The rocking chair

I rocked my daughter to sleep tonight. She sat cradled in my arms, and we sang together.

“Rock a bye baby, on the tree top …”

Our rocking chair creeks and we sway forward and back.

“Rock” – creek – “a bye” – creek – “baby” creek…

And the right arm is broken.

“On” – wobble – “the” – wobble “tree” – wobble…

The chair was a gift, handed down from when my parents moved from my childhood home. I remember the chair sitting in a corner of my parent’s bedroom. The slider door on the left, and the chair on the right.

I remember the last time I was rocked. My legs ached from growing pains. My mom held me and rocked me until the pain subsided.

And I remember the chair in pieces. The arm on the floor. A crack where it was once afixed to the seat. He broke it the day of the big fight. And after that, things were different.

When we came home from going away the chair was glued back together. But the image of it in pieces is fused in my mind.

I thought about not taking the chair. But the idealist took over. “A loving home can make it right!” I thought enough rocks could ease the painful memories.

It hasn’t though. I rock, and it creaks. And instead of taking me back to a place of peace, I go back to hiding under the pool table. And instead of seeing my daughter’s face, I see shards of wood strewn across the floor.

My husband tried to fix the arm. But the glue wouldn’t stick. I lean forward, and the wobble gets worse. I know one day I’ll lean hard enough and it will totally break.

I hate that chair. I stare at it, and see that no amount of love can fix it.

Wayfair had a sale. Rocking chairs – 50% off. I put it on the credit card. It will be here in a few days.

Maybe I’ll regret it. But no one else asked for the chair. No one has else tried to keep it. We tried to glue it all together and it all fell apart.

When the new one comes, I’m not sure what we’ll do. A fire? A baseball bat? A slow dismantle and tears? A simple move to the basement? I just don’t know.

All I know is that I can’t look at it anymore. And in a few days, I won’t have to.

On the sins of our fathers…

Pastor John explained it to us. “We all inherit the sins of our fathers. Sin is passed down from generation to generation.” At the time, I thought of the notion of inherited sin like a genetic pre-disposition. Like my mother’s brown hair, I inherited the wrongs she committed.

Becoming a mother has drastically changed how I view most of the world. I drive a lot slower, because I want to make sure Carly’s mom makes it home every night. I rush less, because nothing is as important as my family. I also view my parents much differently.

If I yell at Carly, how does that shape her as a person? If I feed her certain foods, what will happen to her as she grows? Am I doing things that help her become better? Or am I making choices that will damage her? When I think of what terrifies me as a parent, a great fear that strikes me is the idea that I could make a choice, or a series of choices, that would cause Carly to dislike me as her mother. I can imagine few things more painful than a child hating a parent, when the parent was trying their best.

Alcoholism is the sin of my family. No, I don’t mean drinking occasionally. I mean that when you look at my family tree, many members have struggled to deal with the influence of alcohol in their lives. For some, it was an occasional misgiving that lead to a few apologies. For others, it meant their children were left at home alone while mom and dad drank the day away at a bar. Alcohol is not the devil, but alcoholism can be.

I often wondered whether my personal branch of the alcoholism tree would be hit with similar misgivings. Would I inherit a great grandparent’s taste for drinking? Fortunately – I did not.

Before I can remember, I had heard stories of my father struggling. Fortunately for me, he overcame that struggle. As a little girl, I cannot recall a time where I saw my mother or father drinking or drunk. The only time I recall alcohol in the house was when we bought it for guests staying over. When I think of my father, I will never think of him as an alcoholic. His choices were a gift to my memory of him. His choices also meant that Carly will never have to grow up with a mother who struggles with alcohol.

My grandmother fought many struggles. When my mother asked her about her parenting choices, grandma responded with, “I did the best I could with what I had.” My parents have failed in some of their choices with my brothers and I. As a new mother, it humbles me to see that I will fail as well. Every parent will make choices they wish they could redo.

