Real MOM Monday: How do you talk about past mistakes?
“You can only go forward by making mistakes.”
When I was 21, I got married. 7 years later, I got divorced. The dissolution of the marriage was finalized in 30 days from start to finish.
It is not my intention to sound nonchalant about this heavy life moment, but in my case, my 7-year marriage with no children and no mortgage ended faster and easier than some of my friends’ 3-year dating relationships.
It feels like a lifetime ago really – like I was another person. And though, I am not private or secretive about that phase of my life – I am farther and farther removed from it everyday to the point of forgetting. I believe that certain mistakes should be forgotten. But this is one that I don’t want to forget - not for myself, but for Olive.
In the last few weeks, Olive has started talking in full sentences to the point of having meaningful conversations. Yes – sometimes they center on the story line of a Princess Sophia episode, but they are also more than that. We are working on her bedtime prayers and what they mean. We chat about the weather and why it’s foggy outside. We discuss why pink polka dot tights might be a little too loud for a red and navy plaid dress in great detail. You know…big time stuff. But my point is that she is really starting to understand the world around her. It got me thinking about when is the right time to mention my big D.
Part of me thought about shoving it under the rug all together. I got married before the digital age. There are no online wedding albums, the printed ones are long gone, and the dress went to Goodwill ages ago. But is that the kind of mother I want to be? While I do not plan to share every mistake of my past with Olive (there is simply not enough time in the day!) I would like for her to have the chance to learn from some of my most obvious ones. I want her to know why getting married at 21 was wrong for me, not that it is wrong. I think there is a big difference. I want her to know why getting divorced was right for me, not that it is right - another big difference.
So the question really is – how young is too young to start the “Big D” conversation?
In the case of Olive, Brett and I decided that the present was a good a time as any. So, from time to time when it fits into a conversation that Brett and I are having while Olive is in the room, we briefly mentioned that, “mommy was married before daddy – for a short time and then she got divorced.” We add the fact that I was very young and didn’t know myself well enough to make such a big life decision, and then we go on to say that I love daddy very much and we take special care of our relationship so we will always be together.
To date – her responses include: “More blueberries please”, “ok- mama”, and “do you want to read Sophia book?”
I think it’s safe to say that we are not getting anywhere. Yet. Our hope is that by starting this conversation early, Olive will discover knowledge over fear. More than anything, I want her to know that she can count on me to be honest with her and that she can come to me with anything.
As I type this, Olive is curled up next to me in all her 2-year old perfectness. And to her, I am perfect right now too. I know there is an expiration date on that. My flaws will become more apparent to her everyday – though hers will just make me love her more. I suppose it’s just one of the endless and unexpected joys of motherhood – loving them more as each day passes. Loving them more than you love yourself. Loving them enough to turn life’s failures into life lessons.
As always, your thoughts and comments are welcomed. Are any of you struggling with something similar? I would love to know how you are planning to or are currently handling this topic.
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Humor always helps in any adult/child conversation, case in point our “birds and bees” discussion!!! You kept asking, I kept answering until I got tickled at the number of questions you were asking…you were 4!!! Then there was the car session with your friends! Once again, honesty peppered with some humor saved the day! Children need to know they won’t be judged for asking ANYTHING…it certainly opens the door for some interesting, honest conversations! I still love conversation with you!!!
I recently wrote to one of your dad’s good friends that the honesty of your dad’s Sunday School lessons sometimes made me gasp. Your honesty in talking about your past life to Olive did, too. But always know, Morgan, how very proud I am of such honesty and of you. There is nothing more special to me than my children, grandchildren, their life partners and my three precious great grand daughters. God bless all of you, and keep you close to Him.
Jean Blankenshiip on
Love your honesty and bravery for sharing! I have often thought of how to share my not so glorious life choices! We all have them. But as a mommy, you worry how that will affect your children’s opinion of you. As of now…I have just decided to wait until the situation comes up that’s appropriate. I am sure as the teenage years get closer, I will start sweating it more because I know the situation will be right around the corner. I pray God gives me the right words. So until then…..I am enjoying their sweet innocence. Homework, Boy Scouts, Legos and cartoons are our biggest concerns at the time and I am going to just enjoy this moment right now.
