A time of tragedy reminds me to redefine what is possible.
Last week a family I have known for years lost their eldest son in a tragic accident. They lost their first born baby on the day of his 10th trip around the son. The pain must be insurmountable. The grief unimaginable and the faith in this world must slip away almost instantly. I got the phone call about 4 hours after this beautiful young life had been taken and every moment since I have tried to reflect on and empathize with what this family is going through and yet the truth is I can't. It is not possible. For those of you that have experienced this loss and I pray that is none of you, you are the only ones who know this pain and sadness.
I have always wondered how a mother (identifying as a mother myself) wakes up the next morning without her child and faces the day without being filled with rage and anger that is unstoppable. It has broken my heart to witness from afar, that process and it has amazed me how strong this mother is, being in the face of absolute horror. While I know that she is shattered inside I also see a human strength that is comparable to nothing I have ever seen or witnessed before. We as parents are prepared to be strong for our children in order to shied them from fear or danger in our world. What we are also prepared for is how to honor our children should they leave us too soon but I believe that none of us believe we hold this strength because of the pain it also invokes.
I have been praying, meditating, fixating, pondering and processing for over four days now and I have come to a place of wanting to honor this young man whose life was stolen from him by looking at my life and my gift to be a parent differently than I have ever seen it before. Yes the days can be long, sure the nights of sleeplessness are draining and of course there are moments when things just feel too easy to put on hold. Here is the promise I made in honor of every child who has been taken too soon. I will honor the moments I have, time is linear and it does not go any direction other than forward. When it ends it is over and that is where I will finally rest. Until then I will do what I can to take advantage of every moment and to honor the space and time around me that is being a parent.
We as parents are stronger than we know, we have powers that are in us just waiting to be used. Those powers involve speaking with our children honestly about hard topics, advocating for our children when they need our help, fighting for what we know is right in this world so our children have a safe place to become parents themselves and sanity when even the most tragic events test us beyond what should be possible. You have a choice every day mom and dad, you have a choice to feel stuck or to move forward and make a life that fulfills you. It is not easy, but it is a choice.
What should the grief of widowed parents look like? We think we know because we have seen a movie or a documentary and the images perfectly describe an emotionally devastated adult ...or do they? What if losing a child looks like the strongest mother in the world being asked to carry even more weight? What if we find power within us that we never knew we had so that we can honor every human being, child and adult who was not given the opportunity to move forward one more day.
I want to dedicate this months newsletter to the Janusz Family. I have included a link to their fundraising campaign and if you feel willing or able to give in the memory of Aiden I would be immensely grateful. If you are not able to give at this time please say a small prayer, mantra or word for Aiden, a 10 year old gone decades too soon.
You know those days when you feel like you are super mom/dad. When the world is just throwing you fast balls and you are knocking them out of the park and then your dog pees on the neighbors carpet, your 10 month old eats dog food and you realize after the fact that you served moldy marinara sauce with ravioli for dinner? Okay well here is the thing, we all mess up. We all get it wrong, we all have moments of “who put me in charge”. So here is the good news, you are no longer perfect, you no longer have to strive to be and you never will be again. The stress is melting away right? No, it is not….there is some invisible perfection stream that pours through us as parents and just when we accept that we might be average or even A- at best that stream of perfection comes rolling in and we suddenly feel like we need to strive for anything but where we are.
My husband travels out of town a lot and that leaves me to a house full of chaos for more time than I would like to admit. I have tried for years to hold it all together, to not skip a beat and to always reveal only my good, organized self. In the last year I have realized that modeling an image of perfection is a dangerous parenting model. It displays an image of false identity, impossible goals and self degradation. There is a difference between trying your best, being disappointed when you cannot achieve to your ability, striving to be better and that of pretending like everything is effortless, easy and calm when really it is a shit storm of emotions. Our children look to us for their confidence, their self worth and their management tools which they use throughout their entire life. It is up to us to show them that failure is learning, that imperfection is beautiful and that even the best fall down sometimes (yes I stole song lyrics but they were just so spot on).
Almost every “oh shit” moment is a fantastic story a year down the road. Almost every parenting oops allows us to prevent even bigger mistakes and almost every feeling of self doubt allows us to be sure that we are still human, that we are reflecting on our surroundings and that we are doing the best we can, even when it might not be good enough for everyone around us. I saw a quote today that said something to the effect of “if you are going to judge the way I live I will expect you to pay some of my bills”. The general takeaway here that I want to convey is that if other people assume we will live our lives in order to ensure their own personal fulfillment than other people are not fulfilling themselves. Yes, we should be courteous and thoughtful and do for others as well as ourselves. This does not mean that when your 2 year old vomits on a 2 hour flight non-stop and people are looking at you as though you have failed at parenting in every way that you actually have. There are moments we cannot control, there are moments that will define us and there are moments that will teach us about the world but none of these moments are a failure of who we are. They are a moment in time. They are a memory, a story, a teaching tool. So I hereby grant you imperfection, it is the greatest gift a parent can get. Take it, go out in the world and shine your imperfection brightly, you earned it!
I am a mother, not a wizard. I share what is hard, what is scary and what is real. The rest I leave to you.