Tuesday, October 6, 2015

He's Happy After All

I have a confession.

Over the last year, with my husband's absense, my mind has been nearly constantly focused on the fear that his abandonment would "break" my kids and I.

I have always felt that children thrive the best with both parents in their lives.  For roughly 10 months, my children, though parents were separated, still had both parents in their lives.  Looking back at things, I know that their dad was around in person, but he wasn't really there, and he wasn't consistent and often let them down.  Actually, looking at the past few years, I see that he was not consistent even when we were all home as a family under one roof.

This past week, I was speaking with two very dear friends who stopped by to visit the kids and I.  Both of my friends at one point had made a comment about how happy my oldest, Spencer, who is nearly five, is nowadays.

I was kind of baffled by it, knowing that he struggles with daddy abandonment issues, and often I find him missing his dad.  But I listened to them talk about how he is happier, filled with smiles and laughter, and loves to play with his friends Spencer has become.  I reflected after they left about the comments of a few other good friends have made about Spencer and how he's grown so much recently, and really developed his personality, which is warm, loving, and compassionate.

Before I went to bed Sunday night, I laid awake, pondering these comments.  Eventually, I had to ask my two friends, "So, you think Spencer really is happy now?"  Well, maybe not those exact words, but the sentiment.

I have been told these sorts of things for a few weeks at least, if not a couple months, but for some reason, it's taken me this long to really hear them.  Maybe it's because the weekend before last was really tough on him with expressing the loss of his dad.  Maybe it's because I've been so focused on issues in my own mind.  Either way, I finally, truly heard the words and embraced them.

As my friend explained, Spencer, even a year ago, when things really started to fall apart in our world, was sullen when visitors would come over.  Yes, he liked to see them, but he didn't pay them much attention.  In fact, he would often withdraw when he realized that it was NOT his dad.  I didn't necessarily see it myself, because I was always with him, and always with all three of them, Norah just a tiny infant at the time yet.  My friend pointed out that he was always waiting for his dad to come home.  His dad lived with us.  It was OUR home.  He was supposed to be there.  But for months he just would not come home consistently.  Or he would be there for an hour or so here and there throughout the week, always with excuses of late hours or needing to help at the shop (which I now know is a lie, as he admitted this to me himself last spring).  But daily, my son was disappointed that his dad would not show up consistently.

I should have seen this.  I tried to incredibly hard to get him to come home.  "Just come for supper, and see the kids for a bit, please?" "Can you come help with bath?"  "The boys miss you."  So forth aned so on.  Daily.  I tried to bring him for the kids.  Sometimes he said he would be right there and hours later, was ignoring my phone calls, then providing stupid excuses to me why he couldn't come see his kids after all.   He would come home for parts of the weekend, usually, a year ago, and see them, but he had been disappearing slowly for months.
I was blinded.  I was fighting for our marriage and my kids and he was definitely not fighting for them at all.  He was fighting to get away, I guess.  But, I am ashamed to admit it.  I was blinded.

Likely, I was hampering my children's happiness and well-being fighting for this ideal "both parents" scenario.  I was getting their hopes up, allowing them to call him, asking him to come home, having him promise to come home, and letting them know daddy was on his way, only to crush their poor little hearts myself telling them he was no longer going to see them.  I carry quite a burden of guilt about it now.  I feel like I've spent the last year compounding their pain, especially Spencer's, by fighting for what I thought was right.

I sit here writing this as Spencer is at his first official play therapy session.  I hear him behind the closed doors laughing as he meets with his new "friend."

Reflecting on my friends' words, one of them commented on how now that we live in our own place, our new place, and Jacob has been absent since the end of June, the expectation that the kids will see him again has dimished significantly.  Yes, they still look for him, miss him, and long for him.  But, Spencer especially knows that I have tried with all my might to bring his daddy to him, to call him, email him, text him, facebook him, find him... what have you, and his daddy is just not cooperating.  He knows.  He knows I tried.  Sometimes he's angry with me that daddy is missing, but he knows I tried to find him for him.   He's mostly stopped asking for daddy.  It breaks my heart, but it's likely for the best.  Because, as my friends pointed out, he's happy now.  He no longer struggles not knowing if daddy is going to follow through and actually call or visit.  He no longer gets excited to see him only to be crushed when he doesn't arrive.  It sucks, but it's good too, in a way.

Spencer is adjusting.  I can see it now.  I can see the light in his eyes brighter this week than I could ever before I really embraced my friends' words.

