learn to ‘let go’. To let my children live their own lives without me micromanaging, and trying to prevent them from experiencing any form of discomfort.
A parent’s best intentions of “trying to fix it all” risks creating a child who is totally dependent on others, instead of creating a child who is self-assured, confident and ready to face the world.
Discomfort fuels personal growth
Discomfort can be a motivation for growth. It makes you adjust and adapt.
No pain, no gain.
Experiencing pain and discomfort first-hand pushes you to achieve and strive for the life you want.
As said, failing isn’t the opposite of success, it’s part of it! And by shielding your child from the pitfalls of life, you are denying them the ability to learn for themselves.
It’s always going to be difficult to “let go” when our entire adult life has been dedicated to nurturing and protecting these beings we’ve created.
But our role as parents is to guide and encourage our children to grow and flourish, not live their life for them.
The realisation is, that I have no control over how my children feel or react.
I can’t take away their pain. I can’t fix everything. I can’t make the world a better place.
But I can be there for them. To listen. To support. To guide. To love.
Though, it would make my life a whole lot easier if my children could all be happy and content at exactly the same time … just saying!
To raise a child, who is comfortable enough to leave you, means you’ve done your job. They are not ours to keep, but to teach how to soar on their own.