GONE. Upstairs, an empty room sits. 5 weeks ago my 16-year-old daughter moved out. I’m numb to the feeling of sadness as it sweeps over me. I bury myself in stupid tasks like sorting baby clothes or cleaning the garage. For a while I can stuff the emotions back inside their box, but eventually they come back out. Inside me, there’s a gaping hole.
BLAME. I failed her in so many ways. And in general, life has failed her. First there was a failed relationship with her father. Her first experiences of him were tense visitation exchanges or disappointing waits in a parking lot when he never showed up. Then there was a failed marriage resulting in a step-father with zero desire to be part of her life. He was her Dad for 6 years, and then one day, he just wasn’t anymore.
MEN. It’s safe to say that men failed her pretty miserably for the first 7 years of her life. And then came Bill. Bill had to somehow make up for that. He had the impossible task of convincing a 7-year-old girl that HE’S DIFFERENT. He’s not leaving. He cares. He opened his heart to her and surrounded her with love in the hopes that he could chip away some of the hurt.
REGRET. Maybe worse than being failed by all the men in your life, is being failed by your own Mom. At 19 years old, I held that tiny bundle in my arms, and I knew instantly that I loved her. I knew I would fight for her. I would die for her, but I never knew how to make her feel that love. If there is one major regret in my life, it’s that I didn’t make Katelyn my world like she deserved to be. Instead, I just made her be part of my world.
GROW. I asked too much of her. I asked her to grow up too fast. I asked her to be too independent. I asked her to understand grown-up struggles and decisions that she could never comprehend. I asked her to be loving, without ever showing her what it was to be really loved. Let’s face it, at 19 years old, I didn’t even know who I was or what it meant to be a mother. I guess I expected that the bond between a mother and her daughter was something that just happened automatically. I never realized how much work and sacrifice were involved.
MALFUNCTION. And she’s gone. She’s always been gone. Since she was a child she wanted to live with my Mom. It’s as if deep inside she knew that there was some Mom function that I wasn’t fulfilling. My internal Mom-switch was malfunctioning, and she was the one who had to suffer. And when she saw me now, at 36 years old, with Brady, Avery and Finley…she knew. She knew I hadn’t given her what she needed. She knew that somehow these 3 babies were getting a totally different experience of me as a mother than what she had, and it was more than she could handle.
SAFE. I know she is safe and loved at my Mom’s house. I know that Bunny will enforce all the same rules I have in my home. I know my Mom will give her what she needs, exactly when she needs it. I’m trying not to feel hurt that she’s gone. I’m pretending like there isn’t a feeling of failure crushing me every minute that she’s away.
SECOND CHANCE. And so here I am, sitting in her empty room and staring at the bare walls. She packed up her life into cardboard boxes, and carried away a piece of my heart with every box. It has taken me a long time to finish writing this post, because it is filled with sorrow and regret. It’s hard to say out loud that I failed so miserably to connect with my oldest child….but there it is. I failed to connect with her. Maybe down the road, our relationship will get a second chance, and I can be the kind of mother she deserved all along.