Hurting From the Truth & Being Free

My son got married last weekend but an occasion that should have been full of joy for me was an exercise in stoicism and humility. Thankfully, I was able to put my own feelings aside and celebrate with the newlyweds, who both told me the day was exactly as they’d wanted it to be.

I almost didn’t make it to the wedding dinner. The week before both of my own kids accused me of being selfish and said some terrible things about my character.

Selfish: lacking consideration for others; concerned chiefly with one’s own personal profit or pleasure.

This has led to a lot of soul-searching and I’ve been thinking about parenting. If our goal is to raise independent kids, when are we actually done? When is the right time to let them go?

In my case, it appears to be when they make it impossible to cling onto them any longer.

Who Am I?

Why don’t people understand how crappy it feels to be left out?

The whole reason I started this blog was to try to help everyone feel that they weren’t alone – that they were just as important as anyone else on the planet.

But it’s me who wants so desperately to feel included and as if I matter to others. Feelings I’ve chased as long as I can remember.

We Can Be Heroes 

Despite my wanting to always be with the “in-crowd,” when I have done what I believed was best for myself or my children, it’s often led to my proudest moments. These are the things that will make epic stories for my great-grandchildren. These moments are where I became a hero and I cherish them. Like childbirth, the pain leading up to the event is easily forgotten – or at least glossed over.

I am purposely remembering the pain before these great moments in my life because this is really where my strength of character has been forged. If I’m lucky, the pain of the past few weeks will be rewarded with a new insight or awareness. Perhaps it will be the catalyst to launch me into a new life – one where my kids no longer play a central role.

Everything I Do

Here is one of my best moments: the birth of my first child – now my newlywed son. When I was 18, I decided that I had to avoid a c-section and began reading and researching everything I could get my hands on. Friends teased me mercilessly because this was a time when we were all going out dancing until 2AM every weekend. Still, I paid for a subscription to the Midwife News and continued my learning for eight years.

In the 80s, they were sectioning women like crazy. No one really saw the downsides and it was the “modern” way. My husband said “no way” to a homebirth so we hired a doula and I made a birth plan.

As so often happens when someone is as fearful as I was, things did not go well. It was a long 39 hour, mostly back, labour. Still, I avoided all drugs until the very end when they gave me laughing gas of all things. My son was born normally within a half hour of that but I still regret taking it.  I was so exhausted I had nothing left to fight with at that point. (NOTE: for baby #2, the midwife explained that fighting is NOT the way to go at all. You must surrender and accept the pain. Embrace it as “intense” rather than “painful.” Learning to surrender appears to be a lesson for me as well!)

Doc Shock

All of the pain of a long back labour was nothing compared to how difficult breastfeeding was, however. Thankfully, I had joined La Leche League before my son was born so was able to call on the more experienced women’s wisdom to get me through. At one point, when my son was about two months old and we’d been struggling, I brought him to the doctor’s because he had chicken pox. I told the doctor that he got it from me because I had a rash on my belly that had come in contact with him.

He looked at my rash and said, “Doesn’t that hurt?”

I said, “Oh, yeah! Sometimes it feels like someone has gutted me with a knife with a serrated edge and is sawing back and forth! But it’s nothing compared to my nipple pain.”

This surprised him and he asked to see what I meant. I pulled up my shirt and when I pulled my bra down, he gave a cry and leapt backwards. This was a man who had six children of his own and had been a doctor for I don’t know how long. I just smiled. He had no advice, I can tell you that.

Shingles is painful but it’s all perspective, yeah? I am so thankful for being the stubborn cuss I am and persevering through my son’s birth and successfully breastfeeding him. This took preparation, courage to go against the masses, and physical and mental endurance and strength.

Mothering Difficulties

The thing is: if you don’t stand up for your kids, who will? No one loves them as much or cares so intensely for their success and happiness as you do, except maybe their Father. Over and over again I’ve had to stick up for my kids when I just wanted to “go along to get along.”

Other people did not have my kid’s best interest at heart and I’d see that their motives were fiduciary or that they were following some central “policy” that someone without enough to do had come up with. Don’t let these people dictate your or your kids’ lives. They don’t know you and are just trying to impress their boss.

