Tank Girl

This disease of depression is internal. It cannot be caught and it cannot be cured. Those afflicted by it must learn to cope. They must become warriors.

I haven’t written anything in a while, I just haven’t been able to. I feel like my life has become this thing I never imagined it would be. My older children are stretched across the country, turning into other people. I see them and I feel like I’ve missed oceans of time with them. I literally drown in the spaces between my visits with them. Other mothers ask me how I handle it. I don’t handle it. I’m forced to deal with it, like being in prison. I say fuck a lot about almost everything. I cry. I go outside and dig in the dirt and plant shit so something beautiful grows. I manage my hatred. I’m angry about it all the time. I’m sad about it all the time. When they ask me this question I want to answer how the fuck do you think I handle it!?! I try not to run people over in the parking lot!

My husband and I are weathering the storms that come with poverty, change, family drama and raising children. He likes to hold hands. I don’t. I can’t stand it when he tries to dance with me in the kitchen. I don’t know why I can’t, I just can’t. I don’t feel romantic lately. I feel more like tank girl, when someone touches me who isn’t my child I want to pull out my gun.

I know this has to do with what’s going on inside me. I’ve been bleeding for months. literally months. My doctor wants to take out my uterus because of it. The irony is I can’t have my pre-op pap smear and exam because my damn uterus won’t stop bleeding. My husband tells me how cute my ass is. I tell him if I took my jeans off he’d faint. It’s like world war III down there. And yet I keep going. I keep doing the laundry. vacuuming the carpets. Doing the shopping. Cooking the meals. Doing the dishes. It’s almost become normal this bleeding. I’m forgetting what it was like before I bled like a stuck pig. It’s funny what you can get used to.

My daughter has chosen my husband as her favored parent. Considering how the rest of my life is going it makes perfect sense. While her father was working twelve hour days or sleeping or spending all night at poker games, I was the one who sang to her, gave her baths, fed her, held her at night. But of course none of that seems to matter lately. Although when she’s hurt or scared or has a nightmare she still calls for mommy. In the mornings I often wake up to her hot little body on my side of the bed. Those are the mornings i just want to push the pause button. I just don’t want anything to move, to change. Oh please I think, can’t this last forever.

I love to cuddle my husband’s legs. He was a roller skater for years and I always tease him that he has two tree trunks for legs. Laying in bed I’m always cold and I suffer from chronic claustrophobia so being held is out of the question. So I wind my legs around his and it’s the best feeling in the world. Like being rooted to the earth. My anxiety vanishes. The best is when he’s sleeping and I wiggle my legs between his. That combined with his soft snores is better than any valium.

My oldest son is here. He’ll be here for a month. He’s almost seventeen and is one of my favorite people on the planet. I adore him. I love the way he thinks; his artistic sensibilities, his kindness, his intelligence. I love that he’s driven and musical. I love that he’s so much like me and yet different in all the ways I hoped he’d be. Part of what makes him so special is that he had to battle his inner demons of depression. He’s had to work hard to become the person he is today. I read a book called In the Jaws of the Black Dogs: A Memoir of Depression by John Bentley Mays. At the time I read it I was so naive  about mental illness I was almost scared by the content of the book, by the experiences Mays related. Now that I am almost twenty years older and have battled mental illness for much of my adult life I have greater compassion for this man, There is more to this story. My son battles depression. I think about this book and I think about my handsome, creative, intelligent and talented son and my heart bursts with the emotion of it. This disease of depression is internal. It cannot be caught and it cannot be cured. Those afflicted by it must learn to cope. They must become warriors. Many of them do yoga. Many run. Many stay busy with projects, constantly creating, refuting the ever present voice whispering you are no good no good no good. You are worthless and everything you do is and will always be worthless. you may as well just give up…My son creates. Music. Films. Art. He skateboards. He eats as healthy as he can. He doesn’t drink, smoke weed. He stays busy. He outruns the “jaws of the black dogs” and for that I am in awe. I couldn’t be prouder.

I pray he stays ahead of the black dogs of depression as an adult. I pray he stays an example for others battling depression. There was a time when he we almost lost him. But the world needed him. Dammit I needed him! Fuck you black dogs! You may think you can catch my son but what you don’t realize is I will always be right there behind him armed to the teeth. Let’s see how well you do against my tank.

