We live in a world where so much goes unsaid. We wait until we are dying to close up loose ends, to tell people we love them, to make amends. Sometimes we wait too long and things go unsaid leaving lingering hurts and longings. What if we stopped, took a deep breath and started saying those things before the big ending in the hopes of making an impact? What if we could be honest with those we love? Maybe not publicly but in some small way? I decided to write. Write to my children, my husband, my family and let the unsaid be voiced. I’m not sure how often I will post a letter but this is the first. I was surprised, I never would have thought that when I started to really write things down that I would begin with ‘I’m sorry’.
Sorry for all of the things I didn’t accomplish or sorry for everything I did to mess my kids up. Sorry for always looking for the life I ‘should’ be living instead of savoring every second of the one I was given. Sorry for not being the good dutch wife his parents always wanted. Sorry for aging like I did and looking like I do. Sorry for not cooking a full meal every night. Sorry for wearing overalls. Sorry for all of my bad haircuts that you had to look at. Sorry for my unwillingness to brush things under the rug. Sorry for wanting the deep and meaningful conversations. Sorry for being late, a lot. Sorry for Rush Limbaugh. I don’t know why that one popped up, but, yeah-sorry for his noise in the world. Sorry for looking at you with mushy mom eyes to the point of embarrassment (not sorry). Sorry for showing up to pick you up from school in a clown costume…for no reason. Sorry, sorry, sorry….
I am great at being sorry. I think I have always placed expectations on myself under the guise of what I thought others wanted from me when I see now it they were what I wanted for myself. I wanted to be a better mother so I assumed my husband and my kids were disappointed in me. I was disappointed in myself…for not being perfect. I wanted to be a perfect wife but it just wasn’t in me to be little Mary Sunshine who volunteered for everything, kept a perfect house, made four course meals-daily (really, people do that?), was always well dressed and always said the right thing. I’m sorry, not sorry, for loving overalls, bare feet and the occasional expletive. And for not being a ‘Stepford’ wife.
Conforming for the sake of fitting in has never been my strong suit. Not being willing to change my nature has left me feeling left out, hung out to dry, never in the ‘in’ crowd, not a cool kid (or teen, or adult for that matter and I am SO OK with that). I may have tried to fit in but inevitably it left me feeling miserable. One, because it never worked and, two, well, it never worked and did I mention I felt miserable? My deepest heart longing was to just find a place where I belonged. To find people who saw me not as someone different from them but as someone. Somehow I managed to never dress the right way, look the right way, certainly not think the right way, live in the right place (I did one time and people are so much nicer to you when you live in the ‘right’ area but they still aren’t your friends), go to the right church-the list could be endless because whatever ‘they’ or the world wanted-I didn’t have it.
More things I am sorry for…
Sorry doesn’t begin to cover how I feel when I think of the ways I’ve let you down. I am sorry I did not leave the world a better place. I am sorry that bigotry, hatred, violence, chaos, war-help me I can hardly breathe here-I am sorry that these are the legacy that will be left to you and your children after you. I am sorry that I couldn’t have done more, I am sorry that I sat in church on Sundays, hamstrung by the sheer overwhelmingness of the pain of the world instead of buying a flack jacket and going out into the world.
I am sorry for sending you to Christian Schools when we were no longer homeshooling. I wish I had used every dime of tuition and taken you into the world. I wish I would have taken you to Ethiopia, to the Middle East, to Africa, to the poorest places in our nation so you could have seen real need, seen real hunger and made a real difference. Instead you saw privilege and hypocrisy. You saw an us and them mentality instead of a ‘we’ world. You saw drugs and sex and bigotry rioting under the banner of ‘Christian’ instead of learning to serve a hurting world. I am sorry that I thought I was doing the right thing, the safe thing. I was so wrong.
I am sorry I didn’t speak up more, that I didn’t stand up more, that I played along when you made inappropriate comments because I was so afraid I would loose you to a world I couldn’t reconcile in my own heart if I made you feel uncomfortable-by somehow acting like it wasn’t any big deal you would come to know better. How wrong I was. I am sorry that I didn’t speak down every biased, bigoted, narrow minded comment I came into contact with-but, if I were to have done that I would have tainted you even more than I had already. Now, how I wish I would have made you more uncomfortable, tainted you more because then you would be able to see me as someone who really stood up for what they believed in.