It would be so easy to write off every person who ever hurt us. It takes so little effort to see ourselves as victims. That perspective denies our own power and removes us from the accountability we should take for our own choices. Yes, our parents influenced us, but at the end of the day each of us is accountable for our own actions.

To me, inherited sin is the choice we make – or stop making as parents to our children. We chose peace over anger. We chose calm over yelling. We chose sobriety instead of drinking. While we may struggle with some sins more than others, we can overcome what we have seen in the generation before us. Parents are just people, and all people will fail at some things. Sin and failure are why Christ gives us grace. I hope and pray that where I see failure in others, I also grace abundant. Because some day, Carly will look at me with as much judgement as I have looked at others. In that moment, I hope she sees a person who did the best she could with what she had.

On trying to become a parent…

All ages have stages.

In my early twenties it was becoming an adult. What career are people choosing? In my mid twenties, it was the marriage stage. Every few months there was a new wedding to attend. As I near age thirty-two, I’ve moved into the parenting stage.

Every stage has phrases people warn you about. In those early twenties it was, “The real-world is tough.” In my late twenties it was that “Marriage is hard.” Now, it is “Parenting is really hard.” So as I’ve entered each stage I’ve expected a certain degree of toughness.

With all the humility I can muster, I must agree that parenting seems to be the most challenging phase. And I’m divorced.

I do not have children of my own. Yet, most of my friends are in different stages of either trying to become parents or trying to go through parenting.

Many of my friends have one or more children. Brandy had her son a little over a year ago. Bri has two kids, Mandy has two kiddos, and Heidi had her son a few months ago.

When it comes to the parenting stage, it seems to me that all I’ve been warned about is how hard it is to be a parent. There are other portions that people forget to mention.

Not a single word was uttered about stillbirths. I have no words for such tremendous grief.

Few gave warnings about miscarriages, and the tears my friends cried over an entire life that seemed to go away faster than it came.

No one gave me any warning about the infertility part, and watching my friends learn that bearing a child would become a dream deferred.

Vomiting. Emotional swings. Rips, tears, stretches, and hospital bills. Pregnancy and bearing a child…. Again… I don’t have the adequate words.

Postpartum depression. The dark cloud that hangs over a time many hope is filled with joy.

And, last, no one warned me about the emotional ups and downs of trying to conceive a child.

Me, and several of my friends, are in the last group.

Each month passes, and to me, it feels like a small failure. I know that trying to conceive pales in comparison to death, a miscarriage, or infertility. Yet, it’s a part of becoming a parent that I hear so little about.

Everyone says that trying to conceive is fun. And that’s true – it is. But as time passes, joy starts becoming angst. They say that after 12 months you might be infertile, and testing is recommended. As we slowly edge closer to that time, I start to ask those questions that everyone in their thirties might ask. “Did I wait too long? Did I do something wrong? Do we buy more tests? What do we do?”

To be totally honest – the first month I got my period after Del and I decided to start trying to conceive, I cried the entire day. I closed my office door and cancelled two meetings. I never thought I’d react this way, because I did not realize I wanted motherhood so much until I saw those little drops of blood.

A while ago I was reading a blog from someone who suffered a miscarriage. She said that her greatest regret was that she did not tell more people she was pregnant. She regretted that, because then when she miscarried she suffered alone. No one knew why she was crying at her desk at work.

Trying to conceive is not a miscarriage, but trying to live alone in an emotional time period is something we all do.

We think, “Why share my suffering, if others suffer more?” We tell ourselves, “My burden is too great to share with others.”

Those are lies the devil tells us to keep us alone. If he can convince we are alone, he will take us from all that we love.

Christ died for us all. He died for the rich and the poor. He died for those that live in happiness, and those that are suffering. In him, we are never alone.

I’ve been emotional lately. My body and my mind feel like they’re swinging through phases I didn’t know existed. But I am not alone. And if you’re reading this, I hope you know that you are not alone either.