 

 

June

My mouth opened and nothing came out
I guess it was too much, all those words, all that screaming
A reaction to the sickening politeness I’m surrounded by…
It’s enough to make even the steeliest ones of us vomit glittery frustration… and still I climb out to find you.
I don’t want to be nice to you I say quietly beneath my breath
I hate you I say even softer and I mean it
And yet love pours out from somewhere I didn’t know existed
As the hands on your watch tick I let you hold me…as jumpy as a cat for the moment I am calm.
This doesn’t mean I forgive you I say. Needing to say something.
It doesn’t have to mean anything you whisper over my head and I still hear you.
At least for the moment I am not angry.
I can feel the breeze from the half open window. It blows the scent of roses into the room.
In the June half light this could be a scene from a movie. I decide to kiss you and so we do. To the onlooker we are lovely
Here in the hazy late afternoon we can be them.
The lovers.
At least until the sun goes down.

Kimkoa 2018

My Life Is My Own

I suppose, in a way, she has the ideal exposure because the person who birthed her, loves her unconditionally, is raising her, caring for her and teaching her is a person of color.

So I live in Wasilla, which is basically 99% white. I don’t love this, I wish my daughter could grow up with more diversity. She’s at the perfect age to really fall in love with all different cultures and we are living in such a homogenous part of Alaska it’s depressing. Her only regular exposure to someone of color is me. I have to wonder what does this mean? I suppose, in a way, she has the ideal exposure because the person who birthed her, loves her unconditionally, is raising her, caring for her and teaching her is a person of color. I am this multiracial, multicultural human who is definitively unique, artistic and compassionate towards those who are different. I’m an advocate for persons with mental  illness and am committed to fighting the stigma. So who cares if she is surrounded by the same white faces on a daily basis. Her home is not that way and never will be. Her brothers, especially her oldest brother, don’t look white at all so summers spent with them enhance her world view and round out this homogenous little world we’re raising her in.

My last blog was intense. I dug deep and talked about some pretty tough subjects. I’m glad I did, there are so many women who have been through the same things and are ashamed to admit they were abused. They just hold it inside and it literally tears them apart. I need to share something that happened to me after I posted my blog. My ex-girlfriend contacted me and tried to manipulate exactly the way she used to. She accused me of lying and airing her dirty laundry which is a contradiction in terms and interspersed it with compliments about my daughter and my advocacy work. She tried to rope me into a dialogue which I resisted and accused me of cyberbullying her by telling my story, while at the same time apologizing for traumatizing me all those years ago. She then started bullying me the way she always did, telling me what I could and could not write about in my blog- basically I could not write about her. Honestly my first reaction was fear. All these years have passed and I still reacted like a terrified child. Then I was angry at myself for feeling afraid and agreeing not to write about her, because it’s not my fault she was abusive. It’s not my fault she’s as sick as she is and refuses to take responsibility for it. I know plenty of borderlines who admit they are skilled manipulators. That they often find themselves doing it without even trying. I know borderlines who are actively seeking help even though success rates are low, they are there, trying. Fighting their illness. Taking ownership.

Was I perfect in that relationship?  No…but I don’t even call it a “relationship.” She used to make me lay there with my legs spread and conduct what she called “examinations” to make sure everything was “ok down there.” You’re probably wondering how in the hell did I let someone do that to me? Well I had just come from a sheltered cultish belief system and I was only a child when I joined it so I was an easy target. I tried to get away from her in so many ways. I mentioned the first time my poor oldest son from whom I kept all of this loved her and didn’t want me to leave and so I stayed for him. I also knew in my heart I needed a man. In the way a gay person is born that way and cannot change, so is a straight person, so is a bisexual and so on. I needed a husband. I would tell her this and she would tell me over and over I was wrong, I was a lesbian, I didn’t know what I was talking about. At the end I would literally have dreams about men, about being the straight woman with bisexual leanings that I was and how badly I needed my man. I thought maybe if I slept with a man I would know for sure and it would be enough for her to finally leave me alone. So I did just that and it confirmed it for me. So I immediately told Janine exactly what I did hoping she’d understand and finally let me go, but not only did it not work she told me she realized she was transgendered and wanted to get a sex change operation and would I stay with her until she had the sexual reassignment surgery and then we could be a traditional couple which was what I said I needed. My God. I thought. She’ll never let me go. I mentioned in my last post that she threw a bicycle at me. That was her last act of violence towards me and the most obviously violent act. That was the turning point. As soon as the bike hit my legs my mind snapped. I knew things would go in only one direction. It was then that I finally called my parents and told them the truth about what was going on. They had suspected but had no idea how bad things had gotten. I was so desperate to legitimize this nightmare I went through a commitment ceremony with her. Somehow I thought this would make things better. The ceremony itself was beautiful. The truth behind it was tragic.

