Fall Out

Two months have passed since my oldest step daughter and her three children moved out.  Here we are. Her dad set a boundary, reminded her of the boundary, enforced the boundary, and then she had to move out earlier than she might have. But our relationship with her was saved.  She had made her choice(s) and she bore the consequences, like an adult, because she is an adult.  She found a place to live.  She found childcare and we have the peace that we know we did everything we could to help her make that transition.  All’s well that ends well.  Doesn’t that sound neat and tidy? Like a clean ending.  That’s not exactly how it felt.

I was left with anger, resentment, emotional exhaustion and spiritual battle wounds.  I actually had two leaders sit down and have that talk with me. You know the one.  The one where they tell you how concerned they are for you.  Questioning you on your balance. It turned into me crying and saying I wished I could have done a better job.  I felt so much guilt for the days I seethed when she was home.  For the days I lost my patience with the children.  I had moments where I was telling myself, “How can you have all of this spiritual maturity and yet be reduced to yelling at the kids or bitterness  with her?  Has all of my recovery been a lie? ”

Two months later today, the truth is each of us made mistakes in the situation.  We all intended to do everything right when we started.  Our habits, hurts and hang ups sprouted up right in the middle of our well thought through agreement.  We had consulted a family counselor who had experience with step family issues.  She did a very good job.  The bottom line is when one is tired, frustrated, disappointed, angry and scary feelings are escalating, the Conflict Resolution Plan that was given to us to follow as a couple flew out the window.  (I did share that with our counselor and she smiled knowingly, not seemingly surprised.)  Things culminated with me losing my patience with my adult step daughter and railing on her like she was a 16 year old who couldn’t follow house rules and her hanging her head knowing she couldn’t get a word in edgewise by that point in the “conversation” and I use that word loosely.

So now, it’s time for me to update my Celebrate Recovery testimony and I am committed to coming out of denial like I have never before. I have finished my 5th Step Study and Holy Spirit has allowed memories to surface of my surprising choices over my lifetime, some of them after I was in recovery and I was fully aware of how to avoid relapse as I had heard that lesson on more than one occasion and even taught it. When I had relapsed after my divorce,  I just did what I had always done.  I reached out to a relationship to solve my problems, make me feel better, and it just seemed like the right thing to do.  It was dressed up so it looked much better but it was still a relapse.  Most importantly, I hid it from my accountability partners and my sponsor.

So, why was I so surprised, hurt, offended, when my step daughter went back to her habit of trying to solve her own stresses with unhealthy choices?  She didn’t have near the recovery experience I had when I relapsed that last time.

Our counselor had said that one of the reasons I was in the situation of helping my step daughter was because God wanted me to learn some things about myself.

Boy, oh, boy. I learned a lot about myself.  But first, this experience of living together with an adult child who has a child or children, after they have lived on their own and are now back because of a type of failure or blow up, taught me how it must have felt for my own mom when I had done the same thing in my 20’s with my small son.  Every day when I was grumbling in my head about her, I was thinking, “no wonder my mom always seemed mad at me!”  She resented me, was frustrated with me, and didn’t know how to talk to me because those attempts at communication always turned out badly where at least one of us was crying.  So, the attempts at communication stopped and the anger just got bigger and bigger.  My parents had no skills or experience to deal with our situation and oh, I wish they had looking back.  I desperately needed their help but was oblivious to how badly I needed their counsel.  I couldn’t get past my defensiveness and I wonder if they weren’t just astounded and speechless by my lack of good judgment.

So, here we are, just having repeated the same scenario 35 years later. We are still speaking, but with caution.  Sometimes my resentment still slips out as I haven’t gotten all of it cleaned out.  I am continuing to pray and see my counselor. I ask Holy Spirit to keep me from causing more hurt from my hurt until I can process experience this further. I still can’t fix her.  I can only work on my own recovery.  Apparently, there is still a lot of work to do.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

4 months in…

“Not sure sure how to explain this, but my nerves are shot already this morning. lol Each day is challenging. I am running Humpty Dumpty Daycare at our house 24 hours a day, and each day is different, each week is different, and it can mean 16 hours a day. Roy works so I am the primary caregiver. This morning’s surprise was having the Principal and a Social Worker on my doorstep unannounced to inspect the living arrangements for Elizabeth and Bensely and Mylah because I signed an avadavat stating they lived with us. Please keep us in your prayers. Tonight is our weekly family meeting where we hold her accountable on budeting, financial planning and goal setting. She was supposed to be moved out by June, but this is not happening unless she gets a really good job very soon. I have set a boundary with her that I will not be the primary daycare for 3 children this summer although I am willing to help out by filling in. (I don’t offer myself to my own kids to be their full-time childcare provider either.) She thinks now she is not getting the 3rd call back on the job she was interviewing with as the deadline was Monday. I am doing everything in my own power I can, and am calling on Holy Spirit to guide me daily, moment by moment, to help me keep my mouth shut when I need to and to be be able to make it through the really long days. This is not an easy situation for any of us. Of course, it has amazing moments as well. I just need ya’ll to hear me when I say, “Help, this is hard. I am tired.”

I posted the above message on a couple of private groups for women I am included on Facebook.  I received many encouraging messages and inspirational words of affirmation (my love language).  A young Christian sister who has 4 kids and runs her own business that I know from CR stopped by and brought me ice pops for the kids, flowers and a card for me and a package of a new chocolate chip cookie that is based on S’mores, for “whomever needed those the most”.  She wrote the verse on the inside of the card: And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast [a]about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. A young mother of preschoolers from church who is quiet normally has reached out to me and offered play dates and even to step up to babysit if I need it for a break. She barely is holding her head above water, and yet she is willing to help this 56 year old normally confident career woman, because she recognizes the look on my face when I blow into church late barely speaking to other people because I am  so flustered with the 3 small grandkids and myself. I look at my sister whose husband has been working out of town for 6 months and she has had to manage 3 small children all by herself 24 hours a day with a new sense of respect, compassion and camaraderie.  I used to notice all the stains on her shirt when she came into our weekly 12 step meeting. Now, I am just glad she comes and we have a new connection. I no longer am judging her.

What did I learn from this?  It is much better to share your struggle than suffer alone. It helps others. It builds bridges and it is healthy for me to realize that I am not above the strain of being the primary caregiver of young children. Even Wonder Woman has those moments where she can’t do it all, and amazingly, they just didn’t include that part of her life in the series.