When my children were born, I knew that I would dedicate my life to helping them be safe, healthy and happy. I wanted my children to have a very different childhood than mine. I was willing to sacrifice anything for them. At the time, I didn’t realize that meant my connection to my family.
I didn’t realize that would mean parenting on my own. I didn’t realize it would mean deep recovery work. And I certainly never saw my own business coming. But honestly, as hard as these steps have been, they were easy decisions when I looked into those two sets of blue eyes. I knew there was no other way. And I am extremely proud of everything I have done to protect them and give them a good life. I have screwed up hundreds of times, but I’ve done amazing things too.
But something jolted me the other day. I was surprised when my daughter told me she didn’t want to be an adult. She said it seemed so hard. She said she liked being a kid and she wanted to be a kid forever. My first response was a positive one. I was so glad to hear her say that. I had worked so hard to give her a great childhood and it was working. When I was a kid, I wanted to be an adult desperately. It was the only way I could escape the tyranny of my abusers. I hated being a child. I hated the powerlessness of it. I hated being treated like I didn’t matter.
Then something occurred to me. Maybe this statement had another side to it. Maybe this statement wasn’t all roses. Kids should want to be kids. But kids shouldn’t want to stay kids forever. Why was she so afraid to be an adult? The answer was easy. She was afraid to be an adult because the main adult in her life is constantly working hard to give her a childhood. Her mother is always balancing trips to school and horse riding lessons and making meals and client calls. Her mother is always running errands and arranging play dates and doctor’s appointments. Her mother is surviving. Her mother is not living. And honestly, the emotions of recovery can’t be hidden all the time. So my daughter sees adulthood as hard work. She doesn’t see it as fun.
Why? I don’t DO fun. I work hard. I love what I do for a living because I created it. I have fun when I work and not many people can say that. I make sure my kids have fun. But I don’t DO fun in the traditional sense. It is hard for me to wrap my head around fun in that way. I never had child-like fun as a child. And honestly, I am not truly embracing fun things in my adulthood. And that is what needs to change. I have to start living. I have to stop surviving. There is a place and a time for getting things done. But as the proverbial saying goes, life is short. And those things are always going to be there to get done. I need to live a little. I need to go salsa dancing. I need to go to Hogwarts (Universal) and not just for the kids. I need to travel because I love it.
As I write this, I can hear my controller screaming about the money and the wasted time and the silliness of it all. I can hear my controller telling me to stay focused on what I have to do. I can hear them tell me I am ruining my life. But I have come far enough in recovery to know that isn’t true. And I am also realizing that parenting isn’t just about ensuring children have a happy, safe childhood. Parenting is about modeling the adults they will become. If I don’t live, my kids won’t know how to live as adults. They will grow up, enmesh with their controllers and robotically get things done for the rest of their lives. And I want my children to love life after childhood. But honestly I am still learning to love it myself. I don’t love it every day. And my controller thinks this is a waste of time.
But I can try. For the first time, I think I can take on a recovery task and be happy about it. I think I can embrace life a bit more. I will still be feeling the anxiety and writing from the resistance, but I can allow myself to enjoy life. My kids are watching. My kids are watching me deal with the hard stuff. My kids are watching my resilience and my anxiety. But my kids are also watching me live the good stuff. And it is time to do that … really do that.
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Written By Elisabeth Corey, MSW