The reason I’m sharing all of this is for all of the women who have been through this. Who have made these same seemingly crazy choices. When you are in an abusive relationship you forget who you were before your abuser began filling your mind with negativity. Before your abuser began stealing your independence of mind. You forget you once stood on your own two feet. You forget you were noble, beautiful and worthy of love all in your own right. I was so paralyzed by my own victimization that after leaving her I tried to go back to her. I thought I could not live without her. I had forgotten how. Thank God she only wanted to sleep with me. Thank God I was only temporarily under the delusion I needed to keep being abused. Thank God she found someone else to debase. I was forced to heal and heal I did. Day by day. Week by week. Month by Month. A Year passed. Then a miracle. I was working, going to school, running several days a week and I started to fall in love with my life. I started to fall in love with myself. I was staying with my parents when I had my sons, with a girlfriend I had known since we were nine years old so basically my sister when my boys were with Ian and I was having fun. Living the life I never got to live in my twenties. It was one particularly beautiful day and I was running along the coastal trail and I decided to message a guy I worked with at a television station as an intern. KTVA. His name was Nick. And he became my husband.

Of course there’s MUCH more to that story, but the most important part is that he also helped me heal. The parts of me I didn’t realize were still broken. Anyways, before we had gotten married, when our daughter was almost a year old. I invited my ex-husband over to the house to help the boys with their homework. It was a landmark moment. I reached across the divide that was our fighting and extended an olive branch. That was the beginning of what can only be described as a miracle. Now his new wife is my sister and he is my brother. I’ll be taking my daughter to stay with them next summer so I can spend time with my sons and Jaden can work a summer job. If you consider where we began, and where we are now it’s almost unbelievable. This entire story deserves its own post but I’ll at least say, it’s due in no small part to my husband and his wife. Nick and Nicole.

I’ll end this post by saying it doesn’t matter how lonely, crazy, stupid or hopeless you think your situation is you are not alone. Someone else is going through the very same thing. Listen to your friends when they tell you to get out. Let them help you…and above all, love yourself. My daughter may be living in one of the whitest, typical, homogenous cities in America but her family is anything but white, typical or homogenous. Of this I am proud.

Queen

I looked for you in the darkest of places
Where the people had the whitest of faces
Your hands were in the dirt
Your back was bent
I couldn’t see you clearly
But you smelled like victory
You didn’t notice me
I thought
But in truth I stopped your heart
A year later we were running from the grotesque, swords in our hands
Dripping animal blood
Our daughter ferocious asking when can we stop and fight
When can we destroy them?
Soon love. Soon.
I could see their hulking beast-like shoulders just over the hill and above them the white faces of their soulless guides
I suddenly saw heaven:
The entire world was in your pale blue eyes
The warmth of your Scottish beard
Against my cheek reminded me of grace
Our hands tightly wound. My dark one with your light one.
Our middling princess with her fire hair and all the power of heaven and earth at her feet.
I found the last white man who was not a ghost.
And you gave me back my royalty.

Kimkoa 2018

 

Leaving Him, Leaving Her, Finding Me.

I don’t think I stopped holding my breath until I saw their beautiful welcoming house reminding me I was still myself. That yes this was a nightmare but it was one I could wake up from. One I could escape from. 

