Monday, May 15, 2006

The price of failure

Oh dear. Sometimes when I ponder (and acknowledge) my failures in life (as in the Mother's Day post) people who know me only recently are quick to protest. The person they know does not compute with the person I'm describing. "You did the best you could." And that is certainly the truth. But the best I could, as reassuring as it sounds, was not so great. I know that about myself. That doesn't mean I didn't do a lot of things right. I did okay some of the time, and really well some of the time. But the perfect mother I am not, and pretending that I am/was is something I'd rather avoid. (The perfect wife I was not either, but that's another story.)

Here's an example: one thing I tried to teach my sons was the value of saying "thank you." Did they learn it? You couldn't prove it by me. Christmas, birthdays, special occasions... come and go. Packages get mailed (on time) and money exchanges hands. Do I get a thank you? Hell, no. Often I have to ask two or three times if the package ever arrived before there's any acknowledgement. Go figure.

Does my faith in God affect them? My younger son converted to Roman Catholicism because he married a Catholic and believed in one religion per family. Their stepfather and I couldn't agree on a church, and ended up with the Unitarians for a while in an attempt to compromise... it didn't work. Once divorced, I returned to the Episcopal church my first husband and I had joined together. My older son is an agnostic... both children seem to be the polar opposites of a bungled faith life.

My second husband accused me of escaping into workaholism to avoid being home. There were financial reasons, good ones, that I worked so hard, but he was probably right. Work provided an atmosphere of appreciation and respect I didn't get at home... I wasn't going to lose that. My younger son is a workaholic too. But he works hard at everything: being a dad, providing a good life for his family. Did he get that from me? I don't know. My older son is tremendously supportive of his wife and her difficult job. Did he get that because he saw I didn't? I don't know.

Who can say why we really do things the way we do? Why we go on for what seems like forever making the same mistakes and then one day wake up and change? There are plenty of things I'm still changing. Plenty more where they came from.


kpjara said...

My own thinking least you see and are learning from these past "failures" now before you leave this earth. I think it's much harder to see parents fail, that never even see it as a failure...rather just "who they are".

It took me until I was in my late 30's to forgive my parents failures and I still wait for my father to understand the chasm between us.

God bless you!

HeyJules said...

I'm with KP. You do the best you can do and when you know better, you do better. Them are words to live by...

Darius said...

I sure haven't been able to predict a thing in my life - the good or the bad.

I actually had been on the lookout for a nun blog. Seriously, I even googled. I haven't known a lot of nuns, but the nuns I've known have been nunthing like the priests - much more open-minded and less dogmatic.

My favorite aunt is a nun.

Thing is, I was brought up (loosely) as a Roman Catholic, so you really startled me with the reference to your kids. But now that I'm over the shock, I'm glad to have found a nun blog. Just another of those twists of fate - just when I thought there were no nun-bloggers. Proving your point.

Abiding said...

Thank you for your honesty and commitment to walking in the light of truth. As I fumble through parenthood it becomes clearer that I will probably never get it "right" and I will dance with the "not so great" more times than I want to imagine.

This shouldn’t be so surprising I suppose. After all, it is not so different than how my faith plays out.

I find myself looking at the paths of forgiveness I so desperately depend on and I wonder how to help my children sojourn there.

Addie said...

CJ, thank you for this post - I know exactly how you feel alot of times, and its nice to know that Im not the only one who feels that way