An Open Letter To “The Original Three”:
I am writing to address where I parented you from the place titled, “the best I could.” I am writing to ask, will you forgive me?
I want to tell each of you that you deserved so much more than the best I could offer. You deserved the full extent of God’s goodness, love, nurture, comfort, kindness, attunement, playfulness, blessing, and so much more. What I gave you missed the mark, and the distance between my best and what you deserved is now the muddy and rugged emotional terrain you are left to navigate in finding your way to the depth of God’s heart. There are many things that need the words, “forgive me”.
Here are a few:
For the tight control I brought to bear on your little worlds, that showed itself in harsh and heavy demands about keeping your rooms clean and organizing all those toys from the McDonald’s happy meals. I know my presence felt too big and too angry. I can remember your little faces, setting up your villages of plastic toys, having grand adventures with miniature versions of Cinderella, Aladdin and Belle. My demand for organization feels ridiculous today as remember it.
For not playing with you enough because I was too busy, which was really just about my own lack of comfort or ease in entering into the fun you were having. So instead I watched from the sidelines, as you tied toys in the vines hanging down from the tree in the back yard and when you crawled up into the tree house to spend the night in your pjs and sleeping bags….you missed out and so did I.
For putting you in learning environments where the rules were rigid, grace felt tied to appropriate repentance to be determined by the ruling authority, the world was divided into right and wrong and the beauty, complexity and nuance of everything was hidden underneath spiritual words and doctrinal truths.
For subjecting you to the very things that ruined my heart in the realm of my sexuality. Youth groups where you were told that your virginity was all you had and if “the package was unwrapped, the paper torn, the bow crinkled or the box crushed” in any way you would have nothing to offer your spouse on your wedding night. Where you heard that it was the girl’s responsibility to hold the lines of purity and that boys “couldn’t really help themselves.” Where you got the message loud and clear that your clothing would be scrutinized by all good Christians and judgments would be made about your virtue, honor and beauty. Where you were taught that sexuality was binary and black and white. Where there were no words given about the reality of your sexuality existing on a spectrum, giving you the room to explore and discover what was true for you about being male and female; and talking about it without fear of being seen as abnormal or judged as a rebellious sinner.
For dropping you off at friends homes, at camp, at school, at youth group believing that you were in safe spaces, leaving you faced with the difficult task of returning home trying to find the words to tell me the truth of what happened to you in a place I told you was “safe”.
For where I missed you, missed the look in your eyes that would have told me you were not ok.
For teaching you to be tough every time I withheld my tears, appeared to have endless strength and held it all together instead of offering you my real face.
For not having enough time for each of you, individually, when you needed me because there was often another sibling who needed me as well, leaving you without my full attention.
For where my way of “being” leaked with my expectations of what you should do, who you should be and how to not disappoint me, leaving you to bear the pressure that came as a result.
Finally, will you forgive me for not getting real about my life and my story before bringing the three of you into the world? You’ve watched the difference in how I am with you little sisters, which shows you that more was possible, and I could have been different. I have heard where you feel that in many ways they have the mom you needed and the life you wanted.
As I look back and remember the scenes that go with all of the above my heart aches.
I wish I could go back, and do it differently, I would so love to have been more present when you were small, to have offered you more of my tenderness and love, to have played and laughed with you more.
I wish I would have spoken more goodness and blessing into you before you were hurt and impacted by how evil came to assault you and steal your joy.
Today, I can bless you and offer my heart that is more tender, my eyes which see better, and my words which are kinder in hopes that I can continue to play a part in loving you more and more, as you continue to find your way all the way home to God’s deep love for you.
My Love Always,
(This is an “open letter” and it feels important to share that each of my “original three” children have had actual conversations with me about the above. We continue to walk the path of redemptive conversations about their lives, giving me the opportunity to ask “please forgive me” when needed, while also celebrating the changes that leave us enjoying our relationships more and more.)
Tracy Johnson is a lover of stories and a reluctant dreamer, living by faith that “Hope deferred makes the heart sick but when dreams come true there is a life and joy” (Pro. 13:12). She is the Founder of Red Tent Living. Married for 29 years, she is mother to five kids. After a half century of life, she’s feeling like she may know who she is.