Flattery leaves us
Hearing a person’s words but
Missing their intent.
Suzanne Rollinson (Oct 2016)
Flattery leaves us
Hearing a person’s words but
Missing their intent.
Suzanne Rollinson (Oct 2016)
The other night I dreamt about my father. Nothing unusual in that you might think but it’s unusual for me. That’s because we don’t have a functional relationship. In fact I can’t remember the last time we spoke other than by email and that was a year or so ago.
This is pretty much how it’s always been. He’s not a significant part of my life and I’m used to that. I accept that. Gone are the times I’ve sat by the door on my birthday wondering if this is the year he’ll remember me.
I rarely think of him now. I may get a twinge of jealousy when I see my friends having a great relationship with their dads but on the whole I try not to dwell on it. This is how it is and it is largely my choice too.
It’s not all his fault. He’s made efforts in the past to be in touch and for us to see each other but he left when I was 5. He has rarely been a Daddy figure in my life. We’ve both tried but our relationship is lacking something and neither one of us is desperate to rebuild it.
And yet in my dream I asked him “just tell me are you ever going to make time for me? I need to know”.
Why did I need to know? I’m not sure. It seems laughable to me now. I’m happy with my life mostly and I don’t often grieve on the things I don’t have. Instead I try to be grateful for the things I do have.
The dream left a bitter taste in my mouth. It brought up feelings I thought were dealt with. Things that I’m tired of dwelling on continually.I guess I’m still that little girl who misses her Daddy. The difference is now I’m older and harder inside . I choose not to have a relationship with him because it’s easier for me.
It’s an awful thing to not be able to relate in part to your children because they know the joy of having a Dad there every day. A Dad who loves them and cares for them. They’ve never known anything different. They take it for granted and I’m so glad for that. It’s just sometimes……
I wish, I’m not sure really, I suppose I wish my childhood had been different. I wish my Dad had been there.
The honest truth is I can’t forgive him for the fallout he left in my life by leaving.
He has told me awful things about my parent’s marriage, that no child should have to hear, how do you bounce back from that?
And yes I’m a Christian and yes I know I should forgive him. I’ve tried to, several times but the guilt that arises from not being able to manage such an onerous task combines with the pain of the unforgiveness.
It’s not something that I could ever accomplish by myself and thankfully I don’t have to.
The only legacy he has left me with is insecurity and this I could do without. It colours every relationship I have and causes me to second guess myself continually.
Was I too open with that person? Did I share too much? Was I too clingy or needy in that relationship? Is anything I do of any value? Did I say the wrong thing in that text or that comment? What did so and so mean by that or by this?
I hate it. I hate being an insecure person. It’s awful.
So this is why I try not to revisit this relationship, this topic. It is what it is. It can never be changed. It can never be unhappenned( if there is such a word!)
But oh, sometimes, only sometimes, I wish it could be.
On a recent holiday my eldest son came into my bedroom late at night and uttered those immortal words all parents dread, “I can’t sleep”.
Whilst a myriad of unkind responses raced through my head in irritability at being awoken from sleep myself I somehow managed to bite them back and lamely said something along the lines of ” try not to worry about it, that will make it worse, just lie there and close your eyes and hopefully you’ll drift off”.
Looking somewhat sceptical and bemused he padded back to bed and left me wide awake and thinking.
My first thought was amusement. Why do children say these things and what do they think we as parents can do about these issues? Does he think I’ve got a bucket of sleepy dust under my bed I can sprinkle over wakeful teenagers?
Having 4 children and spent countless sleepless nights there have been times I would have given almost everything I owned for such a powder, so desperate was I to sleep.
But as time wore on and I pondered deeper I came to a realisation. He wasn’t only telling me he couldn’t sleep.
Being a sensitive soul, prone to some anxiety, he was telling me something was off with him.
He was feeling afraid. We were staying in an unfamiliar place and it felt strange in the darkness. His fears were magnified in the shadows. His bed felt odd, his surroundings were untested and quite simply he needed his mum. He wanted me to make him feel safe and secure, like I used to when he was a baby and I rocked him to sleep.
He’s grown a lot this year. He’s a young teenager and almost 6 foot tall. His voice has deepened and he’s not a little boy any more.
So sometimes I miss the cues. I miss the moments when he needs me. He’s come on so well since his school anxiety and become so self reliant and independent that I forget he’s still a child. And he still needs his mum.
But now he’s older it’s different. He has different needs and we have a different relationship.
You might think that I’m making too much of this, that maybe I should have just taken what he said at face value, instead of reading into it. But I know him.
When he came into my room that night it was based on a feeling he was having, he wasn’t able to articulate it so he based it on the closest thing he could think of. Not being able to sleep. And undoubtedly that was part of it but not the whole part.
Something caught in my spirit that night. I lay there and thought of all the conversations I’d had with my kids recently and wondered what other cues I had missed.
I felt gutted to be honest which quickly seesawed into the usual motherly guilt trip.
Parenting is hard and children don’t come with a manual and as they age their needs and issues change.
I forget that sometimes. When I am prompted to remember by situations such as that night I feel like I’m constantly playing catch up .
Love language and family dynamics change but I will strive to keep up with the times and with the children and their needs, however subtle the cues might seem.
Till next time.
Are held within the attics
Of our cluttered minds.
Suzi Rollinson (July 2016)
The poet John Donne once proclaimed”No man is an island, entire of itself”. Poetry can be a tricky thing to interpret. Is a poem meant to be read in a literal sense or is it merely symbolism to convey an idea or subject the author is pondering? We can never know for definite and that is one of the things I love about poetry and art. It is left to our subjectivity and the interpretation we choose.