I remember the day I told Ian I was leaving him. He begged and pleaded with me not to go. He said he’d buy me house. Was it a house I wanted? I almost laughed.   “A house? Are you serious? You had eight years to get us out of this bug infested trailer that is crawling with mice and smelling of shit! Eight years to treat me like a human being you loved as opposed to an inconvenience. Eight fucking years to give a shit about my dreams, my sacrifices. What have you ever done but act like the world’s biggest child? What kind of a man makes his wife chip ice at nine months pregnant so she doesn’t go sliding down the steps in a painful, dangerous heap? What kind of man leaves cords and wires snaking through the hallway and living room and instruments all over the floor for his pregnant wife to trip over? For his toddler son to chew on? What kind of stupid selfish man builds a wall out of manure in the kitchen so he can record HIS music. Not a man at all. A child. A selfish, immature, spoiled child who was indulged, spoiled and catered to by his mother!”

“I can change, things can change!” He was desperate.

“Ian it’s too late. I’m done. I’m done with this whole ridiculous farce. How dare you tell me you’re only married to me for the children! How dare you leave me night after night in this shithole to go play pretend with your brothers like the world’s greatest older brother as though you never left and had kids! I’m sick of your childish bullshit and I can’t take it anymore!”

“I heard what you told Rita. I heard everything! It’s HER fault all of this is happening!”

“No Ian, it’s your own damn fault. You have no one to blame but yourself. You cannot treat your wife like a piece of garbage and expect her to stick around and start to smell. I’m better than this, I’ve been better than this for a long time. I gave you eight years to grow up and you refuse to. So I’m leaving you and there isn’t anything you can do about it.”

“I refuse to be the first one in family to get divorced!” He had stood up by then and crossed his arms.

“Oh really? I didn’t know it was up to you.” I said this and walked out the door.

Of course what I didn’t realize then was that I was escaping. I hadn’t found new love, on the contrary. I found what I thought was a way out. A way out of the cult, a way out of Ian’s crazy family, a way out of feeling like a piece a garbage left out in the street to rot. But it wasn’t love. It wasn’t even lust. It was a haven for at least a little while. I thought I’d found a friend. And I had. For at least a little while.

I remember the first time I met Janine. There were no fireworks. No indications of what was to come. It was simply a hangout with my friend Rita as was the second time we met. The third time however we decided it would be fun to drink whiskey. After that all bets were off. One drunken kiss and I knew I could never go back to my old life. First of all I’m not any good at clandestine behavior. Secondly It would have felt seriously wrong to have continued in my marriage without telling Ian bluntly what had happened and that it was a catalyst but only a catalyst. The change was already on the horizon. I needed my own life. I needed to make my own mistakes even if they were big ones. I needed my freedom. The fact that Janine was a girl seemed unimportant to me, she was much more of a man than Ian in both looks and attitude. At that time she was what I needed. I told her it might be an entire year before we could become a couple. She said she was willing to wait. I found that charming in an old world kind of way. In the early days she was the easy part. Leaving Ian proved to be a complete and utter nightmare. He had stored up inside of himself all of the petty vicious rage of his entire life and directed it at me. It was like a gust of hatred set to blow me across the globe. Just before the hate-wind he had a few last ditch efforts to try and “win me back.” As if you could win someone back who treated you like a hated sibling instead of a wife. He would literally take the bed sheets and blankets and wrap them around himself and then hold his arms down so I would be forced to hunt for another blanket rather than fight with him. It was that kind of immature behavior I could no longer stomach. That and his relentless teasing. He teased me until I cried on so many occasions. Unforgivable.

Anyways one of his bright ideas to get closer to me and understand me was to watch the movie Brokeback Mountain and hold hands. I found the movie depressing and nothing I could at all relate to. He just cried and sweated into my hand. I felt like throwing up. Another attempt was to take me before his uncle and his cousin who used to be one of my best friends and have them try to convince me I was making a mistake by quoting the writings at me. Yes I sat in their kitchen while the man I’d known my entire life told me I was mentally handicapped for being bisexual and that homosexuality is like alcoholism but can be overcome with prayer. Gee thanks uncle Gary for calling me retarded. Gee thanks Lindsay for agreeing with him. Ian I hate your guts even more get me the fuck out of here. 

I ended up moving out to my parents’ house in the valley which coincidentally is where I live now. My sons love this house, it was their haven in the turmoil. Ian would call me on the phone, cursing and spitting like a lunatic screaming at me that I was a home wrecker.  “Do you know where your soul is?!!” I would just hang up the phone. He would call when the kids were with him, when he knew I would be with Janine. Sometimes I’d just give her the phone and let her deal with him. I don’t like conflict, never have.

