I walked into his office and took a seat as he shut the door. I was meeting with the children’s lawyer for the first time over a month ago. In some family court cases such as mine, the ‘Office Of The Children’s Lawyer’ is requested to represent the children to get a further understanding about what is going on and to make sure the children have a voice of their own. My lawyer and I felt it was necessary in this case since it is such a toxic situation so we requested it and the request was granted by the court.
I remember as I was getting ready that morning to meet with him I was trying to give myself an inner pep talk. Don’t you dare cry in there! Don’t you freaking do it! Suck it up, you can do this…Please God don’t let me cry.
I have had a history of breaking down and being extra sensitive this year. Within the first 10 minutes of meeting with my own lawyer for the first time back in May I broke down ugly crying. She simply asked me to explain to her what had happened and within 30 seconds I was a blubbering heap in her office as she handed me a tissue. I was so embarrassed. A text message from my ex now and then would have the same effect. Back in October I went with a girlfriend of mine to a worship concert and near the end while everyone was standing and enjoying the music I was sitting in my seat trying not to let anyone notice that I was crying because I had just gotten an update from my lawyer from ‘his’ lawyer and also a text message from my ex at the same time and in that moment everything was so overwhelming I just wanted to scream.
Even moments at work, at church, watching a movie that hits close to home etc, I can feel my eyes start to well up and I have to give myself the pep talk all over again so that I don’t have a “moment” in public. I’ve always hated showing real emotion in public. I’ll do just about anything to avoid it. I’ve always found it easier to act like I don’t care than to be vulnerable. It doesn’t hurt as much that way, to be the first one not to care. That way I’m already prepared when the other person stops caring. I can be vulnerable at home, talking to God, but that’s it.
Back to the lawyers office now…
He introduced himself and what his role was in this whole thing and then he started asking questions and allowing me to give my side of things. I’m not sure how long it took exactly but it wasn’t long before ‘ole Miss Waterworks showed up again. I could feel the lump in my throat, my eyes starting to well up and my face starting to contort into the infamous “ugly cry”. Oh no! No, no, no, no, nooooo, I thought to myself. But it was of no use. The dam broke. Again. In total, I probably broke down in his office about 5 times. Feeling embarrassed. Again. I thought for sure that since it had been a year since “the incident” that surely I was way past the crying phase by now. Nope!
One of the times that I had broken down is when he kept reassuring me that I was a good mother. “Jen, you clearly love your kids. That’s an understatement. You seem to have done everything right. Taking them to church, trying to teach them good values etc. A bit overprotective perhaps but you’re a good mother! What you’ve instilled in them is still there. It might take them a few years to realize it but none of it is wasted. You’re a good mother!” He repeated that last line a few times I remember throughout our visit, making me break down all over again.
Hearing someone tell me out loud “You’re a good mother” was something that I think subconsciously I needed to hear. This entire year I have been feeling the opposite. I’ve been beating myself up over every little thing that I felt was a mistake I had made in raising my children. Believing the voices in my head that I did everything wrong. That if I would have done or said things differently that my boys would never have left me the way they did. That they would have wanted to stay. Maybe it was true that my boys are better off without me. Seeing other teenagers that still love hanging out with their mothers and thinking maybe I wasn’t “mother material” after all. I must have done a horrible job. Getting text messages from my ex husband didn’t help my self doubt and the negative thoughts that bombarded me day after day either.
It was hard for me to hear the children’s lawyers words. “You’re a good mother.” It was almost like my inner thoughts answered back, “I am? Really?” It’s like I didn’t believe him. I had been trying my best to act so tough just to make it through day after day. Trying to force myself to even forget that it ever happened. But I guess the truth is, when it comes to my children, I will always have that “mama bear” part of me. I’ve invested so much of my life, time, energy, resources into raising two little (big) men that of course it’s completely natural to want to rise up and fight. To defend what’s mine. I went back to school for them, to better myself. I worked countless different jobs that I didn’t even like just to provide for them. I gave things up that I wanted so that they could have what they needed. I pushed them to be better, to do better because I could see greatness in them. I was terrified and nervous about anything that I felt could possibly interfere with a great future for them. I wanted to keep them safe so I held them as close to my chest as possible, for as long as possible. Having children walking around out there in the “real world” without you is like walking around with all of your major vital organs exposed on the outside of your body. It’s terrifying.
Something that is equally terrifying to a lot of us, myself included is being vulnerable. To even admit that we’re hurting or struggling. We build walls up to avoid dealing with it or talking about it. Because God forbid we show emotion and everyone finds out that deep down underneath you’re not the “ice queen” that everyone thinks you are. That you actually have a soul, and a heart, even though it might be two sizes too small (Insert Christmas Grinch reference…see what I did there? ) from all the ugliness you’ve experienced. And every time you shed a tear over a broken heart you vow to yourself that you never want to feel that way ever again. But eventually, time has a way of pulling back the curtain and revealing to us that our tears, even the embarrassing ones, the vulnerable ones are a gift.
In shedding tears it proves that we once cared whole heartedly, loved unconditionally, and gave selflessly. And that is never something to be ashamed of.