For myself, as the parent of two children that have a long history with substance use and incarceration, I have often found it difficult when delivering hard truths to them to not want to apologize. As an advocate for the grandchildren we are raising, I oftentimes have to be the one that has to make the judgment call as to when communication needs to cease for a while; or, be the one who exposes some of the realities of raising children from hard places to the absent parent; and, I have struggled with wanting to apologize for hurting them. Weird isn’t it? Maybe it’s a parent thing, although to be honest the men in my world don’t seem to have as difficult a time as I do in wanting to spare feelings if possible. However, I am finally beginning to learn how not to apologize but it has been a challenge.
Each time that I have had to tell my daughter that the kids need a break from talking with her I have done so with trepidation because at the end of the day I do not want to bring her harm. Yes, I get the fact that she, through drug addiction or whatever, made choices (along with their bio father) that brought harm to the children, but she is still my daughter and I do not want to intentionally hurt her. Sometimes, because of the desire to not hurt feelings, I’ve procrastinated and put off or avoided the issue so that I did not have to say the words out loud. I know that when your adult child is incarcerated, they have a world of time to replay nuances and words in conversations that have been had. I can only assume that with all of that time to live inside your head, you analyze everything, conjure every scenario, and have few people (if any) that you trust enough to share your pain with. We must not forget that because our children are incarcerated, or maybe living a prodigal life with little communication with us, they live in a perpetual limbo and are at the mercy of what information that is shared with them. For myself, trusting my daughter with information related to specifics about the children has been a very hard, long process and truthfully we are still slowly walking that path towards each other. She has to learn to trust me and the fact that I am operating under the premise of what is in the best interests of these children and will do so unapologetically in order to guard them. I know that at the end of the day, she will have a long life to share with these children if she chooses when she is released. They need her healthy and in their lives. But until they are foundationally secure, we have to place the temporary barriers when needed.
As I’ve told my best friend, my sisters, my mother, the people who know me the best, I realize what she did. I realize the harm that was brought. I still do not want to add to her pain. Yet sometimes I have to. When I told her last week that we were taking a break again from communication I could feel the atmosphere between us on the phone change. I wanted desperately to apologize to her. But I didn’t. Finally I am learning not to. To apologize means that you are sorry for something that you did.
APOLOGIZE: to offer an apology or excuse for some fault, insult, failure, or injury
Here’s the thing: I’ve learned over years that it is not my job to apologize for exposing the reality of consequences of actions or inactions. It is not for me to work to mend relationships that are not mine. It is not for me to remove ownership of consquences or accountability for these children from whomever the fault lies. As I may have said before, those are things entirely above my pay-grade.
My job, however, is to continue to express my love for my children regardless of their feelings about me. I often remember that it is not any of my business, really, what anyone else thinks about me. That’s on them. I always cling to the hope that my children know that I love them beyond measure. That I would never intentionally bring them harm. That I only want the best for them. That I daily miss them. But I can’t keep apologizing to them for the things they chose. If I do that, then I can no longer effectively be an advocate for these two little people who depend on us, Joseph and I, to help them as they lay a foundation for a good life, hopefully a life in which they have eventually create their own relationships with their parents, one that brings them peace.
Our pastor has started a series on children. Divine intervention finally got me back in church last week, just in time for the first week. Today was as moving for me. I couldn’t stick around to visit because I was in tears and that is okay. God shows up for me even when I’ve refused to answer the door for him. He knew last week that another attempt ringing that doorbell to get my attention would be fruitful for me. I am thankful I answered the door. Church helps me feel like home and helps me realign when the outside forces (and sometimes inside my head voices) want to strip me of any accomplishment I may have made with my children. Neither of them are where I dreamed they would be, but they may just be exactly where God needs them to be.
I will keep fighting the good fight for these grands, while restoring, building, nurturing my relationship with my wayward children. God wrote this chapter in my life story. He will allow me the words I need each time I have to speak hard truths to my children. I’ve just got to hold on and remember that.
Ephesians 4:15 – Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ.
Romans 12:12 – Let your hope keep you joyful, be patient in your troubles, and pray at all times.