Jeanne B. on
What a lovely post. Really. While I don’t have that specific story to tell, on a much more benign level I have a few regrettable tattoos that I make part of my life lesson narrative. Ah, youth and mid-90s body modifications.
What resonated with me, though, is the courage to start the conversation early. I’m a writer so words matter deeply to me. We use language I know is conceptually over our (nearly 4 year old) daughter’s lovely copper-topped head (not all the time, and judiciously). Our goal is to normalize words and big ideas into her daily life so that when she can grasp them and needs them the language to talk about them is already part of her.
I imagine the same will happen for your Olive. This will be woven into her narrative, not without more questions or conversations, in a way that you describe so nicely so she discovers knowledge over fear. If we name things and are brave to talk about them, whatever they may be, we give ourselves and our littles that power back.
Thank you for being so open and honest, Morgan! Although I haven’t been through something similar I have made countless of mistakes! Like you said not enough time to share them all! But there are a few that I absolutely will share with my boys especially because they made such a huge impact in my life. I’m not exactly sure how I’ll bring it all up because it’s all very sensitive. But I will definitely once they understand certain concepts. Thanks again, you inspire me to have those conversations even if they will be tough to tackle.
Keila Leist on
Girl! You have lots of time for " real life mommy-daughter" convo’s. I say enjoy, love, cherish these sweet baby years! Part of God’s design is the beauty of their innocence. ! It’s the most beautiful thing!!
You will know when it is right to reveal certain things. I say, do carefully plan and be patient. You will be an open and honest mother to her. No hurry though….there will be a season!
Most of all Do NOT let that awful mommy guilt creep in! No matter what she will love, respect and pretty much idolize you!!! Baby steps!!
Chats about Sophia, butterflies, and how much she’s LOVED …. Is as far as I would even ponder about. ( for now).
You are a wonderful loving mom! Olive is lucky and blessed to have you! Rinse and repeat!
Thank you for your candidness! And because you welcome comments and opinions of your readers, here are mine. My parents divorced very quickly after I was born. By the time I was Olive’s age I had two more parents and two new siblings on the way. My entire life I understood that my mom and dad got married, had me, decided the would be better as friends, and remarried. End of story. I never questioned it or felt insecure because my parents were so secure in their language and in their “friendship” to each other. Nowadays, as it pertains to my three daughters, Harper and Lily (age 6) grew up with not only 4 grandparents but a Grandma & Grandpa, a Moomps & Pa, and a Grandy & Kaffee. So what they noticed and asked around 3 or 4 was,
“Mommy, why do you have two dads but we only have one?”
Simply, confidently, and securely I answer.
Moomps and Grandy used to be married! (We all LAUGH BIG!) then Moomps and Grandy started fussing too much and decided it was better to be friends. They got to share Baby Mommy and Mommy got to live with Moops and “Pa!” they answer totally thrilled and giddy! And so on.
I love your distinction about what was right for you and what is right. Because , of course, the girls also wanted to know
“will you and Daddy ever have to share us?” Nick and I answer them confidently and securely that they absolutely never need to worry about such.
The lesson for me and for them is exactly as you have stated. Our past is just that. The past. There is ugly. There is beauty. And the most amazing thing about God is that He can turn the ugliest into the beauty-est :)
Look forward to those conversations with Olive. I promise you Morgan, she will blow your mind with what she will say… How much she already understands about love, compassion, and Grace.
Laura Mielke on
Morgan, I really enjoyed this post. I’ve struggled ever since my daughter’s father left after having an affair with answering her questions of why daddy didn’t live with us anymore. I didn’t want to lie, but at the same time, the truth seemed overwhelming.
For now, she seems satisfied with what I have told her, though in the future, when she’s old enough to learn the entire truth, I fear it will be damaging. My only hope is that I have raised a strong, confident, resilient little girl with grit and mental toughness enough to handle it and anything else that comes her way.