My wounds from Disney World have finally healed. I scraped the skin off the last two knuckles of my left hand on the rough plaster of the lazy river at Typhoon Lagoon. It didn’t hurt too much, but it bled more than I wanted it to, and it took its sweet time to heal. Every time I saw the two circular scabs I remembered the incident. Every time I rubbed my fingers over the wounds, I felt the rough plaster ripping the skin off of those knuckles again. I relived the moment over and over again for more than a month.
I have other wounds that took years to heal, and although they aren’t as visible as the two circular scars on my left hand, they have impacted me and made me who I am. Some of those wounds were at the hands of strangers. Some, I came by because of friends. Others happened because of family members. I’m sure I caused a lot of them myself.
Just like Disney World, homes are supposed to be the happiest place on earth, but sometimes we get wounded in otherwise happy places. We long for a home environment akin to the Beaver Cleaver’s house, but it can sometimes end up more like the Simpson’s. Families are messy things full of passion and hope. The walls of our home become guardians of both happy celebrations, and ominous secrets.
Five years ago today the adoption of two of our daughters was finalized. They came to us unaware of the scars that had been inflicted on them. They came to us with a subconscious full of painful memories and flashes of love. We have struggled to heal the wounds. We have worked to help them understand their past whenever we could. We have encouraged them to let go of the pain and forgive. Adopting them is the hardest thing I have ever done.
They say you will never be truly successful until you can forgive your parents. Maybe you can never be truly successful until you forgive yourself as a parent. It’s not that you want to do damage to your kids. You want to raise them right. You want to enable them to succeed. You want to empower them and prepare them to go forth in the world and be happy productive adults. The only problem is that you are probably still trying to figure that out yourself. So, the end result is that you imprint your own fears, shortcomings, and weaknesses onto the very beings that you want most to protect, and the cycle starts all over again.
After five years our daughters still have an accent. The still say things that give away the fact that English is not their primary language. They will always be a product of their environment to a certain degree, but that doesn’t mean that their environment will determine their destiny. They, like all of us, have to make a choice at some point. We have to decide to quit blaming our parents and take responsibility for who we are.
I had wonderful parents who did the best they knew how at raising me, but they weren’t perfect. I am doing the best I know how for my kids. The truth is that sometimes our best isn’t good enough. Like wounds inflicted at Disney World, I leave psychological scars on my children. When I recognize that I have wounded them, it leaves even deeper scars on me.
I know some homes are truly hell on earth, but most homes are happy places where we have suffered from time to time. We get scrapes, bruises, and the occasional broken bone, but for most part we laugh and love one another. We occasionally raise our voices and shout hurtful things that we don’t mean, but most days we hear kind encouragement and soothing support.
The best place to learn forgiveness is at home. The pain is raw. The emotion of the moment is heightened by the proximity of the perpetrator. The memory is a lingering reminder that sits with us at every meal and plops itself onto the couch during our favorite TV show. We run our fingers over the wound and relive the moment of injury all over again. When we can learn to forgive in that environment, we can learn to forgive anywhere.
My wounds from Disney World have finally healed. They didn’t leave any permanent damage. I hope that my children won’t suffer permanent damage because of my incompetence and shortcomings as a parent and a human being. I pray that they will forgive me for scarring them with my idiosyncratic, and sometimes boorish, behavior. Maybe I will even be able to forgive myself for not ensuring that our home was the happiest place on earth, all of the time.
Oh, by the way… today is also my Mom’s birthday. Happy Birthday Mom! Thanks for warping me into who I am.