I am the mother of dead children who never made it past birth, which is a different status from those who have children still running around on the earth or who lost children at young ages. Parents like me are not given the same respect, which is not said as a means to gather sympathy; rather, I am simply sharing my experience. Women and men who have live children are usually allowed opinions that mothers and fathers of dead children are not. Because our children are waiting for us in heaven, no one wants to know what we think should be done when a child has an earache, or is afraid of the dark, or hates their sibling or gets arrested for shoplifting at the age of 15 or ends up with a pregnant girlfriend when they are 22. Neither is anyone interested in our ideas regarding child rearing. The argument is this: since we did not raise our children into adulthood then any ideas we may have are theoretical at best and so should be disregarded.
I have a certain amount of sympathy with this argument. It can be maddening for a young mother or the father of a teenager to hear from seemingly uniformed friends or relatives about what the latest fad or school of thought or theory regarding child rearing can mean when they are the ones in the trenches.
Stand this resentment, however, alongside the willingness to turn our children over to young teachers straight out of college with no experience in the classroom, or drop them off at a neighborhood house with a homemade sign in front of this advertising Auntie Blossom's Unicorn Daycare and you have a tougher sell to make to me.
My thinking is, and I may be wrong, is we are not willing to listen to the well meaning grandmother or great aunt or loving cousin when we are willing to follow the advice found in a newspaper column (written by an unknown entity) because it smarts to take advice from people we both love and hate, need while squirming under their gaze convinced they are judging us the entire time we are judging them.
Being the mother of dead children, I have not had the privilege of driving my own child to a music lesson or picking out their Baptismal gown. I have been involved in the lives of my two nephews and my niece and I have been involved with the lives of the children of my friends but that is very different. Again, while I may have some really definite ideas of how a child should be raised all my peers can quite rightly look me in the eye, puff out their chests and say, "Oh yeah? What the hell do YOU know?".
So, tonight, as I prayed for a dearly loved young person in my life I thought about what I do know and how, if I was allowed, I would share that knowledge.
And I haven't got a clue.
Sure, it would be lovely to sit and have a long conversation over hot coffee about how to handle life and its disappointments. It would be wonderful to share where I was at their age, what my life had ended up being and how the only thing I had ever wanted to be had been snatched from me for no other reason than my own bad behavior. I would love to wax philosophical about the choices I made - both good and bad - and share with them the wisdom I learned from that great teacher (hindsight and experience).
The problem is I would not be able to do that without including my Faith journey, my Sobriety life and the incredible healing I have found from my Catholic Faith.
When I look back on that crossroad I stood at when I was 26 years old, frightened, disappointed, mourning the loss of my children and the shock of being dumped by someone who had sworn to me they loved me no matter what, I can see the mistake I made. The mistake I made was walking away more firmly from God because I did not think I could ever be forgiven for the life I had lived between 18 and 26. It would be another five years before I found myself at another crossroads - and then I chose poorly again, once more convinced that if I could only find the perfect husband my world would be fine.
If I could share my life with someone wondering what to do next today, I would share with them the mistake I made that caused me so much pain. I would share with them my error in thinking that somehow I was so bad, so unworthy, and so lost that my only chance was finding redemption in human beings and substances....drugs and alcohol.
Because I do not have standing as a parent, I cannot share that with any real authority and I am sorry. What I can do, however, is I can pray - I can pray that the journey the young person I love will not be as full of pain and wandering as my journey was and I can pray that it does not take them as long as it took me to find my way Home to Truth.
And I can pray that all those people - young and old - who are so lost, so sad and so convinced that they are not worthy of a spectacular life will find what I have found; a loving and merciful God and His Church.
He wants what is best for me....and for you too.