Friday, August 30, 2013

The Day I felt imperfect as a Mom

She had the most angelic sweetheart lips. Eyes blue as the most tranquil oceans. Blonde crazy hair. Chubby cheeks begging to be kissed over and over. Little hands that instinctively curled around my finger while simultaneously melting my heart.

Pure sweetness wrapped in a pink blanket.

And then came the day this little creature pursed those lips, gripped the toy in her hand, tilted her massive hair and screamed, "Mine! Mine! Mine!"

The fuss was over a small red toy my friend had let her borrow. My friend who was much more organized than me. She had brought along toys and baggies of Cheerios to keep the kids entertained during our coffee date. The plan to use this toy as temporary entertainment had worked beautifully. Until it was time to go.

I could feel a burning flush of frustration and hoisted my kicking and screaming daughter out of her plastic highchair. And then in slow motion, I watched in horror as she continued to scream, whine & wouldn't eat or stop until she received what she wanted.

I felt my fragile identity as a mom melt into the puddle of spilled tears & anger. What happened to my angel? My beautiful daughter was ... not so angelic.

It's been many years since those days. 

But oh how I wish I could go back and sit with my little inexperienced mommy self trying to fix it all.

I would say, "Your daughter is a child in need of a parent. She needs to be taught. And some of your best teaching opportunities will come when she puts her nature on display. Don't fear or fret or feel like this is some sort of failure on your part. Her outside demonstrations are an internal indication of her need for guidance. So guide her. Love her. And always remember to be the parent. Not her friend. Not her buddy. The parent."

 "Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn

That daughter is no longer a baby.  We've had our moments but we love each other and it's no longer, "Mine, mine!" It's giving to her sisters and brother when they need to talk to their sister.

But growing her up wasn't always easy. There were many more times when she put her nature on display. And each time I had to choose to be the parent.

It's not easy to be the parent. It seems less and less popular to tell kids no. Glory knows I've been so imperfect. 

Even in those seasons where you feel as if they're doing everything the opposite of what you've taught them. All that parenting is in them. And the fruit of that will emerge one day.

Yes, be the parent. 

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Memoirs: Patchworks in time

Chapter 1

As a Pastor's daughter growing up in Bay Ridge in Brooklyn, I remember always being called a"pk" (preacher's kid).  My mother often sent various items to missionaries along with her patchwork quilts which she shipped in big silver barrels . The quilts were made from numerous fabrics like chenille bedspreads, area rugs or curtains donated by friends and congregants.  Just like the completed quilts, each piece of material had a story about a person or a family's life.

I recall jumping from table to table to watch all the women carefully cut hundreds of square 4x4-inch pieces with perfect precision so that each and every one was exactly alike.   
Sometimes the "sewing circle" would make a special quilt with special messages in the squares for a recently married missionary couple to wrap themselves in while serving far from their familiar family life to an unknown part of the world.

Many times I dreamed of climbing into one of those barrels and traveling out to sea.  "After all," I'd say to myself, "who would miss me?"  Then I'd become more realistic and wonder how I'd breathe in a barrel for days at a time.

Chapter 2

Salem, my father's church, was full of Swedish and Norwegian families who had flocked from the old country to form neighborhoods in Brooklyn.  I adored them all and loved their cooking, languages, history, and I was fascinated how they could have such strong accents  
after being in America for forty years.  All the women took such pains and patience to teach me to crochet and quilt at the young age of 11 when I was like a sponge absorbing every bit of knowledge and information.  I would sit at their feet and listen to their stories  
and always inquire about their lives in Norway and Sweden.
When I was five years old, my mother actually taught me to knit, so I was accustomed to being surrounded by older women.  I was always curious about my heritage and my British family in England.  However, my father was the only one who would tell me; but he was always so busy studying, writing and taking care of congregants that he rarely had time for me. Unfortunately, I didn't learn as much as I would have liked.

My mother was a typical mother from the sixties who busied herself taking care of our household cooking, cleaning, sewing, washing, ironing and planting a vegetable garden.She never seemed to want to take time to talk to me about life, so I'd visit the older "grandmotherly" women in the sewing group while my mother befriended their children and families.

I loved sitting with these families around their kitchen table listening to stories about life in the "old country."  I loved asking questions and getting answers much more than playing games with kids. My life was like a patchwork quilt: I gathered so many wonderful  
stories, thinking through many ideas that I kept while throwing out others and just starting over.  Nothing was black or white, right or wrong; it was excitement and fun, and I loved being with all those older people and being the center of attention which I never was with  
kids my own age.

