We sat around a beautiful hardwood dining room table.
Six of us with stomachs stuffed full of egg casserole, muffins, and fruit. A vase of flowers and a tempting dish of m&ms remained on the table. Our china cups recently refilled with fresh coffee. We met like this monthly, each woman sharing updates on the progress—or lack thereof—of her children.
photo courtesy of Brooke Lark @ Unsplash
One mom shared of the ways her near-adult son was taking advantage of her and her husband’s generosity. Disrespecting. Deceiving. Demanding. Where should she draw the line? How could she protect her sanity while trying to keep peace in the home? What should she do about her husband who continuously gave in to the demands?
I finally asked her,
What is it you fear the most?
I’d learned to ask myself this. Too many times I had attempted to parent out of my insecurities only to overreact and create a bigger mess than I had started with. Or, I’d shrink back and not take the task by the horns like I should have. When I found myself in a panic, I had to ask the tough, honest questions to get to the bottom of my anxiety.
She answered my question fairly honestly, but I took her a bit deeper. You see I feel there are primal fears that keep us awake at night, steal our ability to reason clearly, and stir up undue angst in our homes. I found she too felt plagued by such a fear. In this case, it was the fear of death.
I recognized it in her because I also had to deal with this fear. At times I was afraid that if I drew my boundaries too tight, my child might leave in a huff, get drunk, and get in a horrific car accident. Or my child might grow so despondent they choose to commit suicide. And if I’m honest here, the real fear was that I’d be left imprisoned by self-blame and guilt for the rest of my life. My attachment to my children wasn’t strong enough yet for me to fear losing them. I was more afraid of losing myself. (This is hard to admit. It feels so cold. But this is the kind of honesty we need.)
I don’t think this fear of death is unreasonable. In fact, a dear friend of mine experienced the devastating loss of her child through suicide a year and a half ago. Another dear friend had her child threaten it several years ago. And another friend has dealt with several unsuccessful attempts by her child.
This monster doesn’t just hide under our beds. It’s real, and big, and sometimes screams in our face.
Knowing that many moms have had to take an unwelcomed look at death, I feel it’s important that we name this thing out loud. We cannot shrink away from it. Fortunately, only a few of us will see this fear realized. But some will. And so we must be honest about it, train ourselves to recognize warning signs, equip ourselves with tools for prevention, and pray we never have to experience it.
At the same time, in spite of its potential, we can’t let this fear dictate our decisions as parents. This monster has not earned the right to have us tiptoeing around it. Our God is bigger. Much, much bigger. He is the one to whom we bow. He is the one we obey. He is the one we trust.
Death was not the only beast I had to make myself stare down. I also had to deal with fears of:
• financial ruin
• life with of a child who never leaves home
• false accusations that might cripple my reputation
• failure as a mom
Do any of these fears sound familiar to you? Do you have other monsters that snarl at you? We all have them. Because they present a reasonable threat, we can’t just close our eyes and hope they go away.
I found the best way to shrink these things down to their appropriate size is to name them. Call these boogers out of hiding and let them know we see them. Only when we name them, can we begin to face them and weaken their stranglehold on us.
Then we need to talk to someone about our fears: our spouse, other nonbiological moms, close friends who understand, or quite possibly a professional. Talking about these fears doesn’t lessen the possibility, but it does lessen the power they hold over us. In so doing, we can think more clearly about them. We can more confidently draw appropriate boundaries, mete out suitable consequences, and create a solid support base in the event one of these fears is realized.
I don’t think we knew what all we were taking on when we stepped into this nonbiological parenting world. Did we? We had no idea of the extent of ugliness we’d have to face. But here we are.
I’m so glad our God is bigger than any giant that stomps into my territory.
Then David said to the Philistine, “You come to me with a sword, a spear, and a javelin, but I come to you in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have taunted.
1 Samuel 17:45 (NASB)
“No weapon that is formed against you will prosper; And every tongue that accuses you in judgment you will condemn. This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord, And their vindication is from Me,” declares the Lord.