I never meant to lie to my boys, but I did.
The day I became a mom was the most magical day of my life, and I immediately fell in love with my boys the minute I laid eyes on them. This may be different for different moms but, for me, it was pure and simple love at first sight. I remember being so overwhelmed with love that my heart couldn’t take it, and I knew that my life would never be the same again, because now I truly had something to live for.
As soon as my boys arrived into the world, and the doctor put them in my arms, it felt like my arms became a cradle, a cradle that would protect them and keep them close to my heart for as long as I live. It was at that moment that I made them a promise that I would nurture and protect them no matter what.
As my boys grew, I was working tirelessly to keep that promise, it wasn’t so much knowing that I had to keep a promise as it was more something that I naturally strived towards, because it was always in my heart.
As much as I could, I gave them a strong and stable home, I gave them the best in nutrition (yes, I’m on one of those moms who cooked millet and quinoa and totally customized the meal to my boy’s needs). I also showered them with love and affection, and I spent as much time as I could with them (despite having up to 4 jobs at any given time). I breastfed them exclusively for 5 years straight and we co-slept. I carried my babies on my body and I charted their every milestone and change. I felt like the perfect mom because I was doing such a good job at protecting them from germs, from malnutrition, from a lack of intellectual stimulation…but…in all my perfection…I stumbled when it came to the MOST important thing…I failed miserably at protecting them from trauma and emotional abuse.
You see, my boys had a very toxic, stressful environment that I was not aware of in the beginning. All I saw were challenges from every corner…accidents, hospitalization, insurance expiring, financial difficulties…and we were all struggling with it. I could barely cope and was harming myself as a coping mechanism, and my boys’ dad coped by abusing them.
They were very difficult times, and even today, I am still traumatized by what I witnessed on the few occasions they were abused. At that time, I kept making up excuses to justify their dad’s behavior, I told myself that he was stressed…I told myself that he was like that because his dad did the exact same thing to him…and I even told my boys that it was their fault that their dad beat them up.
I felt rotten, a traitor, and ashamed of myself. Yet, I kept telling myself that it was okay, that, “they will recover from it”, that ”it won’t kill them”, that “it’s not a matter of life and death”, that “it will get better”, “it’s just this one moment of weakness”, “they’ll learn to cope with it”, “maybe my child won’t remember this”…these were all lies that I kept telling myself…over …and over…and over again.
“Mommy, you promised to protect me, how can you stand by and watch these horrible things happen to me? Why are you not doing anything about it? Do you enjoy watching someone else hurt me? Do you not feel anything when you hear me scream and cries? Did you know how badly I needed you then? Did I not matter to you? Am I not important to you? Do you really want me to be this traumatized? Did you think it’s okay for me to be this traumatized? SAVE ME!!!! Why are you just standing there?” I understood all those messages from their glares and pleas and cries and, yet, I was able to just block out everything and lie to myself about how this was just temporary, and that it was fully justified given our circumstances. Well, it wasn’t and it’s not!
These were the exact same thoughts that went through my mind, when I was small and when I was desperate for someone to rescue me from abuse, neglect, and trauma…and those were the very things I swore that I would protect my children from.
This is the guilt that I live with now. The guilt of not standing up for them, the guilt of breaking that promise to nurture and to protect them, the guilt of lying to myself and, more, lying to them…this realization hit me like a ton of bricks…I would never have thought of lying to the boys or breaking any promises to them that would affect the very foundation of our relationship. I would never have thought that I’d jeopardize the trust my boys had in me. I would never have thought that I’d screw up this badly, when my boys needed me the most.
…and I hope and pray that no mom out there will ever have to come to this realization, because it was painful…it still is…and it never goes away. It might lessen with time like mine has…but it never goes away!
I have since invested a lot into myself, into finding myself as a mother and have decided to take a stand for my boys so that I can properly nurture and protect them. I’ve invested so much into winning my boys trust again, which wasn’t easy because I’d broken that trust before, and I’ve invested so much into taking us out of that toxic environment and in getting help to find true peace and be grounded.
It has been a long journey and I’m still a work in progress, but, yesterday, we had a small family drama where my boys felt coerced into doing something they didn’t want to do and they felt really bad because they thought I would get upset with them, but when I sat them down and told them that I understood how difficult their situation was, and that none of this was their fault, that I felt rotten for not being there to stand up for them, my boys sighed in relief and said, “it means a lot to me (that you understand)”. It feels so good to me that both my boys now feel safe coming to me with anything that is bothering them and that they understand that it bothers me too, and that I want to do my best for them.
I’m not doing anything to jeopardize our relationship any more, nor am I risking the trust that they have in me. I acknowledge that I’m not perfect, but I’m also dedicating the rest of my life to becoming the best version of myself. Most importantly, I’m keeping myself in check, so I don’t tell myself (or my boys) lies that justify any behavior that makes them feel unsafe.
Parenting is a very personal journey and none of our journeys are alike…but I do hope that by sharing my journey here with you, it will give you some inspiration to find out what is truly important to you about parenting and about your relationship with your children.