However in this case I think by reading further on Donne is merely saying that we’re not meant to live our lives alone. We’re meant to live in community with others and it’s only when we have that interaction we are truly ourselves.
The Bible speaks of us being members of one body, again portraying how necessary we are to each other and it speaks of us rubbing each other’s rough edges off”as iron sharpens iron”.
The truth is we need each other. I’ve said many times I’m an introvert. I find small talk painful. I don’t find social occasions easy. Often, even with people I know well I stand there frantically searching my mind for something to talk about.
But I try to persist because I value the people in my life, past and present, whether I have the courage to voice it or not.
I’m grateful for women who came alongside me in my lowest moments of depression. These women sat with me when I was afraid to sit alone. These women shopped for me so I didn’t have to think about what to feed my children and cooked for me too. They sat and sorted and folded my laundry pile when it was stressing me out to look at it. These women and men came up trumps the last few years when money was tight and the future looked precarious and uncertain.
Food gifts would appear on our doorsteps, money and coffee gift cards through our letterbox. They walked the walk. They showed they cared.
I’m grateful for those whose preaching I sat under, those friends who opened up the word and things of God to me, in church and in their homes. I’m grateful for the times of fellowship that went along with these times and the many people who fed our large family.
I’m grateful for the people who trusted me with duties and roles in the church and in the job world and painstakingly encouraged me the very many times I doubted myself and if I actually had anything to offer.
There were times as a teenager I felt I could die from loneliness, despite being surrounded by friends.
I felt like that island. Alone and isolated. Cut off from people and land. Left to fend for myself.
Today I live in a house populated by a small army I created myself, as the saying goes. I know every parent says it and thinks it but my kids are amazing.
All different characters, all different traits, all good at different things but all kind and helpful and loving. Don’t get me wrong, we have all the sibling rivalries and arguments and family dramas but we are a unit, a stronghold. And on the days I am seeking a little peace and a little solitude and the only place I can find it is the lavatory(normally with someone banging on the door asking if I’ve almost finished!) I reflect on the fact that I need these people. I’m not an island and I’m glad of that.
Till next time.
When I tell you that I love you I mean I love you for you, that funny,irrepressible you that hides sometimes behind layers of flippancy or Dad jokes.
I don’t just love you for the way you look, although of course that’s always been a part of it, that cute smile that drew you to my gaze.
I don’t just love you for what you can do for me although you do countless things for me every day and every week, month in and month out. Some things I take notice of and some I regret to say I probably take for granted.
I love you because you’re kind, to me and to other people. I love the way you go out of your way to help others sometimes. I love the way you father our children, the way you make them laugh or teach them to swim or read them Lord of the Rings endlessly.
You are a good man. You have been a good husband and I am proud to be your wife.
When we first began, even when we first married I was full of fear because I knew from childhood experience that love is not always enough to keep people together.
I came from a broken home. You did not. At times I worried for us. Who would teach us to navigate the difficult areas of life?
When we would first argue I would fall back on old habits and tell you to go. You would clear your head but resolutely stick by me.
We have weathered our storms. No more and no less than others perhaps but the things that might have broken us have not.
We have 5 wonderful children. It’s just that one lives in Heaven for now. And I want to tell you honestly despite our hard times I have always been glad you are mine.
I am so proud of you and the man you are, have been and are becoming.
I pray that God will continue to knit our married lives together because I have to say you are still my favourite person to be with and spend time with.
I love you honeybun.
It’s always hard as a parent to see your children struggling. You want to remove them from their stressful moments or live those moments for them, to save them pain.
And it doesn’t get easier when they get older and are struggling with different things. How do you stand back as a parent and let your child grow without a little pain or struggle or strife?
The simple answer is of course you can’t. You only have to hope that you’ve raised them with the skills that will equip them to navigate life’s difficult paths.
When my children were younger I could heal their struggles or woes with a kiss or a cuddle or something to distract their minds. But what do you do when Band-Aids and ice pops don’t work any more? When they’ve outgrown them?
The hard answer is you take a step back, you take your hands off a little, you try to find the balance between respecting their privacy and over parenting them.
But, as I know from experience it’s a veritable minefield and it’s all too easy to strike the wrong note and get it wrong.
This morning I opened my mouth and the wrong voice came out.
What I originally meant as encouraging came out harsh and judgemental and unfeeling and uncaring.
I couldn’t bite the words back before they were uttered, much though I wish I could. All I could think of were the times I’d needed encouragement as a child and it was not forthcoming.
Of course I apologised immediately but what do you do when you know you’ve slipped up and you can’t correct it?
To be honest once you’ve apologised and sought reconciliation there is not much you can do. You have to forgive yourself and try to remember the times you did not slip up, the times you said the right word in the right season. The times you were there to extend the hug, the kiss, the Band-Aids, the encouragement.
But it’s never easy. Why is it we can extend forgiveness to others but find it so hard to forgive ourselves? I’ll never know for sure. I think it’s because we expect so much more from ourselves. We beat ourselves up when we get it wrong. I know there are many nights I’ve wept for the times I’ve got it wrong.
One of the greatest joys in my life are my children and the relationship I have with each of them. I would not trade that for anything.
In times like this and I don’t mean this as an excuse or get out clause, we need to extend ourselves some grace, and some compassion. I’ve never found that easy.
We are human. We are imperfect and we will always make mistakes.
We can only wait for the lull in our kids difficulties, raise them up in prayer and hope against hope we can help them next time they struggle.
Till next time.