I love honesty. It’s one of the primary reasons I created this blog. I believe honesty brings healing. You can find healing through books, going to counseling, attending a workshop, or watching Dr. Phil (maybe). But, there’s something extremely healing in finding out that you’re not alone, that other people think about the same things you do, and struggle in the same ways you do.
The following post is from a friend of ours, Sherri Moore, who is an adoptive mother and foster care provider. She writes honestly about the expectations a person can have as they prepare for parenthood, and the disappointment that comes when things do not go as you envisioned them going. You can connect with her on Facebook by clicking here.
Let’s take a trip back in time and remember that place, so long ago, before we were parents. It’s a hard place to remember because it was a lifetime ago (even if your child is 3 months old).
Do you remember thinking about your future child? Now, honestly, I think when most people imagine what their children will be like, they think in terms of babies. “Aww! They’re so cute. I love the way they snuggle against you. And that baby smell. It is so wonderful!” We think about playing dress up or throwing the football around. “I will teach them to ride a bike. It will be so much fun playing at the park. I’ll take them to work so they learn the lesson of hard work. I can’t wait to help them with their homework.” You imagine how you will burst with pride as they call out your child’s name on graduation day! Or sometimes we think about what they will be when they grow up- Pro Athelete, Musician, Doctor. The possibilities are endless. We have so many dreams for them!
Then something happens. That snuggly baby doesn’t like to snuggle. They’re a wiggler, an explorer. That little girl doesn’t like to wear dresses, and don’t think about doing her hair like that! He doesn’t want to play on a team this year, his friends think it’s silly. When you drop them off at a friends house, stop at the corner, they will walk the rest of the way. And as for going to work with you? Well, that’s kind of lame.
Wait a minute? What? This is not what I thought….I didn’t sign up for this. They are supposed to love me, do things with me, be like me. Doesn’t that mean they want to do the things I wanted them to do? This is not what I thought.. I mean I love them — I can’t imagine my life without them, and I wouldn’t want to try, but I really expected…
Or maybe he has anxiety when he rides the school bus in the morning. By the time he gets to school he is kind of overwhelmed, so the first kid who brushes past him sets off a cascade of emotions and he ends up screaming and swinging at anyone who comes near him. Or her many doctor’s appointments make it hard to join girl scouts because you can’t make it to many of the meetings. Sometimes a child who looks so perfectly normal on the outside has an avalanche of turmoil or imperfection in their own head. They can’t express their affection for you in loving and secure ways. And sometimes their bodies are not strong or they have flaws that leave them fragile and in a great need of care.
No matter how small or how big the difference, this is not the child I dreamed about. I love what I have, but it is still not what I dreamed about.
For that, I grieve.
I think all parents greive to some extent for the child they did not have — the child who doesn’t share their love of music, or sports, or reading. This may be a small greiving process that may not even be recognized. But sometimes the difference between the dream and the reality is significant, and I think that leads to a larger need to grieve.
We must allow ourselves the right to grieve without guilt. It does not mean we are not good parents and it does not mean we do not love the children we were given. But we must give ourselves permission to acknowledge that there is a loss that has occurred and we must recognize that we are still good Moms and Dads, even though things aren’t the way we planned them.
So take some time. Think about what you miss. Bring it to the forefront of your thoughts. Then make a conscious effort to lay that child to rest. If you realize you feel very strong about this loss, maybe even have a small ceremony. Give yourself permission to let go of what you are holding onto from that lost child. By letting go, it may free you up to more easily embrace the child you have.
Question: Have you ever found yourself looking at your children or your life and realizing it was not what you envisioned? What did you do about it?