“Poverty. That’s why.” That’s the answer I get from my therapist when I ask “Why is it so hard to get off of “the system” and why are my children struggling?”
She continues to tell me that because my parents grew up in poverty, I then grew up in poverty which in turn, my children grew up in poverty so the likelihood of my children’s children growing up in poverty is very high. “So what, doc? You’re saying that we are just all another statistic?” For whatever reason that angers me to my core. Don’t categorize me and my family! Don’t tell me that my kids will never have anything better in life besides POVERTY!” I leave therapy that day angry and agitated mostly because I know she’s right.
When I get home I start my research. What comes with poverty? How does it affect families? I don’t know why I bothered with research when I already knew my answers. I guess I was looking for validation. According to http://www.debt.org, poverty starts with those that are less educated and less healthy than those not living in poverty. When they say “less educated” I know this is more than just about a college degree. Those that are more educated on healthy food choices, physical fitness choices, financial choices, ect., are more knowledgeable on how to better their lives in each of those areas whereas those with less education in regards to those choices have more difficulty making those decisions. Lastly, according to Gallup, (an American analytics and advisory company), with poverty also comes depression, diabetes, high blood pressure and heart attacks. So the next time you are standing in line at the grocery store next to an obese mother with 3 obese children watching the cashier ring up their chips, dip, and soda while she runs her food stamp card, this is most likely lack of education with added depression and health issues and not laziness.
So how do I fix this? I guess I start with exactly what I’m doing right now. Educating myself. Research. Read. Learn. Then pass it along to my children by leadership. They are at an age now that giving them verbal information is like talking to a dead horse. I must live the life myself and hope that they see it and follow. If I can dysfunctionally damage them, I can most certainly educate the dysfunction, right?
I feel I’ve already taken too much “me” time and not enough “them” time. Let’s face it. I wasn’t the perfect role model to my kids when they were young during the crucial times in their lives when it was important to be a mother. I have no excuse but my therapist will tell you different. She will tell you that I struggled with my own depression and that my life was in shambles. “How could you possibly give three young children the quality of life that you wanted and desired when you were going through so much in your own life?” Really? I find that very selfish, doc. *sigh* So many regrets.
There are many times they had to fend for themselves. They played by themselves. They learned by themselves. They ate by themselves. I worked tremendously and I think that was my way of checking out so that I didn’t have to deal with the crying, yelling and screaming daily. I didn’t have to deal with their wants and needs by myself everyday. I didn’t have to solve fights and disagreements. So of course, they only had each other. So for me to take time for myself today is leaving them to fend for themselves “again” and this leaves me with painful guilt. Literally I feel a heavy and painful jolt in my chest and stomach. Anger at myself heats up my face and wells up in my cheeks and ears. It then shoots towards my eyes and a sudden burst of warmth runs down my face.
I remember a few years ago we had just left a counselors office. All four of us. We took an elevator down because we thought it was a really cool elevator. It was one of those old ones that have the wrought iron looking gates on the front that squeal really loud when you open and close them. The entire elevator was open so as you move you can see everything around you. This also means there are gaps and holes that allow ANYTHING and EVERYTHING to fall through. When we reached the bottom and as I stepped off the elevator my keys slipped from my hand and fell between the gap to the floor below which was empty and looked like it may have been under construction. It was maybe 3 or 4 feet down so not very far but far enough that I couldn’t get down there myself. I didn’t have to say anything. All three of the kids scrambled to worked together and fast. They could see the keys and each one worked together to get them. One held the gate while the other went to retrieve. It took a minute to figure out because it wasn’t as simple as just moving the gate. They had to go in from the side and then determine who was going to go in, who was the smallest to fit and then how they were going to get that person back up. I remember watching them and thinking – “Wow. It’s incredible that just one hour ago they were fighting with one another but now, when comes to having to make a plan or having a job to do, they seem to come together quickly and get it solved.” Any other parent would have been proud and then moved on from the experience. Don’t get me wrong – I was proud. Very proud. But I haven’t forgotten that day because I felt awful. I knew that they worked well together in that way because they had learned from an early age how to survive on their own. They have only ever had each other. Sadness punched me in the gut.
They are all adults in their twenties now and I feel that guilt and regret more so now than ever. I watch them struggle with life. My oldest seems to do okay for the most part although she doesn’t seem to have a sense of direction. My son. Oh, my son. As I type this he is currently sitting in County Detention aka jail. I won’t get into that much here right now but I will say this – I have the guilt. I am guilty of not providing an example. My heart absolutely aches but I put money on his books and try my best to be sure his car is paid for each month and that he knows he is loved. I’m not even sure how to do that right. My youngest, she does well in life but suffers a debilitating anxiety no doubt brought on by a childhood of trauma and chaos.
I’m not sure how to shake how I feel. I just know I feel it. You can’t just tell someone to get over it and *POOF* it’s gone. You can’t tell someone they did the best they could and now suddenly they are healed. I have to be able to believe it. No one lived my life with my children but me and them so to have someone say “you did the best you could” is not enough for me. Did I? Did I really? I’m not so sure. I’m a shining example of damaged dysfunction which has been cast upon my children at no fault of their own and all I want to do is make it better.
He was an amazing father, lousy husband. I wanted him to know how it felt to work and be a full-time parent. I wanted him to sit and wonder when I was going to walk through the door. I wanted tears to roll down his face when he was sitting at home alone painting pictures in his mind of what I could be doing and with whom. Mostly, I wanted him to hurt the way he hurt me.
I had my first child at 20, my second child at 21 then married 3 days later. Soon after, I became pregnant with my third child. I had no idea the amount of work that had to go into a marriage and now three small children under 3 years old was taking its toll. I couldn’t handle the feeling of being trapped. The angel in me said, “You need to settle in and be a mother to these innocent children. You made a promise to God to love your family.” While the devil lustfully whispered, “You deserve this. Run. Be free. For the first time in your life… feel good.” Yes! This is the final time I allow myself to play victim to my husband’s affairs and broken promises! So I ran. I became selfish, greedy, and reckless. Atlanta became stomping ground to foggy nights and late mornings. I left my past and reality in rum and coke and kissed responsibility goodbye.
The daily and nightly games may have been fun in the moment, but I missed my kids. I wanted to see them but thought that it’d be best I stay away. I wasn’t healthy. I didn’t want them having a part-time mom bouncing in and out of their lives. I never said I made good decisions. When I saw my kids again, they didn’t know who I was. It was a sad sight. To them, I might as well have been gone 20 years. That killed me but I knew I deserved it so I sucked that pain in and felt every inch of it cut through me. I abandoned them. I left them for my own selfishness. Their mother was a stranger and it was my own damn fault. It took time to heal but we learned how to be a family and how to handle the speed bumps along the way. We learned to move forward and love each other unconditionally. It was nice to have my babies back. I could hold them whenever I wanted. Kiss their chubby cheeks and laugh at their innocent jokes. I felt needed. I felt loved. All this time I was looking for myself and it was right here with them. There was a piece of me in each one and it made me laugh to see how they brought that out in themselves. As for my ex-husband, we eventually became friends. It was exhausting hating him so I had to do it differently. I prayed that he would find someone who would never put him through what I did. Me? This time, I promised. I promised my children that I was going to do whatever it took to be there for them, to love them unconditionally and to never leave them again. That promise is one that will never be broken.