“The trip back home felt so long. After not being sure of what to expect, my mom welcomed me with open arms and put to rest my anxieties. After such stressful traveling, it was like breathing life into me. I laid down my pride and received the love that I had known since birth. My mom did not shame me. Even with all her flaws and dysfunctions, I do not ever remember feeling judged by her. I was so grateful I could come back home.”
This past summer my mom turned 85 and the roles are slowly reversing. As the years go by, I am caring for her more and more. I don’t pretend to be the perfect caretaker or that I never lose my patience. God is teaching me deeper levels of love and compassion, for sure. He is showing us both, grace to be family in this season, and I’m grateful. I’m learning that caretaking is not just about meeting practical and physical needs. It’s also about delicately helping her navigate the emotions that come up when she’s dwelling on past regrets or is feeling unregulated in the present.
In the last blog
, I shared two movie clips from the film Spanglish. There is a line from the second clip
where the daughter says, “My identity rests firmly and happily on one fact, I am my mother’s daughter.
” It feels so weighty. It’s truthful for me and yet incomplete. As I grow spiritually, I am ever aware of my identity as a child of God. Embracing His fatherhood in my life has been doing a deep work of healing in my soul. Even though I am my mother’s daughter, I have grown and surpassed her in some areas. It can feel awkward to hold the celebration of my gains in one hand and the guilt of what she couldn’t accomplish in the other. So yes, I am my mother’s daughter and greater still I am my Father’s daughter, too.
A few months ago, my husband Marc and I were attending a retreat and doing some self-care. One of the pastors said, “Healing is legacy.” It was like a bomb went off in my mind. Taking a look at my parenting style and my mom’s, I became painfully aware that there has been such a need for healing in our family still. I know my mom did the best she could at the time. She just happened to be parenting me with wounds from her childhood, like I had parented with wounds from my own childhood. Acknowledging our shortcomings is not to disrespect or shame anyone; it’s part of our healing process, part of self-care in my opinion.
Being a first generation American has meant to choose intentionally what to pass on and what to lay down for good. I carry with me how deeply she loves her family and yet work to lay down the dysfunctional behaviors she’s struggled with. I’ve had to follow my mom’s work ethic only in part, so as to not work myself to the bone as a default, unable to get out of bed. Additionally, as an only daughter, I’ve had to learn how to care for her, while still building a life for myself and pursuing what I believe God has for me.
You may not be a first generation American but you are a first generation something. First gen to get emotionally healthy. First gen entrepreneur. First gen to graduate. First gen writer. First gen to break free from addiction. First gen to go to college. First gen Christian. Even if the generations before you didn’t arrive where you did, they contributed to your journey of overcoming hurdles.
If you find yourself caring for a loved one, take a moment and take a few deep breaths. This is my prayer for you:
Jesus, I’m asking that you strengthen my friend today. Give them insight to trust you with the load they carry. Send them reminders that You are with them, and for them. Listening to their heart’s cry and helping them. Give them eyes to see and ears to hear every loving reminder. Help them to enjoy spaces reserved for laughter. Show them your comforting presence when it’s time to cry. Pour out grace to let go of what you didn’t intend for them and help them to embrace the story You’ve already written. Amen.
Until next time, I leave you with this question. What is your first gen story? How is God rewriting the story of your family from one generation to another?
What I’m reading/listening to: The Blue Parakeet by Scot McKnight, Healing From Unmet Needs by Denise Boggs
Song on repeat: Eden by Benjamin William Hastings
Blog entry No. 3