People have asked me, especially now that my daughter is 15, “How do you explain your past to your children?” My answer is, “I don’t.”
Bella has always been a curious child and I am very open and honest with her. There is no other way to be if I want her to live a life that is happy, joyous and free. The questions started when she was around age 4. Questions that most teenagers are asking their friends. At first, I was surprised. “Why is she even thinking about these things? Where would she have heard that word?” When I realized that none of that mattered, I was left with a decision. How do I respond and do I integrate lessons from my past with my answer? Nothing gets your prayer life started like unlocking a closet full of skeletons.
After 11 years of conversations with my daughter, here is what I know not to be helpful when treading through unknown territory.
1.) Too much, too soon.
Guilt is an interesting thing. It almost always goes hand in hand with fear. You can bet where there is guilt, there will be fear. I have several mama friends in recovery and we have all struggled with this. Just because your child asks, doesn’t mean they want a play by play. Only say as much as needed and speak from a place of wisdom. Reverting back to a time of rebellion will only end badly.
It’s okay to tell your child that you’re not sure how to answer their question and will have to give it a few moments of thought. Do not let them leave the conversation as you may never have the opportunity again. In that moment, ask God for clear direction.
Also, you don’t have to spill your guts in one sitting. Only address the things that pertain to the question/circumstances. If my child is talking about an eating disorder, I’m not going to focus on drug use.
2.) Not enough.
Just because you were a hellion, doesn’t mean your child will be. Don’t avoid the truth for fear of passing on the curse. You are not cursed. We all acted out to some degree. For some of us it was bringing home a B on our report card. For others…well…it was in a whole different realm of behaviors.
At some point your child is probably going to ask you, “Did you ever smoke pot? Drink before you were legal? Break curfew? Have sex? Get a tattoo? …You fill in the blank.
Some many people will disagree with me, but here goes…
When my children look me in the eyes and ask me a question, I answer them truthfully. To some, lying is “protecting.” No, lying is lying and once it starts it’s difficult to stop. Honesty saved me from a miserable life. It was difficult. I once lied about everything. Even when there was no cause to lie, I lied. It made getting honest foreign and all the more difficult, but so incredibly freeing on the other side.
If there is one thing I never want to be to my children, it’s hypocritical.
3.) The shame game
Shame is contagious. Make sure it ends with you.
I get it. It sucks having to come clean to a kid, but what’s even worse is hiding. Darkness leads to relapse (no matter what your vice). It’s not possible to hide in the light so take up residency there.
You may be afraid of what people will think. “I’ll never be invited to serve on the PTA or be in a moms club or lead a girl scout troop or make cookies for bible study…” Remember, if you are still looking to someone else to prove your worth, you will never “feel” good enough. Besides, most things are highly overrated in our minds.
Worried about your image? Ask yourself whose image you are shadowing. I know that I am created in the image of a God who loves me and has a great plan and purpose for my life. When I think about His image, my confidence is restored and I no longer fear the actions of man.
I can’t tell you how much is too much or how little is not enough. Even if I knew your story, I couldn’t decide that for you. I would encourage you to pray. Ask God to guide your thinking. He gives us what we need when we need it and it works out as it should. It sounds simple, because it is, but it is far from easy. Examine your motives, asking yourself, “Why do I feel the need to share this? Is it helpful? Will it only make me feel better for the few moments I am sharing it, but lead down a path I never intended?”
Most importantly, for me at least, speak from a place of love, gratitude and hope. Be a living, breathing example that no one is beyond redemption. Do not overlook consequences or give permission. Do be
In the end, love always wins.
- Moms Should Learn to Trust, Not Bully, Each Other (thebump.com)
- laughing with my mom (busymindthinking.com)
- Un-shouldering the Guilt that Doesn’t Belong to Me (courage20secondsatatime.wordpress.com)
- Recovery (mylifeincalories.wordpress.com)
Pingback: It’s not you, it’s me | Even A Girl Like Me
I have always been honest with my boys. I make sure they know that I made mistakes – some huge, some lesser – but the reality is that God is the ultimate one that we all answer to and He has giving us a path and direction to follow. When we veer off that path, there will be consequences – some huge, some lesser – but there are always marks and consequences. They are great boys that make small mistakes and learn from them. I am so proud of who God is in their lives and so thankful that He brings in so many mentors for me to learn from, to help them grow into the men that He has made them to be.
Whether you went all the way down the path or just took a few hundred steps and turned back, the Rescuer has given you a redemption story and to hold it back from your kids is not showing His glory in your story.
I love your paragraph about telling them too much! You don’t have to be graphic to get across a picture. Sometimes the generalities are enough for them to create their own picture of where you have been and where God has rescued you from.
Love it, Joy!
I admire this about you; your willingness to be open and honest about yourself. Not many are. I agree with everything you said. I believe this course will always result in a deeper relationship. We deeply want to know the ones we love. We know if there are things we do not know and that will always be a road block to the deepest relationship. While I do not think one needs to give a blow by blow account one has to give enough for the other to know they know the truth about whatever it is even if they do not know every detail. Hell I do not remember every detail myself. 🙂
I think one becomes more real when their flaws are known. I think most people wonder this about others “who are you when no one is looking”. To know someone like that I think is a gift and I think it is a gift to be known and loved when what is known is all the ugly and the dark and the good. To know you are loved when someone knows all the dark about you is wonderful.
Thank you so for sharing and being an encouragement all the time.