“There’s a lot of water under the bridge,” she said to me.
“As long as there is still a bridge, I’m happy.”
“The bridge is still there, believe me,” was the reassuring reply.
It triggered a swell of emotion
Hope and fear, swimming in the ocean
of tears filling my eye.
I spent a little bit of time this afternoon with my son and his new fiancee. She and I have known each other and talked at different times in the past, but have had very little interaction overall and almost none in the past ten years. They officially started dating a few weeks ago and my son informed me last week that it isn’t a casual, fill in the time relationship, it’s the real deal and they are working toward a future together.
My relationship with him is very strained and difficult, for a lot of reasons on both our parts. As a matter of fact, he recently referred to me in on a social networking site as his incubator and another woman as his mother. He removed that statement from public view within a very short period after a conversation with a mutual friend/acquaintance, and I’ve chosen to not confront him on that issue, since I understand where he’s at, what he’s going through, and the history that was behind that statement. Regardless, it really hurt me to know that he genuinely feels that way about me, at least some of the time. That feeling gets compounded whenever I check his profile page and see those who are listed as his family members and see my name among the general list of friends. I try not to torture myself by doing that very often.
I think back to when I was his age and trying to heal, grow, and change from the messed up character I was into the person I longed to be. There was a lot of shame and blame, fault and victim thinking that went on. I was intelligent and able to very rationally connect the dots on what people should and shouldn’t do and how those responsible for my care and nurture should have done this or that different. I had a lot of contempt and near-hatred for them and how their choices and faults had affected me. There was a deep and abiding lack of respect for them and I thought I knew better than they what needed to be done in order to fix their lives, but they were just too this, that or the other thing and I just needed to write them off. That is the exact same kind of thinking and mentality I see in him and his attitudes toward me.
What I know is that over time I have grown from contempt into compassion. I have come to understand and accept more about myself and my past, which has allowed me to look at those people with new understanding, new eyes, and a new heart. I believe that can happen and will happen with him as well. It’s a long road to travel from 25 to 42, and I want to make sure I’m there on it with him and available to him as he travels it. So, I work to be careful in how I respond to the things he says and the way he says them. I work to make sure he sees I have a new way of coping with things that is saner and more constructive than what he grew up with. I work to accept that his ability to receive, accept, and respond to my efforts is out of my control and trust the journey we are both on.
In the meantime, despite my best intentions, not so deep inside I tend to harbor the harpy of disillusionment and despair. She will screech that the people in his life who know of me or knew me briefly back in the day, surely have a poor opinion of me. Which is part of the reason why I didn’t friend request my future daughter in law at the time my son informed me of the status change in their relationship.
Today they came to pick up the littlest sister, who has been cooped up with me for over a week because she’s been sick with the kiddy flu. They showed up early because I had let him know I needed to talk to him about something important. I am in a position where he will have to be a character reference for me in a matter regarding the children of other family members, because he is my adult child. I have very little confidence in what his recommendation will be, but, that is out of my control. I just didn’t want him to be blindsided if he was contacted and I wanted to be clear with him that I did not expect him to say anything that wasn’t true according to his experience. That was a fairly stiff and stilted conversation. Thankfully, it was only about 30% of the total conversation we had.
There were some light-hearted topics, including some reminiscing of times past. There was also a brief mention of the elephant in the room – my status/role as his mom – when they told me they are looking to get married sometime in January. I thanked them for sharing their plans with me considering my out of the fold position. Admissions and reassurances were alluded to, but we didn’t go very deep into the topic at all. During part of this conversation, there were a couple of potentially snarky remarks from him toward me, but I didn’t even pay them any attention. She, however, did and the brief exchanges were illuminating. Basically, she subtly but unmistakably chastised him for being disrespectful toward me. It kind of shocked me that a) she would come to my defense and b) that he would respond favorably. Not sure I agree with how it happened, but it’s their relationship to figure out, not mine to judge.
As they were preparing to go and my son followed his sister into her room to get ready to depart, I said something about going ahead and friend requesting my DIL to be. She responded with a smile and very graciously stated that I could have done that weeks ago. I just said it was fine, that I have been trying to give him the space he needs. The outcome of this conversation is what shut the harpy up and inspired the opening lines of this post.
We live in the city of bridges. All three of us are believers in and followers of Jesus – who is the bridge between God, us, and each other. Now it seems, she, my future daughter in law, is willing to work to shore up the bridge between me and my son. I am grateful.