Secret Gifts and Unspoken Feelings

Drake and Josh have been part of my life for more than four and half years.  During that time, we’ve built manageable relationships between us.  I try to walk a fine line between being an individual and playing my part in my partnership with their father.  I don’t want them to see me only as “Dad’s Chick”.  I also don’t want them to think of me as an insignificant outlier in our family.  It’s an exhausting dance.

Over the years, I’ve witnessed enough to know that the boys struggle in their relationships with me as well.  For that reason, I tend to withdraw and give them additional space.  I don’t sit in the front row at their events.  And I don’t hug them or tell them that I love them.  I don’t want to further ignite any of their internal conflicts about me (which have less to do with me and more to do with their mother).  Some mommies might describe this as “knowing my place”, but I disagree.  For me, it’s really about being sensitive to the boys’ situation.

All of that being said, I do love them.  I feel fortunate to have them in my life and I enjoy seeing them grow and change.  And I wanted to tell them all of this without having to endure some kind of uncomfortable mushy moments that might cause them to withdraw from me.

One day I was card shopping and I found the perfect cards for them.  Each was blank inside with a different motivational quote on the front.  I bought them.  And for a month they sat on a shelf while I thought about what to write in them.  In the meantime, I searched for gifts to accompany the verbiage.

I finally decided to buy each of them a journal for kids.  Inside the cards, I wrote about how lucky I feel to be watching them grow up.  I expressed my appreciation for Drake’s athleticism and Josh’s sensitivity.    I acknowledged some of our struggles and explained my feelings.  And I encouraged them to use the journals as a way to get to know and celebrate themselves.  I enclosed new pencils, wrapped the journals, sealed the cards and left the packages on each boy’s bed.

I said nothing of this to the kids and last Friday evening, Josh was first to find his.  I heard the paper rustling in his room and I stayed away.  A few minutes later, he emerged and stood in the hallway- bent over with his hands on his knees.  He looked stressed.  I asked if he was OK and he said he was… then he disappeared down the stairs.

From where I was, I heard Drake ask what was wrong.  Josh’s reply was, “Tara left a note in my room.”

Drake’s natural response was, “What did it say?”

Josh told him, “You might have one too.  You should go check.”

With that, Drake jogged up the stairs and disappeared into his bedroom.  A few minutes later it was time for us to take a trip to the supermarket.  Drake came out of his bedroom and didn’t say a word.  Neither of them said anything, so I didn’t either.

On Saturday night, Boyfriend had to run an errand after dinner and the boys and I didn’t want to tag along.  Drake suggested we do science experiments with food and I agreed that sounded like a fun idea.  After trying several experiments, we made chocolate chip cookies.  We had a good time.  Just the three of us.  And still, nobody spoke of the cards and journals.

Saturday night, I read a bedtime story to Josh.  When the tale was over, I closed the book, stood up and said goodnight.

“Wait,” he pleaded.  “Can you stay and talk to me for a little?”

“Sure,” I told him, thinking he was going to say something about his present.  But I was wrong.  Josh was still upset about a prank that Drake had played on him earlier in the evening.  He didn’t think he’d be able to sleep.  I sat and talked to him for a little while and then went to bed.

Sunday came and in the evening we took the kids back to their mother’s house.  As always, they hopped out of the car with a few quick good-byes and then they were gone.

“They never mentioned the journals,” I told Boyfriend.

Both Drake and Josh left the journals and the cards in plain sight in their bedrooms.  They weren’t hidden and they weren’t trashed… they were simply set aside.  Kinda like what I do with the mail when I think, I’ll spend more time with this later.  At first I was a little hurt that they didn’t acknowledge the gifts.  Boyfriend has suggested I talk to them about it… but I think I’ll keep quiet.  I know they got the message and there was no negative backlash.  We had a good weekend and we had fun together.  That’s good enough for me.  Perhaps the topic will come up in the future…even if it doesn’t, they know how I feel.  And there was no awkwardness in the communication.

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4 comments on “Secret Gifts and Unspoken Feelings

  1. backonmyown says:

    Wow, Tara! Beautifully done. You are a mom in every sense of the word.

  2. Perry says:

    Having experienced this myself, the read I get is this; They can’t take them home for fear of how mom will react. They didn’t throw them out or hide them away so they liked the gift. They just aren’t old enough yet to know how to safely say thank you and show appreciation to you without thinking “what if mom finds out”? It’s horrible when kids are burdened with second guessing every action they take or how a simple thank you or I love you will affect an alienating parent. You did good. Keep it up. One day you will wake up and realize hugs and kisses and thank you’s are flowing freely. Until then, just keep being you.

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