Chapter 3

It's hard to explain being the daughter of an evangelistic minister,  you move when he has to move, and even though living in different parts of England, Ireland, and the States, I had a childhood in a Dodge van. Yes, we drove a Dodge green van with everything taken out in the back. That's where all our clothing was hung and folded. My sister and I played while my baby sister was placed in a crib in the middle of the console. We lived like this before we made the final move to the U.S. We lived in many states, stayed in many homes and of course was home schooled. 

My parents were from England and were World War II children. They both lived in Sea Side resort areas and both went to the same Bible College. Mom became a christian in 1955 long after my Dad, at a Billy Graham Crusade. Bible School was their desire to serve. Mom loved  
Dad the minute she saw him, but he was engaged to someone else and when that fell apart he went on the rebound, and that was Mom. Dad was an only child, spoiled and didn't know how to live unless a woman was there for his beck and call. Mom fell at Dads feet because she wanted love, love she never received as a child, a war torn family with 9 children to take care of.

The two became one in April of '57. The two may have become one one but they really remained two. She was always the dutiful wife, went where ever she was told. She always sat in the front row of the church where Dad spoke at, straight as a dart with white gloves, hat and suit. Food for every day was expeditiously on the table at the same time each night and day. Tea time each day with biscuits and sandwiches. Being a wife is a full-time job but being a ministers wife is another full-time job. She was at ease when he was happy.

Dad's job was to minister to others, to bring them to God, but did my Dad bring my Mom what she needed. We as children were dutiful without questions or complaints. I came in  
1960, Kay in 1962, and Vette in 1965. Each in a different country too. Where I lived, where I went to school, what house I lived at, all patchwork was woven together. But in this part, not as tightly woven as I had probably wanted it to be. So in June of 1968, my British parents moved the family permanently to America when I was 8.  We traveled on the ship SS France as my father thought the experience would be exciting for us. Besides hitting a hurricane the second day and my body going through extreme sickness at such a young age, I wouldn't of given up that experience for my life!

Chapter 4

When one is married, we're always intending to unconditionally love & respect our spouse. In the 60's women always had intentions of being the perfect wife. But when Dads ministry took off, we still lived on faith, and the bills increased living in America. Their lives got chaotic. They created expectations of whether or not each deserved their love & respect. When one doesn't meet the unrealistic expectations, the real life kicks in, each tearing one another down and soon the marriage gets torn down. Mom criticized Dad, which led to short tempers, lack of patience & the marital bliss lost it's luster. 
Unconditional love was not so willing to offer anything anymore. For us they took an inward look for the truth all before I was 12. They were convicted, overwhelmed with regret & disappointment. Mom fell into habits of criticism over and over, and Dad just walked away, ignoring what he had.
After I was 12 Dad took it upon himself to basically run after his secretary. Women looked to him more than their pastor or boss. He was their mentor, because they made him feel special. For 4 years the life I had known & the parents "great marriage" I thought, with a dutiful wife, a dotting Father, a loving Pastor, became a charade. It not only broke Moms heart, but destroyed a church, it let down a life that I had come to know. A life as adventurous, while being full of false friends, and a pain that didn't go away. I never allowed one to see deep inside me. I always said, "I'm fine". I wanted the days at Mrs. Olsens feet intrigued by her stories about her life, I wanted Bay Ridge back. Walking along Shore Rd. while playing with my sisters, skating or just having fun. I wanted my days walking with Dad to the Verezzano Bridge, while Mom made her special dinners. I wanted it all back.

At 16 I refused to let anyone know I was angry. I hated that my Mom never cried, I hated the man I loved & admired had left his family, and I had a loneliness that couldn't  
be helped by anyone. Not my family and especially my Mom. That's when other addictions became more important in my life.

Chapter 5

Hey Blue, THERE is a song for you
Ink on a pin
Underneath the skin
An empty space to fill in
Well there're so many sinking now
You've got to keep thinking
You can make it thru these waves...(Blue by Joni Mitchell)

My college years at Art School,totally thought I was on my own, I had 2 jobs, I basically paid for school, funny how I forgot that financial aid paid for it all. I met one character after another, and I was one of them. Yet I turned into one of Joni Mitchells lyrics. I loved school, I loved my friends, I had turned into my own worst enemy. I started drinking heavy, doing cocaine, smoking poke..I wanted what everyone else had & I didn't want to be a "pk" I didn't want to be a ministers daughter! I didn't want men to like me cause I was my dads daughter, and I didn't want men to dislike me cause I was my dads daughter. It was a great time yet at the same time I was looking for someone to want me, just for me! No guy wanted to "just have fun", they wanted sex, not once, but all the time. 