I wanted to keep things easy, to work things out without lawyers or fighting or a ton of money spent but Ian made that impossible. He locked all my things up and refused to give them to me. Some things I still haven’t gotten back which I attribute to his less than sane and endlessly competitive second wife. He never wanted me to have the kids as if somehow I had suddenly turned into a bumbling idiot unable to care for my children any longer. He was constantly harassing me, every time there was a transition he had more terrible things to say. Jaden who was four at the time would tell me “Daddy says you’re a home wrecker. What’s a home wrecker?” I would just scoop him up and tell him it’s a grown up word and best left to the grown-ups. The hardest part of that time was not lashing out at Ian in front of the kids. But I knew it would come back to haunt me. Their teenage years proved to be MUCH harder in that respect. Teenagers are in your business and they rarely let you off the hook for anything and will drive you to the end of your willpower. Sometimes the truth just falls out and not necessarily in the best way. But when those boys were little my stock answer when they came to me with their father’s obvious hatred of me was I’m sorry he said that sometimes people feel upset and they say things out of anger. I’m sure when he’s not so upset he feels differently and that type of thing.

After the divorce was long past and we had established week on week off custody Ian remarried. Unfortunately for all of us she was a sick and manipulative woman. I of course had no idea how sick and manipulative she was until they separated and it all came out. I’ll give you one example. The Monday box. The boys transitioned to my house on Mondays. Apparently she had them put all their too small clothes and clothes with holes in them into this box. And then sent them to school in them, knowing I would throw them away and replace them. Who uses a child like that?!! That was just one of her many tricks.

I of course was going through my own hell by this time. What I didn’t know at the beginning but soon found out was Janine wasn’t entirely sane herself. She confided to me she was diagnosed with borderline personality disorder. This is no small thing and I lived it. There is book written about living with someone who has this disorder called Stop Walking on Eggshells: Taking Your Life Back When Someone You Care About Has Borderline Personality Disorder by Paul T. Mason MS & Randi Kreger. That book became my bible. According to the Mayo Clinic symptoms include “emotional-instability, feelings of worthlessness, insecurity, impulsivity and impaired social relationships.” The behaviors may include “antisocial behavior, compulsive behavior, hostility, impulsivity, irritability, risk-taking behaviors, self-destructive behavior, self-harm, social isolation, or lack of restraint.” The mood of someone with this disorder swings from “anger, anxiety, discontent, guilt, sadness, loneliness and general massive mood swings.” The individual may also experience “depression, distorted self image, grandiosity, and/or narcissism. Thoughts of suicide are common.”

I can say that is an avid and accurate depiction of someone with borderline personality disorder. What they do is entice you with seemingly loving and healthy behavior. To them you can do no wrong, they put you on a pedestal and will do almost anything to make you believe you are safe with them, that you can be happy with them. Then slowly they indoctrinate you into a system of fear and control until you no longer trust your own instincts and rarely does someone extricate themselves because the borderline excels at manipulation. Janine was crafty. She could absolutely control her behavior, she never let the kids see it until the end, when she realized she was losing her hold on me. Some of the things she would do to me: isolating me from my friends. Cutting up my clothes with scissors. Punching holes in the wall. Punching the wall next to my head. Peeing in bottles and leaving them in my car. Cutting herself with knives and razors. Raging through the apartment destroying things while I hid in the locked bathroom with a shaking dog. Throwing a bicycle at me while I sat on the couch. Throwing cans of soup so hard at the front door they stuck in the door and the dog ran away. Throwing herself on the ground kicking and screaming while we were walking the dog so I walked away and when she finally realized I wasn’t falling for that toddler-like behavior coming home and accusing me of being heartless. Scratching her face up with her own fingernails. Throwing fits at my work, lurking around scaring my coworkers. Etc, etc, etc…the list goes on and on and on.

