I was seven years old when my family made the trip from Columbus, Ohio to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina for the first time. I thought I was in heaven! Surrounded by palm trees, a steel drum band at the pool, and a seafood buffet at the very top of the Hilton Hotel, I felt like a princess! Staying in a fancy place, eating fancy food, not a care in the world. My sister and I would ride the elevators up and down, pretending to be Southerners – speaking with our best Southern drawls – inserting “y’all” with great frequency, believing we were playing the part so well.
We were hooked. We did this every year - exploring and making memories from Myrtle Beach to Hilton Head – which had even more beauty, more palm trees, family bike rides, and ice cream at the harbor in the evenings … I decided early that this is my happy place, and I was made for this!
As my sister and I have grown up and had our own families, we have kept the tradition going. As I write, I am looking out over the Atlantic Ocean at Ocean Isle Beach in North Carolina. It is our family’s week at the beach. (It is oh so nice to have a change of scenery after sheltering at home for more than six weeks!) Mother’s Day is this Sunday, and I am thrilled to have my family together for walks on the beach, happy hours on the deck, and conversations that are deep and important.
But, so far, it hasn’t looked quite like that …
At the last minute, my mom and dad were not able to come. We had inadvertently compromised our quarantine status by coming in contact with someone who had not been as vigilant, and we couldn’t take the risk. My heart aches. My parents love being at the beach with all of us so, so much, and we feel the same. It is such a loss all around – another special thing sacrificed, and it didn’t stop there.
One of our daughters is going through a painful breakup that has shattered her heart. We are walking with her in this … grieving the loss with her.
This morning another daughter was “let go” from her job. We are with her in her shock and listening to her verbally process and wrestle with fear of the future.
And then about last night. Last night was not good. Damage was done. Rupture. During a family game of dominoes, past moments of harm were triggered.
My daughter was the casualty. I literally felt sick for her. And simultaneously I was somehow transported back to being eight years old, experiencing the powerlessness and the shame of being overpowered … silenced … shut down. It felt so familiar.
The invitation for me last night (and it has continued into today) is to care for my traumatized daughter. And it also invites me to care for my younger self. To be curious about what this is that I’m feeling and where it’s coming from. To sit with Jesus and lean in, allowing myself to remember and to feel.
As the tide comes in, I ask….
Jesus, how do I receive care from you in this memory?
What do you want me to know of your heart? of my heart?
What do I most need right now?
What do I need to grieve?
What do you want me to know of your heart? of my young heart?
How do you want to mother me in this place?
How can I receive your lovingkindness, tenderness, nurture and your healing for my still wounded heart?
This small and wounded part of me desperately needs to find God – the Presence of LOVE – which is strong and kind, steady and true – right inside my own heart.
And then, Jesus, how do I offer care for my daughter in the wake of this? What does LOVE look like for her right now?
I am only just beginning to learn what it was our girls needed as young littles. Turns out I needed those same things.
Adam Young, in his podcast titled “Why Your Family of Origin Impacts Your Life More Than Anything Else,” shares that every child needs six things from their parents:
- Ability to regulate your arousal
- Strong enough to handle your negative emotions
- Willingness to repair
If your parents were attuned to you, responsive to your needs, engaged with your heart, able to regulate your arousal, strong enough to handle your negative emotions, and willing to repair failures, then the result was a secure attachment.
If your relationship with your parents was not marked by these things, then you likely developed an insecure attachment—which means that you have experienced some measure of abandonment, betrayal, and powerlessness.
Perhaps the invitation for us as mothers this weekend might actually be an invitation as daughters. The invitation for me is to keep my heart open, to be curious, and to remain hopeful even in the hurting. Hopeful for connection and perhaps even repair. Hopeful for moments of joy and play.
Enjoying palm trees and seafood (no steel drum band, but we have Spotify and speakers!) and walks on the beach, while also holding the still fresh wounds and honoring the space that is needed to feel and to process and just be.