Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Freedom's just another word...

On Monday, at dinner at my brother and sister-in-laws, we started talking about my sister-in-law's niece, who is 27-years-old and handicapped.

When I first met Wayne, my SIL spent lot of time with her neice, who was then much younger of course. Since then, there has been some dissention in the family, and she doesn't see much of her niece.

So, we were just chatting about her, I was asking how she was doing, etc. She is basically non-verbal, and prone to some pretty violent rages. Periodically, she is placed in one of the many residential homes in our area for people with developmental delays and disabilities.

I asked my SIL what her diagnosis is, and apparently, it has been pretty hush-hush, although most of the family suspects fetal alcohol syndrome.

My MIL has often referenced her when we get into discussions about Paige, and I am always rather annoyed by that, because it seems as if she just lumps Paige in with this woman because they both have developmental issues.

Frankly, I don't like the concept of lumping any child in with any other, so its just "the point" that bothers me about it. My MIL seems to think this woman's life is my some ways, it may be, and in others it certainly will not be.

Just in a fleeting comment, my MIL says, with great pity in her voice, "Its too bad, you know..she's 27 - she could have been married by now, had her own children..."

In one way, it IS too bad if this woman is a victim of fetal alcohol syndrome--a completely preventable condition. But, by all accounts her mother has not drank for many years, and loves her daughter dearly...dotes on her and misses her so horribly when she places her that she always brings her back home.

And my MIL expressed great sympathy for her--being forever "burdened" by caring for this now grown woman, who still acts very childlike. She said, "its so sad...she will never be free. She will always have to care for her."

Although I've heard that statement many times before from my MIL, I have thought a lot about this "parental freedom" she refers to.

What does it mean to have our freedom from our children? you really want it?

My mother is free from her children. By her own choice, and own actions, she has conducted herself in such a way and victimized herself so much that her three children, save one who still contacts her periodically out of guilt, have come to know that they can not rely on her for even the most basic of "mother" care...we have had to make conscious decisions to stop her manipulation and attention-getting ways by stopping contact with her.

We have had to say "no" to all of the times she has disappointed us by not showing up to an important event, or telling so many little white lies about us that it leaves us with our mouths hanging open.

So...she is free. She no longer has to "mother" any of us.

There is not enough money (or chocolate) in the world to make me crave that freedom for even a split second.

I chose to bring these children into the world. And God chose to give them to me to raise and love and cherish for every moment of my life.

I intend to do that. At various times throughout their lives, my children will need me in differing degrees. Sometimes, it will be hard to meet their needs, and it will feel heavy on my shoulders. I pray during these times that I will be reminded of their inate joy, and that will carry me through.

Their needs will be much different throughout their life times. But neither will be more troublesome or burdensome than the other. My ache for freedom from either of them will be limited to needing a few minutes to stop and breathe, or say a little prayer that I find the right words or the right actions to support and meet their needs.

I still ache for my children when they sleep -- I sneak into their rooms and watch them sleeping peacefully, although one of them is already nearly a head taller than I am.

Freedom...freedom is the ability to reach out and hug my kids.


Anonymous said...

That is so true. Even if you have kids that grow up and have families of their own you will still worry about them. Once you have a kid you are never not a mother.

Anonymous said...

I cannot imagine a conversation whereas Miss E is just lumped into such a catergory. I am sure that this is frustrating. There is a HUGE difference between FAS and having an extra chromosome--as you mentioned--one is preventable.

I must admit, selfishly, that the very hint of the possibility that Miss E may never live on her own--doesn't worry me a bit. I wouldn't mind having her around forever. She is afterall, my last child, my baby girl, and who as a mother wants to have that empty nest feeling.

Now with this said, I certainly won't prevent her from being independant--in fact, I am sure I will continue to foster those independant beliefs in her--as if she isn't all ready independant enough on her own. Two is such a fun age.

Now, as for you mother...

I must admit that I am the only child, out of six, that associates with my mother. She has spent many years in and out of the hospital for a number of issues that include, but are not limited to, cronic depression.

She is my mother and I love her dearly, but she basically stopped mothering me when I was about 15. In our relationship now I am more like her mother than her daughter. She simply does not have those mothering instincts.

She tries, oh how she tries, and I love her dearly, but she is just as much work as one of my own children.

She has a laundry list of ailments--some of which are conjured up to create a deeper sympathy from those she knows about "how bad" her health is. She lies about everything--without ever thinking about it. It is soooooo frustrating.

I guess I feel compeled to take care of her because if I didn't--no one would. I have tried to get my younger brother to help, but the truth is that neither he--or any of my siblings care to have anything to do with her.

In any case, now that I have taken over your comments, and created a post myself...

My point was to say that I completely understand how difficult it is to have a parent that is "free" of being a parent.

And I never want to be "free" in such a way as this from my own. I often sneak stolen kisses late at night while the kids sleep--even the big ones who would disapprove if they knew.

I am thankful for my children. I love being a mother.

Ok enough rambling..

Shelley said...

Amen ... the freedom to love unconditionally ... to share with others - how can that possibly be a chain or a burden. A thought provoking post - thanks - it made me think of a wonderful song by Eric Bogle called Singing the Spirit Home which is about the execution of a prisoner - but in it he sings of what freedom means to different people and in a crude summary he finds it in the love of his 'brothers'.