Good enough

I sit under a tree, working hard on my tan in the yard where fifty years ago, my mother and her siblings used to climb inside a big vat to squash grape with their bare feet. Like many a self-respecting Frenchman, my grand-father was a wine-maker.

Meanwhile, my children are playing in the gravel, lost in a flock of my cousins’ children.

Now that I feel mildly less rubbish all the time, I have more brain power left to worry about them. And since I have no experience of parental separation, I wonder how they may be affected now, and in the future. How do they cope with the latent conflict between T and me? What do they need to know? What can I or can’t I tell them? What are the effects of having a mum who has so far spent a significant proportion of 2011 feeling down/angry/confused/sad?

This week, I saw a children’s psychiatrist to discuss my paralysing guilt concerns for my fast approaching eight years old son, and his fast approaching two years old sister.

I cried my way through some tortuous explanation of how I thought I was failing my children because I was stretched so thin at times, that I had no affection to give them, no pleasure in being with them, and nothing left to give.

To this, the psychiatrist replied that despite feeling like I was an inch away from breaking, and however much I had fantasized about getting on a one-way flight to the Coconut Islands, I had not actually ran away. I get up in the mornings, make sure the children are clothed, fed, mostly clean, and even if that did not sound like much, it was good enough really, under the circumstance.

I came away with two additional messages. Firstly, seeing me sad, angry, even desperate is a lesson for my children about how such emotions are generally part of life, and specifically how heartbreak can happen and really smarts when it does. The key to helping the children was to keep talking about how I feel, and the fact that it has nothing to do with them if I end up screaming like a banshee, or crying on the morning drive, because it’s not their fault I’m angry or sad. And they can pretty much be told anything about what I think and why, as long as they’re aware that other people may think differently.

The second message addressed my long-term worry that my children may be scarred for life by the break-up of their family, and turn into glue-sniffing, commitment-phobic, hedge-fund bankers. To this, the psychiatrist replied that I could pass on my values about how love was worth the adventure even though it sometimes hurt, how commitment and relationships required work and selflessness… But at the end of the day, I had to trust them, and their ability to find their own way through this.

I came out feeling like a huge weight had been lifted off my shoulders.

Here’s a beautiful song about loving your kids, enjoy!

Francis Cabrel – Je t’aimais, je t’aime et je t’aimerai


11 thoughts on “Good enough

  1. Hi E,
    Under the circumstances, I think also that you made a good job with your kids, especially with your son, that I know a little bit more than your daughter. I really think he is a really nice little boy, and that your are a great mother.
    See you soon.

    • Hey Nath, Lovely to hear from you!!
      And thank you for your kind words and support throughout all this. You are a truly lovely friend and I am so glad our paths crossed.
      On se voit la semaine prochaine?

  2. Wow, that’s a very uplifting post you’ve passed on! When my girls worry about the sitgma of not having a mom, or cry when she doesn’t get on the flight to England with us, there’s hope I didn’t understand.

    Thank you. I mean it.

    • Dear Struggling Dad,

      Whatever the situation right now, your girls have got a mom…She’s given them what…19 years of love and care, and even if she’s kind of failing a bit right now, all the rest is not lost + there is hope that she will become a better mom in future. And in the meantime, most importantly, your girls have a star dad to be their rock. Take care and enjoy the hol!

  3. You’re probably doing better with the children than you think. They’re very resilient. I’m impressed that you’re sitting under that tree and exposing the children to the family history. That’s all good.

    This is the first time I’m read your blog. Well done! I shall return.

  4. What come across is how much you love your children, and that is something they will pick up regardless of other difficulties. In the end that you love them is the most important thing

  5. Thank you Counting Ducks. I hope you’re right, and that love, however inadequately manifested at times, is enough…
    I guess worrying is just part of the being a parent job description 😉 !

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