Children: Gifts not Property

Image courtesy of Nutdanai Apikhomboonwaroot/

“Children are a gift from the Lord; they are a reward from him.” Psalm 127:3

On Wednesday of this week my daughter, the one whose children I’m raising, celebrated her birthday. I did not reach out to her. I wondered if she’d try to contact me. She didn’t, but did message my granddaughter later that night.

The last time I heard from my daughter was Mother’s Day. She hadn’t known it was Mother’s Day until someone mentioned it. She was an hour away and didn’t know when she’d get back that day but wanted to see the kids. I tried to figure out how to work with her, but she got angry when I asked questions about her schedule instead of automatically saying yes.

I tried to reach her a few days before Mother’s Day to arrange something. I messaged the last two phone numbers I’d had for her, but it turns out she no longer has those numbers. That happens a lot with addicts.

Long story short, she got angry because I was trying to figure out when she’d be back in town and actually suggested meeting in a day or two because she couldn’t give me an answer.

When she gets angry, she rants at you. It’s ugly. I tried a few times to talk with her but ended up hanging up on her. It was my Mother’s Day, too, after all.

Her response? She called my granddaughter. I could hear her crying and yelling over the speaker of V’s phone even though she was in her room with the door shut. V gave simple responses, two or three words at most. I wanted to tell her to hang up on her mother, but I didn’t know if I should or not. How was she taking her mother’s attack on me? Did she want to see her mom? Did she agree with her? Would my interference push her in that direction? Luckily, her brother was outside and missed the histrionics.

Turns out V didn’t feel much compassion for her mom. That’s sad. My heart breaks for my grandchildren. I grew up with two loving parents. They were amazing. My grandchildren have us.

Before you comment on how lucky or blessed they are to have us, please don’t. That’s one of my least favorite comments from friends who mean well. They aren’t lucky. They don’t live with their parents. To them, it feels like their mom chose drugs over them. Even during the periods when she’s clean and working (there have been a few), she still doesn’t stick to it long enough to regain custody. Deep inside, they probably wonder if she loves them.

I wonder that, too. I think she’s unable. It’s common for addicts to lose the ability to love or feel empathy or compassion. Drugs change your brain. Everything becomes a means to an end. She claims she loves them, but her actions, when she is around them, come across as territorial. They are hers. Her children. Not mine. She doesn’t understand the blessings and responsibilities that come with parenting. Children aren’t possessions. They are souls we’ve been asked to love and nurture.

My husband and I do what we can. It’s not easy. Children of addicts often have ADHD, and these two are no different. There are other aspects of their neuro wiring that make raising them a challenge.

Although it’s a challenge, I don’t dream of the day my daughter will straighten up and do the right thing. I, actually, worry that she’ll do just enough to convince a judge she’s capable of raising her children. She’s not, and she never will be.

Don’t get me wrong. I believe she’s capable of getting help and straightening up her life if she chooses to do so. I have said many prayers for that, but I don’t try to pray for specifics with her anymore. I don’t reach out to her anymore. I hand her over to God.

Do I miss her? No. Except for days like Wednesday when you can’t help but recall the day your child came into the world.

Recently, a sister from my church said it best: “I don’t suppose you have maternal feelings toward her anymore.”

YES! That’s exactly how I feel.

Many of you are probably struggling with that idea and can’t fathom not having parental feelings toward your children. In fact, another friend overhearing this conversation rejected my response. She insisted I had maternal feelings toward my daughter. She can’t relate and rather than recognize my relief that someone understood, she told me I was wrong. Her path with her children didn’t hit this wall, so she doesn’t know.

As the verse at the beginning of this post says, children are a gift. But children become adults who must make their own decisions. As parents, we raise them to make the right ones, but, and this is the hard part, we have no control over what they choose to do once given their freedom. I would have steered my daughter clear of that wall if I controlled her life. I don’t have that control. Neither does God. We have choice, free will. Not every person chooses the right path.

If you can’t relate to my lack of maternal feelings, be glad, but be aware many parents do know exactly what I mean. It doesn’t hurt, except a little on her birthday. It just is.

The Forgotten On Mother’s Day

Image courtesy of Pixabay

This is a post from four years ago. It’s been on my mind a lot this week, so I’m repeating it here.

This weekend, we celebrate Mother’s Day. It’s not my favorite day because most of mine have not gone well.

Instead of whining about my issues with this day, I want to encourage you to notice the women who get sidelined or find it hard to enjoy this day.

Father of the fatherless and protector of widows is God in his holy habitation.
Psalm 68:5

As you remember your mother, wife, grandparents, or any other women in your life who answer to “Mom” please try to share a kind thought or blessing with any you know who are:

Childless:  Many women want children and can’t have them. This can be a tough day for them.

Single Moms: Most children learn to celebrate Mother’s Day through their fathers. Without a father to guide them, children of single moms don’t always recognize the significance of this day.

Military Wives:  These women have the same problem as single parents if their husbands are deployed.

Stepmothers: They get a bad wrap thanks to fairy tales. Any woman who willingly marries a man with children does so with plans to embrace the lives of those children. That doesn’t mean those children remember them on Mother’s Day.