I told my friends, as I stated above, that I was afraid the disappearance of their dad would break them, would break us.  It hasn't.  Somehow, beauty has come from it.

I have struggled for months not knowing if I was doing good enough.  I didn't know or feel like I was being a good enough mom.  I didn't think I was able to be all that they needed parent wise.  I didn't know if I could provide joy and happiness amidst sorrow.  I did not know if my parenting choices were okay.  I am often overwhelmed with exhaustion or emotion and I let negative talk seep into my mind and constrict my own heart.

But, I see today that I'm doing okay.  I'm an okay mom. Maybe even a good mom?  A great mom?

Something is going right with my parenting, somehow.  Maybe it's the drive to surround them not only with my love, but the love of others.   I let them see that they're not alone.  It's not just us.  Daddy may be missing, but there's a world out there that still is present.  Maybe it's okay that I cry in front of them sometimes, or empathize with their sadness in losing their dad.  I miss him too, the man I thought he was, or that he was for a time.  I love him still.  I get it, and they know I'm not just saying it.

I don't know what it is.  But, by the grace of God, my son smiles, lights up with joy when he sees people he cares about walk through our door.  He runs to give hugs like he never did a year ago.  He opens up his mind and heart and lets us know what he's feeling.  He is going to be okay.

This has not broken us.  It will not break us.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

A lack of hatred

I have had many people ask me how it is that I do not hate my husband for what he's done, or make mention of the fact that they would hate him, or do hate him, and so forth.  

So many people seem to think it's crazy that I don't, deep down hate him.

I just don't. I have loved him for 14 years, and while I do not romantically love him now, a part of me has love for him, for his soul and his eternity. A part of me cares for his well being and hopes that he will turn his life around and come back to the path that is good. I pray he can mend his ways and relationships with those he has cut himself loose from.

Yes, people have told me that is crazy of me. Sometimes, I feel it is, too.

I will admit, there have been a few times I have thrown the word "hate" around in regard to all of this, whether it's hating what has happened or what has been done or what has become, and possibly I have said I hate him too, or that I have the potential to. I have even gone so far as to wish that I did or could for feeling that it would be easier to cope. (I realize how wrong that is.)

And then I realize not long after that I don't. I do not hate him, anyway. I sometimes tell myself it would be easier if I did. But I just do not hate.  Perhaps you see that as weak. I see it as strength. I do hate, despise, detest what has happened to my family, yes. I do hate the choices he has made. I do not hate him.

I feel compassion and remorse when I think less than desirable things toward a person. It's just how I am.

I think that's God in me. 

I have read the verse I placed above many times. Tonight, though, it actually spoke to me. I had to share it.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

The last time.

Dear Father of my Children, 

I am choosing to believe that someday, someway, you will come upon this. I know that you always used to read my blog and love to do so. Maybe there will be a flashing glimpse of that past self that will bring you back here again.

Today, I did something I didn't see coming. When I decided to do it, I didn't expect it to be difficult. I don't know why.

Today, I printed and picked up photos for the children. Photos with you in them. Photos of happy times. 

Your oldest son, who is now almost five and has an amazing memory and heart full of compassion, asks about you often as of late. He talks about you, and thinks about you. I can see in his eyes when you're on his mind, and when I ask him what he's thinking about, his answer is "my daddy."

He tells people that you're missing. He says that you're making bad choices. He says he has lost his daddy.

And all of these things are true.  You're like a missing person on a poster. The kids search for you as we drive around town. They're longing and looking constantly. They don't know if they'll ever see you again but their hopeful little hearts seem to believe that they will. I try to believe the same but it is quite difficult knowing the last I ever heard from you was a text message on July 5. We have spent hours together, the kids and I, trying to locate you and find some meaning in your disappearance.

He is correct. Your choices are not good. You chose to disappear from them without a trace for a life of partying, lust, and frivolous activities, among other things. He knows it's a bad choice to not see the people you love and let them know where you are. He knows it's a bad choice to lie and to not follow through. My nearly five year old son seems to be much better at deciphering right from wrong than you are, and his conscience seems to be much more in tune with reality.

You ARE lost. You're a lost soul who has chosen dark roads traveling with Satan. You convinced me years ago you were a Godly, moral man, and the more I look back over the past few years, the more I am convinced you conned me.  

