How can I possibly be both Mom and Dad to my kids?
Within a short period of time after Keith died, my son came to me and asked “How do I pee?” It was at that moment I realized the new role that had been bequeathed to me – and it certainly wasn’t a role I was qualified to take on.
My heart ached at the reality of my kids not having their Dad present in their lives. He wouldn’t be there to teach our son how to play hockey, catch a ball, or go hiking. He wouldn’t be there to conduct the interview to the poor boy who was brave enough to ask my daughter out on a first date. I just couldn’t be the man Keith was.
Mother’s Day & Father’s Day were reminders to me of the hole in my heart and my kid’s hearts. For Father’s Day my son altered the craft so that he could give it to his Grandfather (my Dad). The mix of pride and pain in my Dad’s eyes as I watched him accept this gift that should have been for his son-in-law, was more than I could bear. It was a poem about following in his footsteps. It was wrong – so wrong – this was a gift for my son’s Dad. Life should not have been this cruel.
My first Mother’s Day, I received a multitude of cards from family with the signatures of my kids on them. The cards all reflected how great a mother I was and how proud they all were of me. Little did they know what happened behind closed doors!! My self-esteem took such a hit that I didn’t feel I was successful at anything – and parenting felt like my biggest failure. I struggled every day with the reality of being a solo parent. I just didn’t want to do it. I didn’t know how to do it. I had just started to be good at being a parent to one child. Now I had a newborn, my husband had died and I was on my own. The weight of the world was too much and I didn’t know how to navigate this foreign world.
Another Mother’s Day, I took my son shopping for my gift. There I was in the middle of the mall at one of those kiosks trying to keep one eye on my 2 yr old and the other on my son – all the while having to keep both eyes closed so my son could try the ring on my finger to ensure it fit! Once he was satisfied with the gift, I had to pay for it! Luckily his tastes weren’t too expensive then. There are many moments in my widowhood where I say to myself “really – this is how it is going to be?”. Buying myself my own Mother’s Day gift was one of those moments – but it was quickly softened by the joy exuded by my son as he gave me my gift. He was so proud!
Mother’s Day is about your kids telling you how great a mother you are. But I didn’t feel like a great mother. A great Mother would have been able to ease the pain my kids were feeling. A great mother works miracles. A great Mother would have been able to be a great Dad as well. I wasn’t great at any of these tasks.
Over time, I began to realize that no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t be a Dad – I couldn’t be Keith. I couldn’t teach my son how to pee; I didn’t understand the rules of hockey. I wouldn’t be able to elicit the same type of fear in my daughter’s date as her Dad could! But there were thousands of things I could do……as their mother.
I could teach them about compassion and courage. I could show them that out of tragedy there can be growth and renewal. I could show them how to believe in hope and how to believe in a different but just as amazing future. I could teach them about the power of love. I could show them how to be strong, resilient, passionate, and independent person. I could teach them how amazing they were!
A great Mother CAN do all of that and so much more
This Mother’s Day – in between making your own coffee and French toast, (or having to clean up after your kids tried to make it)….take time to honor yourself and the GREAT MOTHER that you are! You are amazing!