Grandmothers Raising Grandchildren: Most of them did not sign up for this. They’ve already parented one generation of children and were not anticipating doing it again.

Mothers Who Have Lost Their Children: I can’t begin to imagine the pain they experience.

Mothers Whose Children Don’t Contact Them: Estrangement from a child hurts. This is that little baby they carried and doted on.

Mothers Whose Children Live Too Far Away: They tend to understand the problems brought on by distance, but it still makes for a lonely Mother’s Day.

Women Who Have Lost Their Mothers: It’s been four years since I lost my mom and shopping for Mother’s Day cards is bittersweet. I, always, find the perfect one for her.

Single Dads: Single dads play the part of mom, they have no choice.

Widowers:  Whether their children remain at home or are grown, they miss the woman they used to honor on this day.

I’m sure there are others who belong on this list. Find them and wish them a good day. If you have time or the means, treat them to lunch or a mani-pedi or give them a break from the kids for a few hours. They will appreciate it more than you know.

A version of this post originally ran on May 5, 2017.

New Year: Sacrifices and Blessings

It’s a new year. Last year, we made a big deal about good riddance to 2020. This year, I got the sense that most people held back on their hopeful proclamations. Although 2021 wasn’t as harsh as 2020, it still didn’t offer the relief many hoped for.

I get the desire to mark the beginning of a new year as a season of hope, but I’ve always felt that was silly. Dates have little to do with my day-to-day life. I mark the new year just because it falls so soon after Christmas.

If I look at things based on the calendar year, I can say 2020 and 2021 offered a lot of blessings for me. Yes, the world dealt with, and continues to deal with, Covid. I know many who have suffered great losses during this time. Personally, things have not gone well with my daughter whose children I’m raising. My husband began to deal with health issues that put a monkey wrench in some of our Christmas plans. I could dwell on the negative aspects of those two years without anyone questioning me.

Yet, it wasn’t all horrible. Wonderful things did happen. I published three books over those two years and won Best Fantasy Novel for the first one. I attended conferences as an invited guest instead of an attendee. I made lots of new friends. My daughter became engaged in a very theatrical way that suits her personality. The move from in-person corporate training workshops to virtual ones healed my feet of the agonizing pain of plantar fasciitis.

So, I could dwell on the negative, but I have plenty of positives to focus on. I’d rather view the passage of time in that light instead.

In the Bible, God gave the Israelites a calendar to go by. It contained festivals and rites and times of sacrifice. He used these events to remind them of what God did and continued to do for them.

In Exodus 23: 14-19, God instructs the Israelites about three festivals:  The Festival of Unleavened Bread, the Festival of Harvest, and the Festival of Ingathering.

“Three times a year you are to celebrate a festival to me. “Celebrate the Festival of Unleavened Bread; for seven days eat bread made without yeast, as I commanded you. Do this at the appointed time in the month of Aviv, for in that month you came out of Egypt. “No one is to appear before me empty-handed.  Celebrate the Festival of Harvest with the first fruits of the crops you sow in your field. Celebrate the Festival of Ingathering at the end of the year, when you gather in your crops from the field. Three times a year all the men are to appear before the Sovereign Lord. Do not offer the blood of a sacrifice to me along with anything containing yeast. The fat of my festival offerings must not be kept until morning. 

These festivals reminded them of the blessings God provided. Two of them are to celebrate, not to look back. The Festival of Unleavened Bread does look back, but it looks back toward a joyful time of release from bondage.

God repeats this instruction in Exodus 34, almost to the word. We could spend a lot of time on why it’s repeated, but I’ll only note that Exodus 23 occurs before the golden calf and Exodus 24 after.

In Leviticus, God gives instruction to Moses on sacrificial offering. The directions provide clear, albeit difficult, steps to follow. In some way, I can see the Israelites taking comfort in these rituals. In Leviticus 16, he gives specific directions about the Day of Atonement, ending the direction with this summary:

“This is to be a lasting ordinance for you: On the tenth day of the seventh month you must deny yourselves and not do any work-whether native-born or a foreigner residing among you- because on this day atonement will be made for you, to cleanse you. Then, before the Lord, you will be clean from all your sins. Leviticus 16:29-30

Several chapters later in Leviticus, God provides instruction of feasts, including the Passover.

Why am I noting this? God set up a calendar for His people. He marked it with special events and processes that reminded them of their salvation in God. These events reminded them of His blessings and of their shortcomings, but this calendar gave them hope. It gave them a way to move forward beyond sin.

It may feel like we don’t have the same experience in today’s world. We don’t offer sacrifices in the way the Israelites were commanded to do. Jesus’ sacrifice changed how we look at forgiveness of sin. Even though we don’t hold these feasts, every Sunday Christians come together to worship Him and remember the ultimate sacrifice through the Lord’s Supper. Maybe celebrating a new year as a season for looking forward with hope is not far from what God planned for us, after all.

So, I’m rethinking my attitude of not looking at January 1 as a day to mark with anticipation for what’s to come. This year, I’m thankful for blessings in the past and hoping for blessings in the coming year. How about you?