Here, I am Being Ruined by Parenting

Here, I am Being Ruined by Parenting September 10, 2013

rn smiling on the beach

I was editing a few beach pictures the other day.  We’d taken a mini staycation for Labor Day weekend to South Haven, MI.  We live about 45 minutes away from one of the most beautiful shorelines in the States: Lake Michigan on the Michigan side.  The beauty of this particular giant body of water is that the sand is always soft, the water is always blue and absolutely NO SHARKS or precarious creatures that live in salt water.  The biggest fresh water lakes in the world don’t lie.  They really are fabulous.  I digress.

sand play on the beach

As I was editing these pictures my heart numbed over a little bit.  I’d taken several hundred and I’d whittled it down to just a few to edit when I noticed there was only one mostly acceptable picture of my sons & I.  Neither were looking, my husband hadn’t done much to procure a look over at him and definitely not big smiles.  The picture was forced, stuffed in the middle of “c’mon Mama, another picture?!” and “we should get going now,” and various huffing and puffing.

dave and r2

I thought, in part, that’s why this particular group of shots made me sad, but it was something else all together.

It was the one of my oldest son & I.  I’d been trying to tell Dave how to take the picture, “hold it half way down until it focuses,” & “you can pull the view finder out,” & “it’s okay if it’s a little dark, I can edit it later,” & “are we both looking?”  He took about 4 pained images each one fuzzier than the last, each one with it’s own set of significant problems.  He looks sad & unengaged.

r1 and daddy

not paying attention

This out-of-focus catastrophe of a picture (bottom below) felt like the image to express the 1,000 words of grief and anguish I feel over my children.  The longings I feel to be near them while holding in tension my need to let them grow up.  The rage that burns in my heart when I hear another child has pushed my own yet knowing the wisest move is to teach him to learn to respond appropriately.

rhysie takes the leap

But the biggest of all is the fear of losing them.  Not just to a car accident or a freak fall though those fears are always present, but the fear of them one day noticing I have abdonement issues.

Will they see how scared I am?  Will they wonder why I didn’t do better more often?

rhys jump 2  As babies, I had no doubt of their love and absolute adoration.  I had no doubt of my ability and willingness to cross the 7 seas for any need they had.

rans big step

But now, here I am with all of these fears and feelings of inadequacy.

Now, here I am wanting to be nearer, yet wanting to be farther.

Here, I am holding my breath at each little jump, each little risk.

Here, I am being ruined by parenting.  Here, I am smushed all over the proverbial rocks like a capsized ship.

Here, I am scared-to-death of these two little people who could die or choose their father or decide not to stick around or find me un-respectable or un-worthy of their love.

Here, where the fear is so stifling, so suffocating the only logical option is to jump ship first.

ransom jumping

Just like the image, my heart and emotions become so out of focus, so rooted in fear its hard to see reality clearly.

All I know is this: I love my children yet I never meant to be here. 

daves mug

Here, where the weight of my mistakes over the years weigh so heavily & the ramifications on my children are so uncertain.

I’m unsure whether to blame myself or congratulate myself for pulling my shit together.

the out of focus one.

It’s heartbreaking, this out-of-focus image here.

Here, where my weary heart tells me this picture is a true reflection of my relationship to my boys but where my soul & spirit begs me not to believe it.


Linking with Heather and Emily for Just Write Tuesday.


****I once read someone say they loved how Ann Voskamp took photos & then later decided what to write in between them.  I tried that today.  I’d all ready uploaded the photos into the post.  I was going to share them without words, maybe next week.  But tonight, the weight of that image laid so heavy on my heart I decided to try it AV style****

Browse Our Archives

Follow Us!

TRENDING AT PATHEOS Progressive Christian
What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • This is precious. It’s my first time to visit your blog, but I bet your children know, and will always know the depth of your love.
    PS, love that you blogged “AV” style. 🙂

    • Glad to have you, Kelli! Thanks for stopping in & leaving in a comment. Nice to “meet” you! =)

  • Love this, Grace. Thanks for being so vulnerable.

    • Thanks so much, Nate. Appreciate your writerly encouragement.

  • Natalie Hart

    Oh yes, those feelings of inadequacy — they’re always there, either active or lurking. And I get the loneliness of needing to hand the camera to your husband so you can prove that you were actually *there* and not just the person documenting the event, and not being happy with any of the pictures. Oh believe me, I totally get that.

