Thursday, March 12, 2009


Part One of Two Parts

Last Wednesday, my boys came home from their third day of baseball tryouts and all hell broke loose in our home because both did not make the team. That evening it was like all the grief bottled up in all of us was unleashed as we grappled with tremendous feelings of loss and deep pain. The boys retreated into themselves and refused to talk. I felt helpless as I was unable to take away their bitterness and disappointment. When I told some friends what was going on I got the response that it was not such a big deal. I tried to explain why this is not the case. For the boys whose Dad was a semi-pro bball player, baseball was still a way to connect with him on some level even after his death. The fact that they are good athletes and have been playing since they were toddlers and always expected to play on the high school team was another issue.

I have my suspicions as to why the boys didn't make the team. I know my youngest has suffered attitude problems with coaches and teachers since I got remarried to Husband #2. I think he had a reputation and did not get along with the head bball coach. As for my older son, he didn't try out last year as a Freshman for the team because we thought we were moving and that probably had some effect.

The day after all this happened (last Thursday) I was somewhat of a basket case. I spent the entire day crying and was lost to the world (no job hunting or cleaning up the house for me). I grappled with feelings of tremendous failure as a mom for not being able to be both a mom and dad to the boys. I clearly felt that if the boy's Dad was still alive they would have made the team, no question. All the years of me sacrificing as an only parent to keep the boys on elite travel teams, all the private lessons and clinics were for naught. In the end, this just proved that I could not be both a mom and dad.

The biggest sense of loss I felt was for my inability to take away the boy's pain. Here are these great kids who have really suffered the past years and yet they still have to face disappointments in the future like all of us still living. My ever flowing tears that day were really about my boys and how much sadness I was feeling for them.

That day I had the experience of looking around my house and really kind of seeing it in a new light. Upstairs, where I have photos of the boys lining the hallway, I noticed that the last photos I ever hung were the boy's school photos from the year their Dad died - five years ago! It was like kind of seeing our life over the past five years as being in a time warp - or seeing that it kind of stopped when my husband died if you know what I am trying to explain. Along that same vein, I also had the realization (maybe for the first time at this level) of just how much my boys have lost in the last five years and how much not having a living dad has impacted their lives forever. I don't think people can really comprehend this loss. When I was talking to a friend of mine, whose dad died when he was 16, I asked him to try and imagine what life would be like for his son who is in fifth grade if he died right now. That was the same grade my oldest son was in when his Dad died - he had just started the fifth grade and was only 10.

As I dealt with the tremendous grief that was unleashed by this event I thought about my sister and others who have made the comment, "What is so hard about being a single parent? Thousands are doing it every day." Well, the majority of those singles are not having to also deal with their kid's grief and loss issues at the same time as their disappointment over being cut from a team. And there is no handy ex-husband to relay masculine advice and support to the kids like Mike Brady of the Brady Bunch. As I thought about this, part of me felt great pride for everything I have faced and accomplished over the past five years! It has been truly challenging and yet I have parented to the best of my ability. It can surely not be disputed that what I have faced has not been on the same level as my sister, who has a stay-at-home husband to take care of their two kids.

The reason I knew we were also dealing with grief issues relating to the boy's Dad, was because of a comment my youngest made. He cried in front of the coaches when told he had not been picked for the team and he confided to me that he has not cried since his Dad's death. I also know for me when the boys told me that they had not made the team that I felt we had let their Dad down. That he would have been disappointed, that we failed him. Somehow I just knew that much of the emotion that evening was not only about the bball team. Looking back, in a way, I was happy it happened because I think it was one of the first times we really grieved collectively as a family together. And even though the issue appeared to be bball, I know there was a deeper level that we were confronting.

I have waited a full week to write about this situation because it has been extremely painful for me to acknowledge and face. But there is a happy ending which I will relate in my next post!

Today I am grateful:

1. That I hear birds chirp and sing - a sure sign that Winter is on its way out of here!
2. For books, which have provided me with strength and salvation my entire life!
3. That last week's painful event resulted in a greater connection between me and the boys, and especially seems to have broken through some barriers between my younger son and I.

1 comment:

  1. Good luck to you and your boys. These are tough issues that you and they will deal with them long term. Although I am not the mother of my late husband’s two boys, they have no other mother and I am happy to take that role. It has been painful to watch them turn into young men and pass through things that I know their dad could have helped with so much better than I. I often say, I am a poor substitute. And while that may be true, I have to give myself credit for at least being there. And you do too. No, we can’t be both mother and father. I tried that in my first marriage when the kid’s dad was there physically, but completely absent emotionally and socially. I still thought that as long as I was a great mom, it would be enough. Well it wasn’t. I saw the biggest impact on my daughters who never got that “one man they knew adored them”. They have dealt with issues stemming from a lack of that daddy daughter connection their whole lives – and their dad is alive.

    You can’t be both mother and father. But you can be a really good mom, and those boys of yours will need that, and in time appreciate it. It sounds like you are! Keep up the good work.