I tried to leave her once and poor Jaden who knew nothing of what was going on and only wanted stability begged me not to so I stayed hoping things would things get better and instead they got worse. She started to rage while the boys were there. I took to sleeping on the floor of my sons room when she attacked me. She was quite simply a terrifying person. By the time I knew I had to leave I was so broken down I needed help. She had erected a tent in the middle of the living room with a padlock on it and I had no idea what was inside. I thought about the stories she told me about how she was part of the black block and snuck illegally into Canada as part of a protest movement. I remembered how she lived in a tent in the woods alone for over a year. I remembered her obsession with serial killers, how as a teenager she painted her walls black and plastered their pictures all over her black walls. I remember her telling me she would walk the city streets with a german shepherd and a baseball bat. Shortly after she set up the tent she took bright blue duct tape and wrote the words BE HAPPY in crooked letters. I knew it was now or never. She’d never let me go. I rented a U-Haul, and two friends helped me throw my stuff in it overnight as fast as we could while she was working a double and we drove it out to my parents’ house in the valley. It was the most terrifying thing I ever had to do in my life. I don’t think I stopped holding my breath until I saw their beautiful welcoming house reminding me I was still myself. That yes this was a nightmare but it was one I could wake up from. One I could escape from.

I don’t like to think about what could have happened to me, to my children had I not literally run for my life. There is so much more to tell, about dealing with Ian’s second wife, about learning to truly be a single mother and navigate the horrors of public assistance. About finding myself amongst the rubble of my ruined relationships. About learning how to relish in my sons, my independence and my own inner strength I never even knew I had until it was put to the test. I have a long and adventurous tale to tell but for now I’ll leave you with these words of wisdom.

You never know how strong you are, until you overcome your greatest failure. Which really is just a stepping stone to success.

Blessings

 

 

 

Honest Words

When you are a young parent it’s easy to forget your child is not your possession. That you do not own them. You are entitled to their raising and responsible for their safety but eventually they will individuate from you, they will crave their independence, their own lives.

These days I wonder where my words go. I wonder what direction they travel, whether straight like an arrow, or curving in a downward spiral to reach the most desperate of us at the bottom of a bipolar sea. Perhaps my words are a flower, each petal a fragrant, delicate wisdom blown by the wind either into someone’s waiting palm or to the ground, forgotten under dirt and other rubble. Even I don’t know which of my words to treat with extreme tenderness and which to forget. Of course I vainly hope my words are works of art delighting the senses of those who read them. Honestly these posts I write are my way to reach out across the void to a world I’ll only see pictures of. Reaching people who would otherwise never have known I existed.

Tonight my sons are on my mind. It was not so long ago I held them in my arms and felt the greatest love any woman can feel. I’ve had so many women tell me “Well, I don’t know how you do it, I could never let my sons live somewhere else for the entire school year.” They say it with an air of possession and just enough judgment. In the beginning I wasted my breath and my time explaining the legal aspects of it and my my promises to my sons not to attack their father legally over them. I waxed eloquent about how boys need their fathers and both of my sons had unresolved issues with their father that needed to be dealt with that I couldn’t help them with. I tried to explain that we are one big family not two competing but I would get these blank stares, more judgment, pity, and even anger. Yes anger that somehow I was failing at motherhood. I tried to explain that it wasn’t my choice to make. But it all fell on deaf ears. So now I don’t offer any explanation to anyone. If someone asks me about my sons I just say they live in Oregon with their father for the school year and with me for holidays and summers. And I leave it at that. Of course it’s so much more than that but I don’t owe those details to every drama desperate woman plaguing me with questions so she can feel better about her life. It’s sad, but we do that to each other. Women. Many women, not all women. We compare and contrast our lives trying to one up each other. Why do we do this? I truly have no clue. Life would be so much simpler if we didn’t.

It takes a mighty heart to love a child enough to let them spread their wings. To let them use their voices and really listen to what they need. My son Jaden was yelling as loudly as he could with his behavior. He had no intention of moving to Oregon. We sent him there because he was doing so poorly in Alaska. People hear that and they think “What?! You sent your child AWAY?!” Yes, yes I did. Because I would rather have a child I only see on holidays than a dead one. Elliott went to Oregon one summer and never came back. I railed against it at first and then I tapped into my mighty mother’s heart and loved him. I understood he needed his father. I understood he wanted his brother. And his behavior had been tanking too. I’d be lying if I said it isn’t hard. That it doesn’t ache that I’m missing so much of their lives. But I’d also be lying if I didn’t say that the moments I do have with them are so poignant, so precious and full of meaning that I can’t feel anything but grateful for the way things are. My sons are physically far away, but emotionally we are so close. We love each other with an intensity brought on only by distance. The four of us, their parents and stepparents have committed wholly to being a family. A real family. I’m actually taking my daughter next summer to Oregon and spending the summer with them. Because their stepmother is not only the best stepmother in the world she is my friend, confidant, cheerleader, mentor and most of all sister of the heart. We have worked very hard on this relationship of ours and it is built solely on trust. If I had one piece of advice I could whisper on a petal and blow into someone’s palm it would be that you cannot build anything beautiful with someone you don’t trust.

