Updated: May 3
You know the story. Graduate from high school, attend college, get married, buy a house and have kids. Check, check and check!
I didn’t just do it all, I crushed my academic goals and was in college at the age of 16. That’s where I met my husband and we did what was expected. We even bought the nice little starter home in the suburbs and had two children back-to-back, a boy and a girl.
I was little “Susy Homemaker,” agreeing to cut back to part-time until my kids turned three years old and entered preschool. And everything was homemade.
I baked each of my children’s cakes on their birthdays. There was no boxed cake mix allowed. No, I made three tier themed cakes from scratch. The house was always decorated according to the holidays and seasons. Candles were always lit making everything smell like freshly baked sugar cookies. My home could’ve made the cover of a magazine.
Having a child one right after another was challenging. Especially, with a colicky baby. But nothing was impossible for this overachiever. I nailed down a routine and pretty soon we were functioning like a well-oiled family.
I landed a dream job and returned to work full-time. Then, one day after working a 13-hour shift, I hulled up the stairs completely exhausted to have my husband tell me, “I got an apartment. And I’m moving out Friday.”
I remember feeling – nothing at first, actually. Like I was numb. I couldn’t feel my legs up under me and I think I was breathing. But my heart starting beating so hard I could feel it in my head. Not fast per se but definitely hard.
What was I going to do? These are my babies. My precious children. The last thing I want them to see is their father packing up his stuff to leave.
Wheww…It’s okay. It’s fine. I’m fine. We’re fine. Everything is fine. We just won’t be here Friday. That was my brilliant plan. To leave before he did and to stay out of the house until he was gone.
So, we went to see a movie. Three, actually. We saw three movies back-to-back. I remember stopping for gas up on the way back. Unfortunately, my credit card was declined.
We pulled into the garage to find his car wasn’t there. I opened the door to find what looked like a war-zone. And my bank account was worse off than my house. Let’s just say everything was destroyed and my kids were totally distraught.
This was such a tough time for us in every sense of the word.
My kids were completely overwhelmed with anxiety. I remember having to sneak off to the restroom because my kids would break out into tears, shouting, “Mommy, don’t go! Please come back! Don’t leave me!” as they forced their little chubby fingers under the door.
Juggling being a single mother, with a full-time job and going through a divorce wrecked me. I lost 40 lbs in 10 weeks and not in a good way. My children weren’t sleeping. Just as soon as they’d start to close their eyes, they’d start yelling out, “Mommy, are you there? Mommy, don’t leave me!”
My son had night terrors every single night for four straight months. It was nothing less than tragic.
I would literally have to find ways to sneak out of the house in the morning to get to work without waking them. Otherwise, they’d run down to the garage yelling, “Mommy, please don’t go! Don’t leave me!”
We finally got to a point where I would make sure to kiss them in the morning with big, bright obnoxious red lipstick. It served as proof that I was there to kiss them and a promise that I would be back. My grandmother would tell me that they’d run to the bathroom mirror every morning in search of the big bright lipstick marks on their cheeks and foreheads. And they’d refuse to wash them off till I came back home.
My ex-husband and I fought a long, hard battle before our divorce was finalized. My children and I saw a therapist for years. My family, friends and church surrounded us with love to help see us through.
I’ve learned so much from this experience.
For as long as I could remember, I thought my role as a mother was to keep my children from getting hurt. They are my babies! I’d wrap them in bubble wrap if I could. But that’s not my job. It’s not even feasible.
I’ve learned from reading my Bible and my own personal relationship with God, I will never prevent them from getting wounded. As long as my kids share this world with imperfect, hurting people, they’re going to experience tough times.
I can’t protect them from getting injured. But I can comfort them with my presence,
scoop them up and kiss their wounds so they feel loved. Most importantly,
I can be a shining example of what it looks like to stand up for what is right,
love the unlovely and face adversity with strength and grace.
Now I’m not a mom fixated on my kids’ enjoyment, singing that catchphrase of “whatever makes you happy, honey.” Nope! I don’t want to raise my kids to chase happiness. I want them to chase after God, to make good choices and to leave this earth better than they found it.
Till this day, my biggest parenting fail was thinking that I could keep my children from experiencing pain by simply avoiding reality. I’ll never know if leaving the house early the day their father left made the impact of his absence worse than just facing the truth from the start. But it’s a mistake I will never repeat.
God doesn’t parent this way. He doesn’t spare us from adversity. But He is with us in the trials and tribulations of this life.
I’ve turned my house into a safe-zone of tough, honest conversation and absolute joyous laughter. Now that my children are teenagers, I thank God that they know they can come to me. And I’ll be here for them in good times and bad. And point them to a Heavenly Father that will never leave them nor forsake them. (Deuteronomy 31:6, NIV)
And I truly believe we are all more blessed for it. I pray you can be blessed by my mistake, too.
Let’s discuss this:
- What has been your biggest parenting fail?
- What was your parent’s biggest fail?
- What have you learned from it?
- Parenting, Paul David Tripp
- INTENTIONAL PARENTING: 10 Ways to Be an Exceptional Parent in a Quick Fix World, Doug Fields
- Effective Parenting in a Defective World, Chip Ingram