    But I do want to point something out about the photos. The ones of your kids, and the best one of your husband and son, are all active pictures. They are about the joy of doing, of doing stuff together outside, not the joy of posing. Because, as you say yourself, sometimes the kids are tired, or they’d rather be off doing than standing there posing so the grownups can get the happy-looking photo they want. Maybe instead, hand your husband the camera and ask him to take pictures of you digging that trench in the sand with your boys. Or jumping off the little wall with them. Of doing stuff with them. The pictures may still not be as good as the ones you take, and you may not have that luminous smile in them, but I daresay they’d be a more accurate reflection of you and your boys together, and of that afternoon, than a posed shot, no matter how cheerful everyone looks in it. And you would’ve had more fun in the actual afternoon. So I guess what I’m suggesting is that some of your grief over the blurry picture reflects you wanting to impose a particular image of what mother-child love should look like. The blurry picture does not reflect the level your child’s love for you. Maybe his irritation at being asked to pose when all he wants to do is play. But not his love. (Also, I find that I like selfies I take of me and the kids better than almost any photo my husband takes of me and the kids.)

    • Dave

      Actually, many times when you’ve been doing something with the kids, I’ve pulled out my camera and taken a pic without you asking. Natalie is on to something, I think that I actually tend to feel more annoyed when the picture you’re asking me to take requires us to stop what we are doing or about to do and pose, rather than get on with our doing. I wonder how it would work when, next time we’re in the middle of doing something with the kids, you tell me to take a picture of what you are presently in the process of doing with them. I love to take pictures of you interacting with them. Like a few weeks ago at the park when I spent a couple minutes taking pictures of you swinging with Rhys.

      And, I’ll try to have a more cheerful attitude when it comes to stopping what we are doing completely to take static pictures, too. 🙂

  • Natalie, yes, your first paragraph there sums it up so nicely. =) And you are right, the ones of the kids & I are generally posed. My hubby hates taking pictures and so would never linger over pictures of the kids and I unless directly asked to. I tend not to ask him b/c it’s almost always an irritation —my obsessive need to capture memories on film. Perhaps, I need to just get a little more forward with my requests! But, yes I see your point –by comparison it’s an unfair comparison b/c the other shots were active & fun….and mine were not what I’d imagined just as our circumstances were not as I imagined. I am still learning the redemption factor in parenting and how to do it. everyday is a new lesson I suppose. xo

    • Natalie Hart

      Photos are such a difficult touchpoint; I know. I’ve ruined the mood of plenty of outings because of photo situations. Being super-directive helps, but then I feel super-naggy, which is lousy. I hope you find a good balance for yourself. xo

      • the crux of the issue right there: be super-naggy & then lousy or just get the doggone pics you want!! I hope we all find the balance!

  • “Here, where the fear is so stifling, so suffocating the only logical option is to jump ship first.”

    Grace, I was stopped in my tracks by that statement. I can still feel it reverberating off every twist and turn inside my chest. “Abandonment issues? Could I have those too…?” Because that is exactly how I feel whenever I worry that a guy is getting too close. I have this intense physical need to shrink inside myself, step back, and push him away.
    Because I know it will just end in hurt. I know that just as I get comfortable, just as things finally seem to be falling perfectly into place, it will explode in my face. The shrapnel from the last time that happened is still slowly, painfully working its way out of my body and I am sooo not ready to invite the opportunity for new shrapnel to find its way in.
    Seems like I’ve got some reflecting and introspecting to do.

    And, I love your AV style as well. 🙂

    • Oh man, Aubrey that is something there…something you should think about, maybe talk to a counselor about. abandonment issues stink & they permeate all of your relationships. so sorry though. it’s hard to face stuff like this, really, really hard. love & prayers for you. (((hug)))

  • Oh man, Aubrey that is something there…something you should think about, maybe talk to a counselor about. abandonment issues stink & they permeate all of your relationships. so sorry though. it’s hard to face stuff like this, really, really hard. love & prayers for you. (((hug)))

    • Thanks, Grace. Trust me, there’ve been a LOT of conversations about this with my therapist, I’ve just never been able to put it in quite those words. Thank you for sharing, as always. Hugs and love to you too!

      • Aubrey, oh! sorry! well, ya know…some of those wounds take awhile. Don’t lose hope! love you, sis!

  • Arnebya

    I covet the photos of my 12-year-old smiling. It is a rarity, even though she’s silly at heart. My heart lurches even further for those of the two of us together. I feel like so much time has already passed, so much has already gone unsaid. And yet, I owe it to both of us to sneak things into the remaining time, to say more things just because. I hate forced photos. And I almost always hate the way I look in photos whether I’m smiling and aware or not. I hate that there are so many more photos of the children with my husband because I’m determined to capture them but then I’m irritated that the photo ratio is disproportionate. The weariness of SO MANY THINGS.

    • Yes, guuuuurl I feel you. I hope you insert your beautiful self into more of those photos whether you like to or not…. your kiddos will cherish it later!!!! xoxo