When you are a young parent it’s easy to forget your child is not your possession. That you do not own them. You are entitled to their raising and responsible for their safety but eventually they will individuate from you, they will crave their independence, their own lives. This is an inevitability. To rob them of this would be the greatest crime. My sons have taught and are teaching me how very true this is. Raising their little sister is a different experience because I know what it’s like to have teenagers. I know how a child stretches out, develops, unveils their adult selves in their responses, glances, the way they carry themselves. I know all too clearly how they remember what you say and use it against you as the case may be. When my daughter says she hates something with all her might I kneel down, I look in her eyes, I make sure she’s not just being difficult. I believe her. I let her know I’m listening to her, I can hear her. I do the same with my sons. They know I hear them, I believe them, I think what they have to say matters. And as tempting as it may be I don’t lie to my children.

My husband’s parents and his sister refused to come to our wedding. The reasons are obvious, I lack the right skin color, bank account and ability to play along in a sick family system. It was incredibly painful for both myself and my husband. In fact the pain they caused him raised a rage in me I didn’t know I had. Apparently they told my husband or he assumed they didn’t consider weddings important since they had a courthouse wedding without much ceremony. I always knew that wasn’t the reason but I chose to let it be. Fast forward almost three years and they’re flying up from Nevada for his sister’s wedding. In a sitcom it would be hilarious. In real life it’s disgustingly cruel. My husband is caught between feeling a duty to them as his family to attend and standing firm that since I’m not welcome and they refused to attend ours he will not go. And he certainly won’t bring our daughter while I stay home seeing red.

So often the families we are given are not the families we would choose. I have to let my husband make his own decision. They are his parents. She is his sister. But I will protect my daughter. A very long time ago I was in the same situation my daughter is in now, My mother’s family did not accept my father and although they allowed my mother to bring me to visit them, my father was not welcome. In an effort to protect me I was not told any of this until I was fourteen. I’ll never forget it. I was so angry I never spoke to my grandparents again. I don’t want my daughter blindsided and feeling lied to. I told her that her grandma and grandpa and Aunt didn’t come to her Mommy and Daddy’s wedding because they didn’t want Daddy to marry Mommy. But that we’ve worked out a lot of the angry feelings. I explained that she doesn’t know her Aunt because her Aunt doesn’t like mommy’s skin color and doesn’t think she’s good enough for Daddy. My daughter in her beautiful innocence said she has fire hands and she will fire her. I laughed and told her that wouldn’t be necessary. I said sometimes adults make silly choices and it takes them a long time to learn to make better ones. But we can be an example of love and not hate. Upon hearing that she cried out “I love you Mommy!” and gave me the biggest squeezingest hug that warmed my heart from the inside out.

I know this is not the end of the questions. Or even the end of the drama. But in my house we are safe, in my house we tell each other the truth and in my house we love our differences. When my daughter is fourteen she’ll already know the story. She’ll be free to make her own choices about who she wants a relationship with. All through her life, even when my husband’s parents’ said I was not allowed to set foot on their property I let him take our infant daughter to visit them. It crushed me every time. When she’s a little older and better able to understand I’ll tell her that too. I want her to know that I never came between her father’s family and her, even though they tried to make me into that kind of person.

I know not everyone would agree with my way of handling the situation but the beauty of it is I don’t care. I went through it and I know how it felt and what I wished someone would have told me as a child because I always knew something was wrong I just had no name for it. If anyone is reading this dealing with their own family drama I would urge you to be as honest as possible with your children because they see more than you think they see, they hear more than you think they hear and they know much more than you realize. Of all the mistakes I’ve made in my life I’ve never regretted telling my children the truth. Being honest with your children plants seeds inside them so that when they are adults and talking with others their words can become beautiful blossoms with petals of wisdom able to change the course of the world.