Today I Made the Decision to Forgive Someone
Today I made the decision to forgive someone. Not my mother–I forgave her long ago. Not my father–there was never anything I needed to forgive him for. He was my hero. And certainly not my long-suffering husband; he is the one I need to ask forgiveness of.
No, the person I have decided to forgive is the one whom my children have called mama, ma, mommy, mom and, on those occasions where I have managed to annoy them yet again, complete with a spectacular display of eye-rolling, mother.
Me. I forgive me.
1.) I forgive myself for waiting so long to have children.
I was thirty-three when my first was born and thirty-seven when the second arrived. I wasn’t certain I would be a good mother. Convinced that, because I could barely take care of myself, I couldn’t possibly nurture a completely dependent, miniature human being. So I waited.
It took only the few short weeks following the birth of my first daughter for me to regret that decision. But, I have since come to accept that my children came to me only when I was ready to be their mother.
2.) I forgive myself for being afraid, terrified actually.
I was afraid of being pregnant. What if I got pregnant before I realized and I drank alcohol? What if I wasn’t eating properly and the baby wasn’t receiving adequate nutrition? What if the baby was born with birth defects? What if I couldn’t love my own child?
I was afraid of giving birth. What if I was a wimp and I couldn’t stand the pain? What if something happened and my baby died during delivery?
I was afraid of the baby. Yes, I was terrified of my own, tiny newborn. In the hours after her birth, when my husband had gone home to sleep and I was stuck all alone with this vulnerable, red-faced, and screaming infant, I stared at her, wondering if I was magically supposed to know what to do. I think I expected some profound motherhood wisdom to have been imparted to me during the birth process. Sadly, that wasn’t the case. I did eventually get over that fear, but it simply dissolved into others.
I was afraid my girls would get sick, get injured, get lost. So many fears…I drove myself crazy with fear. But, I now realize that my fear came from a good place. It came from love—the crazy, overpowering, irrational, and uncontrollable love of a mother for her children.
3.) I forgive myself for worrying. I’m a great worrier. I often think I must have been born with an extra worry gene. Nighttime is the worst for me. From the time my girls were infants I have been waking in the middle of the night, my own personal witching hour. Lying in bed, I try desperately to calm the minutia of worries that threaten my sanity. At first I worried about developmental issues. Were my girls reaching their milestones at the correct intervals: did they crawl, stand, walk, and talk, at the right age? My baby nephew spoke words much sooner than my oldest daughter of the same age, so I worried about that. When she developed a lisp, I worried even more, despite my speech pathologist friend telling us it was a non-issue. And then, when my youngest developed language so completely different than her sister, I worried she wasn’t normal.
My girls are now both in their twenties, but I still worry. I just worry about different things. I can only assume that this is never going to change, that I will worry about them until the day I die. But, I now realize that although worry achieves nothing but a wasting of energy, it is as innate to motherhood as the drive to protect our children.
4.) I forgive myself for making mistakes. And believe me, there have been a lot to forgive. I’ve made a multitude of mistakes over the years. None of them have resulted in permanent injury to either of my children, physical or emotional, but certainly they have resulted in more than a few scars.
Like the time I picked up my oldest daughter from school and she told me she had scraped her toe in P.E. class while doing gymnastics. I made her walk home; after all, it was only a scrape, right? She took her shoe off half way home and walked in her sock, told me her toe hurt too much in her shoe. When we got home Jennifer removed her sock and showed me her second toe, a lovely purplish-black, half way up her foot, bottom and top. Broken. Yup, I made her walk a half mile with a broken toe. In her socks.
Or the time she fell off our office chair and landed on her wrist. I wasn’t home to experience how long or how badly she cried, (my excuse, a mother can usually judge the severity of an injury based on those two things.) When I returned from work she showed me her wrist. No bruise, no real swelling. “You’re fine,” I told her, “just a bump.” A month later her soccer coach asked me, “Is something wrong with Jennifer’s wrist, Les? She’s holding it funny when she runs.” (Her coach is also a family physician.)
I replied, “Oh, really? She hurt it a month ago. I didn’t realize it was still bothering her.” I checked it out more carefully that night.
“OUCH,” she exclaimed when I probed her wrist.
Yup. It was broken. Two broken bones, both missed by this supposedly loving and caring mother. Oh, and I’m a physiotherapist, I should have had this covered. In my defense, I didn’t want delicate little girls who obsessed about every little injury. I wanted them to be stoic; instead I screwed up. My oldest still uses those missed injuries against me at every opportunity.
Then there’s the time I left my youngest at her sister’s pre-school. She was four weeks old and her sister had just started pre-school. Being a shy child, each day of pre-school Jennifer requested that I stay for a while, until she was ready for me to leave. On this particular day, I waited for the nod from Jennifer before heading out. I had walked all the way to my van before I realized, with a laugh, that I had carried her shoes out with me. I walked all the way back to the school, dropped the shoes off, and then drove home. Yup, without the baby. Left her sitting in her car seat at the front entrance of the school. I had walked right by her, twice.
My excuse? I wasn’t used to having two children, and the youngest was a very quiet and undemanding baby, very happy to sit and quietly watch the world. The two teachers were laying bets on how long it would take me to realize what I had done. I was famous at that pre-school for years.
Since those early years, I continue to make mistakes on a daily basis. As much as whoever wrote this book would be a millionaire, there is no instruction manual on the raising of children from birth to adulthood that would work for every child. I have discovered that any parenting skill that I acquired from the raising of my first not only did not work for the second, it created disastrous results. My first-born is organized, punctual, tidy, stoic, and stubborn beyond belief. My youngest is so sensitive that any form of discipline that worked on her sister, left her sobbing in despair.
I have spent countless hours trying to decide how best to parent each of my girls in ways that will allow them both to grow, adapt, create, and thrive, and not destroy them with my ineptitude. I’m still not sure of how well I’m doing with that goal. What I do know is that I am trying my best.
So yes. I forgive myself for waiting, for being afraid, for worrying, and for making mistakes. Because there’s only one thing any of us can do as we struggle through this incredibly challenging but equally rewarding journey that is motherhood.
Leslie Wibberley is physiotherapist by profession, a slightly maddened mother to two outstanding young women and one slightly insane cocker spaniel, and wife to a loving and extremely tolerant husband. Writing has always been her passion but one she has only recently re-committed her life to. With one middle grade novel complete, one young adult novel in the throngs of revision, and numerous short stories and personal essays lying in repose in her beloved MacBook Air, she is now proud to call herself a writer. Her article RAISING A CHILD WITH SPECIAL NEEDS, A DIFFERENT PERSPECTIVE recently won 6th place in Writer’s Digest annual contest.