Things I am not sorry for.
One thing I am really not sorry for is having kids. They may have heard me, on occasion, say…ok it’s not a may situation, I know they heard me say I wish I had never had kids. The crux of it was that I felt like the worlds worst mom and that I was screwing them up. The world didn’t deserve one more ruined soul and I was doing a fine job ruining 3 more. Or so I thought. The reality couldn’t have been further from my truth. I loved my children fiercely. Still do. I would have gladly cut off all my limbs for them. Still would. So I guess this would fall under both headings of sorry and not sorry. I am so, so sorry for any misery I caused, for any angst I induced and for any other random failure I imposed on you. You were my world and still are.
I have a girl and two boys. Since I qualified as a girl I felt more or less equipped to handle this one. We had our moments-who doesn’t-but for the most part I understood where she was coming from and was able to work through it. I know I didn’t get it right all the time because we spoke the same language, sort of. But boys? Lord have mercy, I had no idea what to do with boys. I couldn’t figure out the one I was married to, let alone out the ones I birthed. The best I could do was love all of them with a ferocious mamma love-which I did. Up until the hormones kicked in and the boys no longer resembled the soft cheeked, tender hearted boys I knew and my girl grew into a woman. Then I loved them even harder and just prayed. Lord did I pray that one day the echos of that love would come bouncing back in a frequency they would understand and recognize…and then forgive me for all the ways I didn’t get it right.
Other things I am not sorry for? Loving you until I thought my heart would burst. Holding you instead of letting you cry it out. Although, I did try it and wouldn’t you know that is the time one who shall not be named tried to climb out of their crib and was found dangling by their ankle, crying. For this I am truly sorry and let it be known you were never forced to cry it out again. I am not sorry I chose reading books to you over laundry. In fact, I still choose reading books over laundry any day. I am not sorry for the many pancake dinners we had because I lost track of time being with you. I am not sorry that even the pancake dinners were around the table, together. I am not sorry I protected you for as long as I could. I am not sorry we gave you an educational video game, Socrates rocked and you are the math major you are because of it. I am not sorry we made you stay in band-though I am sorry that dad sat on you that time to make you put your uniform on but that’s for a different story. I am not sorry for opening our doors to your friends and to kids from other countries. I am not sorry for playing the radio too loud and bouncing our car down the main road on the way home from school. I am not sorry for making messes with you. I am not sorry for ‘100 kisses’ and yes, you are all adults and it is hard for me not to break down and do it again when you are being too adult. I am not sorry I taught my boys how to sew, do laundry and cook, and I am not sorry I taught my girl she could do anything the boys could do too.
I am not sorry we moved around. I am not sorry you were exposed to people different than you, that you were challenged to adapt, that you were uncomfortable at times-these are character forming and you are each characters to be sure! This said, I am not sorry that I did my best to teach you that a persons character should never be described or determined by the color of his skin, where they are from, the kind of clothes they wear, who they love or what they believe. I am not sorry for forcing you to try new things. I am not sorry for not buying you expensive clothing, the newest anything, cars, trips to Mexico for spring break, fancy tennis shoes…basically anything the cool kids had…I am not sorry for not providing that for you. I am not sorry for encouraging you to stand up for what is right. I am not sorry that I did my level best to teach you fairness and compassion. I did my best, what you do with it is now your responsibility.
I am also not sorry that through this hard and broken life we each live that I did my very best to show you who God was. And when I couldn’t show you I did my best to teach you. Did I do a good job? Probably not. But this I know to be true-the seed of His love for you was planted early and deep and no matter how far you wander He has the capacity to reach you. I am not sorry that I pray daily for the light of His love to burn in your hearts, and in your spouses hearts and, now, your children’s hearts. I am not sorry that there are times I wear myself out praying for your relationship with Him to become its best, that your relationships with each other grow stronger and that Love is the compass that helps you navigate this scary, beautiful life.
(37)”…You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.(38)This is the great and first commandment. (39)And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.
You see, if you get verse 39, you can change so many of the wrongs with the world. It is hard to judge someone else when you put on love. Hate is erased when you put on love. Differences melt away in the face of love. It begins by loving God, yes, but when his love flows through you and out of you maybe you won’t be writing a letter someday that begins with I’m sorry….