I had a conversation several months ago with an old friend. He was talking about how fantastic his mom is and how she has always been at his side through everything. Good or bad, his mom has loved and supported him through everything. I’m lucky enough to know her. She is as amazing as he says.
She is compassionate and empathetic and loving and supportive, no matter what he did or didn’t do. She is and continues to be his biggest cheerleader, and is always there for him whenever he needs her. And, he needs her a lot. He calls on her a lot. More than other men his age. But, he is never alone in this world, or standing by himself anywhere, because he always has her.
She is always a call away. She shows up, picks him up, and talks him up no matter the circumstances.
So, as he spoke of her, because I know her, I agreed as he professed gratitude. He made promises to take care of her and make her life easier, and I nodded. She deserves to be taken care of, she’s been a wonderful mother. She’s hard working, generous with her heart, and fiercely independent. It’s time for her load to be lightened by a greatful son.
“I’m so lucky. So fortunate to have her. She’s my rock.” He said
She is so good to him. She has never turned her back on him. Even in times where if she had, no one would have judged her.
I wasn’t ready for the what came next.
“I feel so bad for you.” He said.
“You don’t have that at all.”
I just didn’t think we were going there.
I remember saying “Yeah, nope. But a lot of people don’t have parents.” A lot of people don’t have Moms for all kinds of reasons. “You’re very fortunate.” I reminded him.
That conversation has stayed with me. Perhaps because I’ve found myself in an emotionally crippled puddle, and I’d love nothing more than a home to run away to. I’d love the option of a lap to lay my head in. I’d like the chance to pick up the phone and put it against my wet cheeks to ask her through tears if she could come over to take the little one to soccer so I could go to bed. I would love someone to help me put one foot in front of the other, brush my hair, tell me he didn’t deserve me, that I’m better off without him, and assure me that everything will be okay after it’s done sucking. And, maybe this is going way too far, but I wonder what it would be like to be tucked into clean sheets in the room I grew up in. Not the actual one. But an imaginary pretty one that I imagine I loved.
Children of addicts don’t get that.
Well, instead, we do one of two things. We self sooth. Or, we disconnect and we don’t sooth at all. We know how to take care of other people and we know what they need, because it’s what we needed or what we gave. We struggle to care of ourselves. We never struggle to survive.
My mom was a really great mom for a little while. She was affectionate, a really great hugger, and probably the world’s best snuggler. If I was scared or cold, I could climb into bed with her and she’d hold me like a little spoon all night. She was the kind of mom that wouldn’t move even if her arms fell asleep or her legs cramped, because she never wanted us to wake up to her leaving. She was like that until she either stopped coming home or when she did, the door was locked.
Children of addicts learn not to knock on the door. We begin to wait until they need us.
We know what to say and we know what to do for someone when life feels like it’s falling apart, because we were there soothing the addict every time. We wiped tears, and slept in thier beds with them to make sure they didn’t leave and do something stupid. We held their hair when they drank too much and came home sick and we made sure they didn’t drown in vomit. We put them in pajamas when we could and laid on the floor with them when they were too heavy to get into bed. We fended off fists that flew when they came home angry from too many or not enough pills, and we loved them through it because we knew they were hurting.
These kinds of moms don’t have open door policies at home. They don’t come over to cook for our children, or pick them up from school. They don’t call to see if we need anything, if we’re okay or if we want to watch a movie.
In many cases what they do do is so far from supportive, that they have to be let go from our lives. I don’t sulk or complain about not having a mom because I made the decision to not have her anymore.
Most of the time, I don’t even think of her as a mom.
On occasion, I miss the one I didn’t get to have.
Sometimes, I wonder if she’s cold or hurt.
Frequently, I remind people to be grateful for the support they do have.
Always, I try to be a mom my girls can come home to.
So, when he said “I feel so bad for you” and “You don’t have that at all.” What I should have said was…
“You’re right I don’t. But, because I don’t, I know what it’s like to need that. I know what it’s like to miss that. And so, my girls…my girls will always have me.” I will always have my door open for midnight snuggles. I will always wipe thier tears and tell them how amazing they are. I will hate the jerk who hurt her, or I will rock her while she cries it out. I will always have tea, and clean bedsheets they can climb into if ever they need to run back home. I will be a super cool grandmother, or I will spring into action to pick up thier life pieces if they need to relearn one foot in front of the other. So maybe I don’t have a mom, but I definitely am trying to be better than the one I had.