How to Be Troublesome

When my son was about four months old the public health nurse came to our area to see all the babies and make sure everyone was doing well. She was also to administer the MMR shot to all the babies two months old and up. (After the outcry over all of the adverse outcomes, Health Canada has quietly increased the age of the first dose to “12 to 15 months old.”)

I asked – very nicely – if the same dose is given to all babies, no matter how small they are. It was. My son was only just 12 pounds due to our tough start. I politely told the nurse that I would wait until he was larger. Is this not common sense? She grew annoyed with me and went off to see someone else, leaving me sitting at the table.

My chart was upside-down but I read what she’d written: “Mother is difficult.” I smiled, got up with my boy and left.

It wouldn’t be the last time I was labelled as “difficult.”

Thinking of You

This is me, who wants everyone to like her! Being branded as uncooperative and cast out for my views hurts me every time. Yet I am proud of these times when others have tried to browbeat me into something and I have stood firm. (Most recently: Bullies and Bastards: How to Get Fired and End Up Alone)

Going against the tribe is never easy but how could I do anything else than what I knew in my heart was best for my kids? It would be selfish for me to choose the easy way out and go along with the status quo when I had learned better. A quo that is proved to be foolhardy a few short years later. Sometimes worse than that as the people whose Mothers were given thalidomide during pregnancy can tell you. (Note, the deadline to apply for the new Canadian thalidomide program CTSSP is June 3, 2024: “Any individual who believes that they are a Thalidomide Survivor, including those previously denied under the 1991 EAP or the 2015 TSCP, can apply for assessment under the CTSSP. Click here for more information.”)

Home is Where the Heart Is

That’s how I began homeschooling, too. In our small town there was only one teacher per grade in the school. I went to an open house to meet her and saw a boy a few years older than mine get yelled at for not getting in line quick enough. Worse, the other kids, smelling blood, piled on and began chiding him, too. I saw his eyes and realized that he believed he was the “bad” kid. 

That was it. There was no way I would put my rambunctiousness son into a situation that would damage his spirit. I found a couple friends who had kids of similar ages and we embarked on the adventure of homeschooling. Was this easy? No. It became another test of perseverance and patience. Another societal rub where I was left out and ridiculed by the “cool” crowd in that small town. What was even tougher was watching my kids get punished for my decisions. Many nights I stayed up wondering if I was doing the right thing.

The Outsiders

When I think back on these decisions, I know they forged my character – and my children’s. Being an outsider, you see the clique for the shallow place that it is. You see the fear others have of breaking free of it and you see how their decisions are compromised in the name of conformity.

Being a parent is all about putting your own needs aside to meet those of your kids. Physical, mental, and especially emotional needs.

Sometimes, after my separation, my own suffering left me with nothing to be able to address theirs. They don’t let me forget this time that I “fell down” as a parent. My son was 24 and my daughter 18. I console myself by thinking that at least they have the courage to express this to me. They are not worried about losing my love over expressions of anger!

Practically, these last few years, I have helped both kids financially, with all kinds of paperwork or editing, or taken time off work to help them move. I have taken their needs into consideration with nearly everything I have done.

Being accused of selfishness as if nothing I’d done ever mattered shocked me to my core. Did they really believe my motives were selfish when they knew me better than anyone?

Fell On Black Days

Maybe they don’t know me all that well. As a parent, I work at trying to understand my kids. If I can discern their motivations, this is far easier. It isn’t really the job of a child to try to understand a parent. Perhaps none of us understand the sacrifices our parents made for us until we become parents ourselves.

Whenever things get really bad, I escape into my imagination with thoughts of the future. In the past, when I’d been up all night with a sick kid, yelled at by an angry neighbour, or have to stop the two kids from fighting, I used to dream about the kids as adults and how their relationship with each other would change. Some of my cherished memories are when my daughter, as a teenager, would call her brother and ask for his help.

Thinking of my son finding love and getting married was one of those events I played over and over again in my mind. When my son told me that he was getting married but that I couldn’t be there, my disappointment was tough to hide.


I was not included in any of the planning for the wedding because the bride had her own Mother and sister-in-law to plan with. I felt like I really didn’t have much of a place and this contributed to my uneasiness. There were a few small things I decided to work on for the wedding so that I could feel involved and ensure that my son and his new wife would feel special. I was determined to do a Toast to the Bride and Groom. Writing one that conveyed the right amount of humour, solemnity, and love so we could all toast to their health and happiness became my priority. I rewrote it many times and practiced it out loud for weeks to get it just right.

