Am I a fraud?
Have you ever felt like a fraud?
I had one such moment last month. While I had determined to remain calm and collected in the face of a continually demanding emotionally avoidant child, I had failed.
I had lost my temper, and I strongly considered hurling less than altruistic adjectives in his direction.
Biting my tongue, but unable to stop my dark and murky thoughts, I had walked away.
Was I an absolute fraud?
In the Depth of an Abyss
While my child seemed fine with the incident, going back to enjoy his toys playfully, I—on the other hand--was dejected.
How could I be this person?
How could I intend one behavior and do another?
How could I long for and practice empathy to, instead, end here, in this emotional quagmire?
Wasn't I an adult?
Shouldn't I be immune to all his tricks by now?
Why did I still have triggers which I allowed this child to ignite?
Why couldn't I be above all this?
Hadn't I been in this very place often enough to know better?
Adopting a child with emotional issues is not for the faint of heart. Let me correct this statement, dealing with ANYONE with psychological problems is not for the weak.
I feel neither capable nor brave.
Before becoming a parent, I had high notions about the type of parent I aspired to be. All such lofty sentiments cames crashing down a short time after the birth of my first child.
Yes, indeed, it didn't take very long for me to receive an attitude adjustment.
Here I was with a distraught newborn crying at the top of his lungs, and I was inadequate at calming him down. So many conflicting emotions enveloped me.
Moreover, despite my desire to not be like my parents,* when the rubber met the road, it wasn't my lofty ideals which came to the rescue, but rather, the harmful habits honed over the decades of watching and experiencing them in my childhood.
At this point, it became very apparent parenting differently would require more than desire. It would also necessitate a lot of practice over an extended period.
* I must preface that my parents were loving and good providers. They were, however, a product of their culture and generation—as we all are. They followed unhealthy and detrimental child-rearing practices which in the long run were harmful to my brother and me. Nevertheless, I hold no animosity; they were misinformed not vile.
I was despondent over my shortcomings.
I still am on occasion.
I have apologized to my kids more times than I can count and my oldest indeed took the brunt of my parenting fumblings. Amazingly, he is today a remarkable and well-balanced adult. A loving father of his own.
Over the years, I had my doubt I could produce any healthy offerings.
Over the years, thank be to God, I acquired new tools for my parenting toolbox. Tools which in time came quickly to me, although this was not always the case.
My new tools allowed me to feel pretty confident as a parent—this was a lifetime ago. I felt fearless—so fearless that I believed I could parent a child diagnosed with emotional shortcomings.
What a joke.
I crumpled under the task.
Who was I kidding?
I was so utterly unprepared.
I naively believed my love could conquer all.
I was wrong.
While we can love anyone we choose, a person who is not in a position to receive said love will—in the end—still feel unloved.
For me, this situation was equal to hitting a brick wall at a hundred miles per hour. This circumstance was all the more brutal because, in my ignorance and naivete, I did not expect it. At. All.
Time Marches On
Years later, things are better, calmer. I have climbed out of my dark hole. It was not easy. My success is due in considerable part due to professional women who were there for me, heard me, accepted me, and guided me.
I still fall face first in the mud as I did so clumsily last month. I am now, however, grateful such events are not so all-encompassing and that additionally, rather than being debilitated, I recover far more quickly. They are also now—blessedly—rare.
And yet, the anguish I experience is always the same.
How can this uncollected person be me?
Is this the real me and the rest of the time I am just fooling myself into believing there is kindness in my heart?
When I am triggered, does the false mask fall to reveal who I am beneath?
My confidants and helpers have said this is not the case despite the fact it feels like it.
In those moments of human frailty, when I feel I have failed and I have broken my commitment to myself and my child, I feel like a Fraud.
Yes, a Fraud with a capital F.
Except this time was different. Despite my feelings, I did not withdraw to hide in shame and lick my wounds. Instead, I came to be seen. I decided to be vulnerable and to reach out to a community of supportive mothers who have walked in my shoes, and I did this in spite of still feeling fraudulent.
The Voices of Understanding
My community's loving and understanding voices echoed my sentiments, and while their words neither could fix my feelings nor repair the damage, I felt heard and seen.
In the midst of being seen, I was not found wanting. I was neither judged nor criticized. Grace enveloped my bruised heart like a balm of Gilead.
The wonder and beauty of empathy coupled with understanding were enough to spur me to pick up the pieces, bandage my wounds, pick up my load, and soldier on.
This exchange with loving women also gave me an example of a new blueprint. It gave me a different pattern of behavior so that I can still be present for myself, for my child, and for others.
Hindsight: I am a Fraud?
If I had known where this road would lead, I would never have chosen it because I am not masochistic. Nevertheless, from the ashes of my soul, I am indeed reborn. Let me count the ways this stripping is making me into a better person albeit dragging my feet kicking and screaming.
So, am I a fraud?
I can't answer this question because the wording is all wrong.
Believing that we can be perfect at all times and never do—or say—the wrong thing is ludicrous. We are human beings, and thus, this means we are inherently flawed. None of us made it to today unscathed, unhurt, and completely whole.
Life is a process and sometimes, despite the best of intentions, we fall. Notice, I did not say fail. Falling and failing are not the same.
While I neither condone nor advocate doing wrong—or evil—and then marching on singing "oh well, I am only human," I also know that no matter how we may desire to be perfect, perfection is neither possible nor desirable.
Yes, my kids see me fail, but they also watch me rise, clean up my mess, and apologize. They look at me as I march on, albeit maybe a tad bruised and banged up. All these authentic examples of raw humanity give them the permission to also be fully human—to fall and extend grace to others as well as themselves.
Do I like my humanness?
Yes and no.
While I used to beat myself up over every infraction—and at times, I still do—I have decided to give myself the same grace and love I give to my friends and loved one when their behavior is all too human.
Never would I tell someone I love: "You idiot, see what you just did? Stupid, stupid, stupid. You are a fraud." However, this type of conversation is often how I talk to myself under the same circumstances.
Too often have I belittled myself for far too little.
I am indeed a flawed masterpiece, a beautiful mess. I am a human, and I am grateful for it all.
I am loved.
I am ALIVE!
So today, rather than asking "am I a fraud?" I chose to say thank you I am alive with all living entails.
I am grateful I feel so profoundly, and thankful I have not thrown in the towel in the midst of heart-wrenching circumstances even when I wanted to do precisely that very thing.
Hello, my name is Florence. I am an imperfect perfect human. What is your name?
On a side note, to the women whose loving words that were a healing balm on my heart and soul, thank you! May I extend the same love and grace to all those I meet.