But not only that, he has lost you. Like how my mom lost her parents, only they no longer live. In some regards, it's like you've ceased to live, though. It's almost like you don't actually exist on this earth with him. 

It's funny how you almost never know that the last time you see someone would be the last time. Much like when someone dies... You often don't get a final goodbye. There's no resolution or closure. That is what you've left him with. It's what you've left us all with. 

Over two months ago, after your daughter was hospitalized with potentially life threatening illness, you came back and saw your children at the park. You saw them for an hour. The boys were thrilled beyond belief to have that time with you, their smiles so bright and their laughter elated. They couldn't stop vying for your attention. They wanted to play so long. But after an hour you "had to go."  You promised you would call the next day and see them again the next week.

And then you ceased to exist. You disappeared. Senselessly and cruelly, you just gave up on them. 

Had we known it would be the last time, would we have even bothered to see you? Would we have allowed you to get their hopes up again, only to be crushed again? Would we have begged you to stay longer? Would they have hugged you tighter? Would they have had more to say? Would they have bawled for hours? Would their hearts have been shattered beyond repair knowing that was the moment you would leave them for good? 

Today, I picked up those photos and put them in albums for the kids. This photo was in there. I decided that it would maybe help our children cope with your complete absense if they could at least "find" you in these photos when they cannot locate you anywhere else.

This photo was taken during the last few minutes of the very last visit they had with you. The last time you heard them laugh or say I love you.

I do not understand, even a tiny bit, how you could toss that to the wind. I do not understand how you could choose to miss out on their lives.

Right now, they love you. They talk about you and how much you love them. Spencer tells me how much you miss him, even though you refuse to contact him. I try my damnedest to agreed with him wholeheartedly, but my mind and my heart are not sold on that as truth. I never forced you out, you disappeared willingly, and could have come right back if you really did love or miss him. 

But unlike you, I am not cruel, and for now, while his tiny heart is filled with the idea of your love, I will try to help sustain it the best I can. I will swallow the lump in my throat and choke on my tears as e smiles paging through the photos telling me these wonderful things about you. I will not break his heart or crush his spirit like you have done. That is true love.

The boys pray for you. They pray God protects you and looks out for you. They ask Him to keep you safe. They don't say it, but I feel they pray for you to come back.

I choose to believe that could happen, but I cannot hang my heart on the waiting for it. And I will not let them invest everything they have in that either. 

I try to surround them with others who love them. Show them others who care. The people who choose to love on them. The ones who aren't lost. You cannot be replaced, but I am trying to fill them up while you siphon away.

I hope when you read this, for at least an instant, God can get through to you. Miracles can happen, our children are proof. I will be the warm hearted woman you claimed to love deeply and continue to pray for you in hope you will find the way before it's far too late.


Saturday, September 26, 2015

If I Had a Pen


If I had a pen today, I would have sat beside you in the emerald grass, writing to you and leaving you a note. Heaven requires no postage, but the mail doesn't arrive either. Still, as you know I often find the urge I do, I would have written to you.

Instead, grief and longing overcame me to my very core and I fell, weeping like a heartbroken child, next to your beautiful name.

I have so many things I wanted to scribe, and I do not think I can sleep without doing so...

It has been a long 8 years since I said goodbye. The night you took your last breath, I sobbed inconsolably to the point of my own breathlessness. My husband wrapped his strong arms around me as I wept about how I did not know how I could possibly live the rest of my life without you. I took some comfort in his newlywed promise that it would be okay because he would be here as long as he lived, taking over your role as my confidante. 

It's during this season of life, where he has abandoned that promise and left his family without a trace that I really long to talk to you again. I have, of course, longed to do so since you left, but the urge is so strong now. I have been holding myself together for the most part, I think, but today, the floodgates opened and the reservoirs of tears flowed freely. 

This weekend was another one of the family gatherings I decided years ago we needed to get back into the habit of having, in your honor and memory. I spent my entire childhood growing up with such gatherings, and after you left, we needed to carry on. Everyone agreed and it's now a common occurrence and the times are filled with one of your favorite sounds- laughter. Just today even, I had tears of laughter flowing as my mom recalled to some of the cousins and aunts times in my childhood when my usual calm demeanor disappeared to reveal a feisty girl. You would be so proud, your son and I decided, that these gatherings continue today, often more than once a year.

The day was, overall, filled with joy, but as my rollercoaster continues, moments of sorrow. I felt your absense more than ever this year it seemed, but at the same time, it was obvious to me you were with us somehow. I mean, I look at my gorgeous daughter and her face is so familiar that she reminds me of you constantly. 

