My husband and I watched the movie I Can Only Imagine last night. First off it is a fantastic song written and performed by Bart Millard. Secondly, the film was beautiful, touching and endearing. I knew the song so I knew I would love the movie; however, I was not prepared for how personally I would react to it. Spoiler ahead if you haven’t seen it…
I can only imagine how Bart Millard felt when his father told him he was proud of him. Seriously, I can only imagine how that would feel, and I had no idea I had a hole in me until I watched the movie. That moment brought so much emotion out of me I thought I couldn’t breathe. I had no idea that not ever hearing those words directed at me affected me so profoundly.
I’ve had some achievements in my life, achievements that a parent should want to congratulate their child for. As a child, I believe I did begin to notice that I wasn’t getting affirmations and I lashed out by no longer trying and no longer caring. I had teachers in high school that, as they pushed me and I produced, told me they were proud of me, however, that is not the same as a parent telling you. As much as I would like to say those teachers made a huge difference and filled that void, they didn’t. I remained an average student who just didn’t care because my parents didn’t seem to care, even when I tried to care.
Even in adulthood I never heard my parents tell me they were proud of me. I graduated high school but didn’t go to college because I wanted to get married and have children. My mother wasn’t so happy about my getting married young. She wanted me to go to college. I told her I still would, eventually. She responded by telling me people always say that. They don’t, you won’t. I married my husband six months and two days after I graduated high school and our first son was born later that year. Three more sons came after that. I felt blessed and told them constantly I was proud of them. Even when they burped from feeding, I would say to them I was proud they burped for me! I didn’t even realize I might be doing that because I want to make sure they feel what I didn’t get to feel. I want to do better with my children. I can only hope I have succeeded with my older two and that I am succeeding with my younger two, however just because they are adults doesn’t mean I should stop telling them how proud I am of them.
I did go back to school. I started college when my youngest was three and a half. The first two years I had my husband with me, and he was a godsend. He was supportive and took over things like cooking and doing the dishes so that I could spend the evenings doing school work uninterrupted. Even with his help, it was hard going back to school, but I was determined. My older children were in middle school and would be in high school by the time I finished, and I wanted them to see what I could accomplish, what they too could achieve.
The second two years became even more difficult as I became a geographically single mom. My husband’s company of many years went bankrupt, and he found himself out of work and as a union employee floating from short-term job to short-term job. He took a job with a company that had military contracts overseas to build on U.S. Military Bases In Afghanistan and Iraq. He worked in a war zone and was gone for three months at a time and would come back home for 14 days at a time for leave. I feared so much for his safety that it could sometimes be distracting. I now had to raise the four boys without his help, drive them to all their sports and activities, I was the Cub Scout Committee Chairman, a Cub Scout den leader, on the PTA board at the younger one’s school and finishing up my schoolwork. People often asked how I did it all. I always answered that I had no choice, I got up every morning, tackled the day and everything that went on, and went to bed only to repeat the cycle. Looking back, I am not sure how I really did it. I did do it though! I finished my degree and graduated Magna Cum Laude. I never received congratulations or any words of respect from my family, At that point in my life, it was the norm.
At some point, I have to learn that I shouldn’t need affirmations from other people. I should strive to be proud of myself and do my best to do God’s work. I know God loves me, my husband and children love me. Despite my childhood, God answered my prayers and gave me people who love me and people I love.
But still…I can only imagine.