The kids had planned a small dinner after their wedding where I would have to sit at a table with their Dad and his partner. It is impossible for me to convey the level of anxiety I felt to be facing two openly hostile people at such an intimate gathering.

What Does Selfishness Look Like?

“You own everything that happened to you. Tell your stories. If people wanted you to write warmly about them, they should have behaved better.” — Anne Lamott

I don’t know anyone who has an ex as downright mean as I do. He used to tell me stories of how he’d bully others at school – something he was not proud of when he got older. We were together for 32 years and I loved his family as much as my own. We grew up with the same friends and raised the kids together. Sadly, since our split eight years ago, my ex has been an emotional bully towards me. Besides ignoring me if we are in the same room, he’s discouraged any of his family from contacting me, hosting me, or even speaking my name.

He did not tell me of my Brother-in-law’s funeral or when one of our good friend’s was, so that I missed them both. When my beloved Mother-in-law was dying, he did not bother to tell me and when my niece had cancer, I found out only offhandedly through the kids. I presume he did not want me to show up and make him and his girlfriend uncomfortable. For their comfort I will experience the pain of missing these things for the rest of my life.

Tables & Chairs

Over the years I have seen plenty of displays of his anger. Smashing several kitchen chairs during an argument, putting our adult nephew in a headlock (at a wedding, no less!), pinning my brother up against the wall by his neck, and shoving an old friend backwards in a bar so hard that he fell and hit his head were some of the worst. I believe he has learned to control his temper and now instead he uses subtler tactics. He has the nastiest resting bitch face of anyone I know. Except his girlfriend, perhaps.

Facing these two is like having your hood removed as the firing squad aims their rifles. I’ve faced these bastards down several times and this time, I was going in alone.

I have no partner who might quietly hold my hand under the table in a show of solidarity.

Shut up, Shut up, Shut up!

There were too many emotions for me to handle and I started fussing over irrelevant things. Both kids accused me of being selfish for worrying about my own needs instead of focusing on the happy couple.

My anxiety was interpreted as selfishness.

Defending yourself from an accusation of selfishness is an exercise in frustration. I was put in the uncomfortable position of having to look out for my own emotional needs. This is not my happy place and I don’t always express myself very well. It wasn’t that I wanted my own way – I was in full-on panic mode and wasn’t 100% sure I’d be able to pull off the calm, together demeanour I needed to.

What I really needed was understanding.

I got myself together and focused on being there for my son and soon to be daughter-in-law. I showed up. The toast went well and I was able to enjoy seeing my son’s happiness.

Make No Mistake: That’s a Freudian Slip

“A Freudian slip, or sometimes known as a parapraxis, is a verbal or memory mistake (a “slip of the tongue”) that is considered to be linked to the unconscious mind.”

At the wedding dinner, several people got up to make impromptu speeches, including my son’s new wife – my new Daughter-in-law.

She was nervous as she spoke and finally, looking directly at my ex and his girlfriend, thanked them both for raising such a great son.

I sat quietly. My heart pounded in my ears so loudly I couldn’t hear the rest of her speech. Afterwards my son leaned over and tried to make it right, as did my Daughter-in-law when she sat down.

Take the Long Way Home

On the drive home alone the next morning I went over and over the moment, wondering if I should have spoken up, rather than just sat there. If things had not been so tense, I would have made a joke.

Later I reflected on how odd it was that my most difficult and arguably most selfless achievement in raising my son was not acknowledged publicly in the one moment where it would have meant the most.

For me, there will be no victory lap.

Wake Up!

Something I did not see before has now been revealed: it doesn’t really matter who raised the kid, he is married now. I really don’t matter anymore. I never did. It was never about me.

The whole goal in raising kids is to work yourself out of a job, if you’ve done it right.

It’s time for me to let go.

Finding out what the kids really think of me has also been incredibly painful. It has set me free.

I need to focus on finding a life of my own and doing a 180°, according to Dr. Lani Nelson-Zlupko.

Starting over is something I’m getting good at.


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