We know the feeling. More importantly, we know the wrestling match you’re in because you don’t feel the guilt you think you’re supposed to feel. But, this honest admission doesn’t mean you’re a bad parent.
He prefaced the statement with, “I’m ashamed to admit this.” Then he paused, took a deep breath, lowered his head, and finally released it…. “My son doesn’t live at home right now, and I don’t feel guilty about that. In fact…” he paused again, choking back a reservoir of emotion building behind his eyes, “I love the peace that we feel without him here. I’ve waited so long for it.” I placed my arm on his shoulder empathetically. “I know,” I said, looking him in the eyes.
He threw open wide the gates and poured out his heart. “Does it mean I’m a bad parent by thinking that? I mean….I still love him with all of my heart…I want him to be home….I believe God has big plans for him…he’s my son and I love him…but he held our family hostage every single day with his fits….he drove us crazy with his defiance….he stole, he hurt his brothers, he traumatized his sisters…and it was all we could take. My wife had to go on anti-depression meds, my daughter started talking about suicide, my youngest son is afraid every night, and none of our friends want to come over to our house for small group anymore. We are so lonely! Now we have peace. And I love it. I don’t feel guilty for that. Is that wrong?”
Yep, I’ve been there.
His tears were my tears. His heartbreak was my heartbreak. His wondering has been my wondering. I understood everything he was saying to me that day because I’ve lived through the reality of placing a child in residential care, away from our home, away from our family. And I know the words that run through your mind…
…I couldn’t keep him safe.
…I couldn’t keep my other children safe.
…I love him with all of my heart but I can’t keep fighting the constant battles.
…Now…we have peace in our home.
…Maybe I’m supposed to feel guilty about that but I don’t.
I’ve thought all of them. And there’s something I want to tell you if you have too…
It’s okay to not feel guilty. It’s not wrong to want the peace. No, you’re not a bad parent for feeling this way. And, no, it doesn’t mean you don’t love your child because they live somewhere else and you don’t feel guilty. I know there are many people who make you feel like a failure, and a bad parent, but stop listening to them. They don’t understand the battle you’re in. We do. Focus your attention here for a moment.
You don’t feel guilty because you’ve been pushed to the brink. You’ve fought this battle to the point of almost losing everything. You’ve spent years, and years, fixing, repairing, and tweaking the world around you because of her meltdowns, because of his fits of rage, because of his outbursts, or her destruction. You’ve done all you can do. The decision to move your child into residential treatment does not mean you’re a failure. And it doesn’t mean you don’t love them. It’s because of love, not in-spite of it, that you’ve taken steps to get your child the help he or she needs!
I placed my arms around my friend that day as he fell apart. He loves his kid. He believes he has hope and a future. Nothing on earth will ever change that. Nothing could cause him to love his child less. But, he’s done all he could do to keep his son safe. He’s fought for so long, and so hard, and now he’s powerless to stop his son from making the choices he makes. He’s not a bad parent. He’s a very good parent, in fact. He’s not a failure simply because he’ll do whatever he has to do to keep his son, and the rest of his family, safe.
As he walked away that afternoon, I reassured him…it’s okay to not feel guilty about your son not living at home right now. It’s okay to take this time to focus on your wife, and your other children. It’s okay to enjoy the freedom you all feel. It’s okay to repair, heal, and soak up peace. It doesn’t mean you don’t love your son. It means you love him and your entire family. And if anyone tries to convince you otherwise, stay far, far away from them.
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