I went through a lot of soul searching, and I have no clue why I did what I did, but I lived with Dad & his wife for a short time of my life. I thought it would get me closer to my Dad, it just pulled us further apart. His wife was jealous of me, my relationship with my Dad, & made my life miserable. She always had the ability to rule Dad and his ministry, I thought I was coming back into his life so that we could get close, I thought that God was telling me to forgive her for taking Dad away but at 19 years old and not having much of a relationship with the Lord, how could I hear from God! My Dad left our family, he wasn't forced to do it. Yes he was led astray but we all face temptation, it's what we do with it in the end that counts.

I was with them for one month, and in that month I was given over $1000 worth of clothing, from her not Dad, I met a guy I thought was the end to all my problems, made my Mom so sad for going "to the other side", and lost my relationship with Jesus more and more each day. I drank and smoked pot regularly, I didn't want to feel pain. I wasn't happy with Dad, I barely saw him. I worked for him in his ministry and "she" was in control. In control of making me feel like I was nothing! It's hard to write this and try to make one understand, but when you have no self esteem, you run to whoever wants to make you happy, for a price. Dad's wife wanted to make me happy so she looked good, my new boyfriend was so good looking I thought I would be happy because he would take care of me, for a price.

After one month of the working, and living with my Dad and his wife I was approached one night so she could have a talk with me. It wasn't a talk, it was a belittling that nobody should ever go through. She hated that I was involved with a guy who was wrong for me, who hated that I was "telling things to Dad" behind her back, things about herself, "How dare you Donna! Who do you think you are!! Do you know what I can do to you? You'll never be able to see your Dad again.." It went on and on and all I could think of to say was..nothing. I said nothing. The birth of my addiction to wanting people to love me and if they didn't I went into a shell that left me there for a long time. 

After the "talk" I cried for hours, sure there was more than that but in the end I couldn't be there. Dad didn't stand up for me, she managed to give me this "talk" when he was away. I told her the next day I was leaving with Frankie, "Well where do you think you're going at your age, you're not getting any help at this end" I told her we were going to Texas, his parents were there. 
  He didn't care, he won the title, the ability to rule his girlfriends life. The ability to say to her, " okay your're pregnant, get rid of it!". I no longer had a Dad or Mom whom I could say to " help"!. I was afraid to go home, afraid because I knew they never wanted me to be with him, so instead of saying "I was wrong, I made a mistake", I stayed with a man who ruled me and I  thought I could change him. No one can be with a man you think you can change, people don't change unless they want to. 

July 12, 1980. No more older women to talk to, no more school to make make my dream come true, I quit that to be with someone who wanted complete control of me and I wanted love, thinking if I gave him what he wanted he would love me back. So instead of telling Mom & Dad who raised me the right way, I was heading for a course down a long dark hallway with no end in sight. I went to a clinic & made the worst mistake of my life, I gave up my child for a man, someone who couldn't care less about an unborn child because it wasn't his. All these emotions and something that would follow me the rest of my life, the day before my 20th birthday. 

My life was in patchwork pieces that now had fallen apart. I craved my past that was now just a memory, something that happened to the "old me" not to the alcoholic, smoking, addictive personality. I craved attention in the wrong way. In everything that I did and in everything that I knew was wrong the Lord still kept holding me. God never made us robots. He never wanted us to follow Him unless we made that choice on our own free will. That was settled in Genesis with Adam and Eve. They had everything for them. Then the serpent started putting ideas into Eve's head Genesis 3:1 The serpent was clever, more clever than any wild animal God had made..He spoke to the Woman: "Do I understand that God told you not to eat from any tree in the garden"?(The MSG Bible). See the enemy puts things into our head and makes us second guess what God is telling us not to do. "You don't need to be with a christian man? He doesn't mean to hurt you? It won't happen again..." So when I heard from another side I began to second guess myself. Yet, I was a christian I never gave up on God because He never gave up on me. My problems were the same through out my entire teenage life and through my early 20's I lost so many things and I was taking out my issues basically on myself. I didn't love ME..but I didn't know how to make it right! I was beginning to take a mind of an "abused woman" and I had to go through more to understand where it had to end.