Today, out of nowhere, my nearly five year old told my mom she lost her mom, you. It was a shocking statement, to say the least. But what followed next shattered my mommy heart as he told us that his dad was also lost.

In many ways, it's completely, devastatingly accurate. While his dad lives somewhere, my son has absolutely no idea where or why he's gone, other than he's making bad choices. While he's not dead, the dad he knew, in a way, is. I longed for your comfort for him at that moment as tears trickled down my cheeks. All I could say was, "he is, Spencer, and I'm sorry."

As we hugged everyone and said our goodbyes, I knew I couldn't come home without visiting you first. My babies all fell asleep before I got to your resting place, which was a blessing as I wept so fiercely  it would have likely caused them distress. 

I laid there in the grass, sun setting behind us, wondering what you would say to me about my life now. You loved my husband too, and were so excited for us. Then there was this huge, surprising shift, and he is altogether gone. Would you be angry at me for choosing to give him chances? Would you think I was stupid for believing in him? Would you be disappointed that I allowed him to break my heart and the hearts of my children? I know that I feel that way more than I care to admit, but my memory of you and our life together leads me to believe you would tell me I am being a bit hard on myself.

So, instead, would you be proud? Would you smile at the fact that I stood up for us, and that I'm trying to mend these broken dreams and start a new life? Would you see me as a success? Am I too weak? Am I strong?  Am I crazy for believing in love and finding it impossible to truly hate?

What advice would you give me? How would you pray?

I could use your hug and your smile and your tissues. 

One thing I know, though, is that you've had a lasting impact on me, in ways I still discover. Just this week, I realized ways that you have shaped who I am in times like these, and I thank God for your influence on my life. I know all happens for a reason and you aren't really gone "too soon," but it feels like it on these kind of days. 

Thank you, Grandma, for accepting my tears once again. 

I love you. Until next time,
Nicole Marie

Monday, August 31, 2015

Happy 3rd Birthday, Collin

Dear Ollie Bear,

I can hardly believe that it was three years ago early tomorrow morning that you entered the world, so quietly, and your father and I learned we were parents to another wonderful baby boy. Those first few days you hardly made a sound, and snuggled against us endlessly.

Here you are, now a beautiful little firecracker three-year-old, whose deep brown eyes have started turning green with the most gorgeous lashes I've ever seen, and the sweetest blonde hair.

In some ways, you're still so much like that newborn. You're still a cuddler sometimes, and you are definitely still stubborn. Everything is done on your own time. You're much more boisterous now though, one of the noisier of my babies.

This past year hasn't been an easy one on any of us. You have gone through so many drastic changes. I am sorry that your world has been shaken as much as it has. There are some things that remain constant though. Most importantly of them all, I think, is that my love for you deepens each day. 

Collin, you bring so much joy into my life. You always have. This past year I have watched you blossom from a little toddler into a little boy. Your vocabulary has expanded exponentially, and you say things that make me laugh so hard. I love that every so often, you speak in a British accent, or that you get so excited to sing along with some of your favorite songs, "Impossible" and "Soul on Fire" that you sing at the top of your lungs words that are not really words, and then you proclaim "Look! I'm dancing!"

Your smile can light up a room, little buddy, and it does daily. Your beautiful eyes smile when you laugh. 

Your imagination runs wild and I adore listening to you play. Some days, you're a puppy, others a "row-shus" cat. You love playing cars, trains, fire trucks, and "BigJet." As much as it drives me nuts when you empty the entire book shelf at least once a day, I love seeing you reading books. Sometimes, I just sit and watch you get lost in their pages.

I love how you run to not only me at the end of the day, but to your siblings, and give the biggest hugs. You taught your sister how to hug, you know. 

Your little heart may have been hurt this year in big ways, and for that, I apologize. However, I have seen your little heart swell with such deep love for me, your sister and brother, and others in ways I never dreamed possible through the journey. It makes my heart ache with pure joy when I hear the love and excitement in your voice as you run to see your favorite people in the world. 

My heart bursts with pride at nighttime prayer, when you ask God to bless your mommy, daddy, sister, brother, grandmas, grandpas, and your best friends by name.

I am so blessed to call you my own, to have the privilege of raising you, and to be the recipient of your unadulterated love.

Happy Birthday, Ollie. 
Mommy loves you.