Last night my grandson’s football team won the championship game in Spring Grove, Pennsylvania. It was quite chaotic getting there on time as I was at my granddaughter’s gymnastics meet in Frederick, Maryland earlier in the day (where she took 2nd place all around). But I was determined to be there because this boy, who is now 12, well, he still kind of feels like my own child, and his joys make my heart soar. You see, I pretty much raised this sweet boy for the first two years of his life.
His mommy (my step daughter) found herself unexpectedly pregnant in her second year of college and made the brave decision to keep her child. At that time, I was prospering as a decorator in the Baltimore area. It was quite the dream job—I even worked in the home of a [then] coach for the Ravens, Mike Nolan. I know, name dropping is undignified…but I guess I just want to drive home what a wonderful opportunity that job was for me, the girl who took classes at every opportunity between kids but never completely finished college. I worked like a maniac to achieve that level of success…the success I had dreamed of since I was a child. The job meant more to me than ‘work.’
But, I sacrificed that job so my step daughter could finish college and I stayed at home with her new baby. At the time, all I could think was that I never wanted her to feel as trapped as I felt because she didn’t have the opportunity to finish college; she deserved the support I never had,to be successful in life. I think it was also my opportunity to let her know that even though I was not her birth mother (her own mother passed away when she was quite young), I loved her that much…enough to sacrifice my dream job so she could pursue hers.
She became a teacher–and she is a really good teacher, her very best self–but becoming a teacher required student teaching all day and then class at night, so when I say I raised him those two years, I’m not exaggerating. This guy was my sidekick from early morning until he went to bed at night. I loved him wholeheartedly.
When she graduated, got a job, and moved out, I was so proud of her, but I also felt like my heart had been cut out. That was temporary since my oldest daughter got married that year and then my next grandchild was soon on the way; and it has been a progression of marriages and grandkids since then, keeping me too busy to reflect upon my lost opportunity—that ‘successful’ self. Kids are an excellent diversion from self evaluation.
But last night, as I stood out in the freezing cold after driving an hour and a half with three restless kids in the car (5, 4 and 1 year old), positioned all the way at the end of the bleachers so I could watch the kids playing while I tried to watch my beloved boy play football, I had a moment of WTF! (I think you all know what those initials mean and I apologize if they are offensive to you, but so great was the depth of my sense of injustice at that moment, that is truly what I thought.) My husband, Steve, having driven separately, was sitting up in the stands with his daughter, her son’s father and his family and her husband’s family; all enjoying the game–my contribution to my grandson’s life all but forgotten over the years, relegated to being the insignificant step grandparent now.
When I asked Steve to come down and help me while I ran to the snackbar to grab the kids some dinner (we had no time to eat because of the long drive), he became very agitated with me and said he came to watch the game. Like I didn’t. Then, when I watched his agitation magically vanish as he saw and chatted with an old friend; suddenly a helpful grandfather in front of his friend, I felt that same explicative run through my mind again, thinking I wish he would show me that side of himself more often. I’ve no doubt he was thinking similar things. When did we become these selves to each other?
As I walked to the snackbar, I found myself evaluating the many ‘selves’ we are in our lives; how we bend and change, how we become so intolerant of some people and some situations, yet make the effort for others. Sometimes our original selves change so much, they are not recognizable. How can you, at any given time, truly know yourself then, if you change so easily? And if you don’t know yourself, how can you trust that your feelings are valid? Heavy life questions for a Sunday morning, aren’t they?
Perhaps I am doing so much self evaluation because of my class [‘When Your Soul Speaks,’ by Laura Probert]. After meditation (which I never imagined I would do in my life, but highly recommend), we have writing prompts and the stuff that comes from my pen to that paper is shocking. I’ve written things I had no idea lived inside of me; writings she has identified as our ‘inner critic’ self.
I have always professed that I will forgive anyone for anything if you tell me you’re sorry…no explanation needed, just “I’m sorry” and we will move on…and I practice what I preach. But, is this really a healthy way to deal with conflict, hurt, or disappointment? A simple, “I’m sorry,” and it goes away? Or does a little piece of me go away with it?
As a 56 (soon to be 57) year old woman, I am working diligently to rediscover the passionate, fiery self I knew 40 years ago. I’m trying to find a place for her in my current life without ruffling too many feathers. Thanks for joining me on my journey. The picture and quote below are a beautiful representation of where I am…