Are We There Yet?

Sarah Cavanaugh

Sarah Cavanaugh
Lancaster, Pennsylvania, USA
August 01
My poems have appeared in Poet Lore, Nimrod, and Southern Poetry Review. Currently, I am trying to reclaim my life after being blacklisted. Don't mess with the Federal Government or defense contractors. Wish me luck.


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MAY 17, 2011 12:11PM

Unconditional Love

Rate: 18 Flag


    I have read with interest and a touch of wistfulness the stories many of you have posted about the accomplishments of your children. Some of you are looking forward to the graduation ceremonies you will soon be attending. I share your joy with a heavy heart.

    I have three children of my own. My daughter teaches high school social studies in Sheboygan and has been taking part in the protest demonstrations in Madison. I also have two sons.

    My younger son was pegged as gifted in third grade when his IQ tested at 141. He was a good student who would eventually choose to forego college. He was a drummer in a rock band. Now, as an adult, he works in the shipping department at Lowes. He spends his days on the computer placing orders. In the evenings he teaches ballroom dancing. When I moved to Wisconsin, I sold my house to him. I would have to say that he seems happy. He skis in winter and enjoys outings to the river or bay in summer.

    My other son was a classic example of an ADD child. In kindergarden, he climbed into the ductwork on a dare. His teacher left the profession after that year. He grew into a tall, good-looking adult with broad shoulders and a muscular build.

    He was a gifted guitar player whose skill was written up in rock music publications. He was still in junior high school when we began getting calls from the police. By high school, he was skipping school to smoke pot and was well on his way to becoming an alchoholic.

    He began to experiment with cocaine while in his twenties. His music fell by the way. The downward spiral was precipitous and painful to watch. He stole from all of us every chance he got. Our possessions  kept disappearing. Every time he called or stopped in it was to ask for money

    As his addiction deepened, he became filthy with hair down to his waist. I cringed every time the police showed up at our door. It was painful to see him in handcuffs or an orange prison jumpsuit. Who was this automaton seeking the drug who had seemed like such a joyful child?

    When his father died of throat cancer, he gave the eulogy and then lit up a cigarette afterwards. Eventually he turned away from drug use but still drinks and smokes. I have often thought that he would have been a good teacher. He is wonderful with children, and his nieces and nephews are all crazy about him. He works as a nanny/housekeeper now for his half sister who works all day. They call him Alice (from The Brady Bunch).

     I would have wished for better lives for my two sons, but maybe that's just a mother's ambition talking. I always though my younger son would go to Harvard or MIT. As for my older son, when I think of him I picture him chasing butterflies across a flower-carpeted meadow with his golden curls backlit by the warm summer sun.

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This is a beautiful post, Sarah. We really do grow a heart filled with unconditional love.
Your last sentence will stay with me.~r
I have two sons raised the same way yet they are different people.
You wonder what you could have done.. but there is nothing you can do except love him unconditionally like I do my youngest.
This is a very heartfelt and honest post. As a mother I can relate to your dreams for your children.
Congratulations on the EP!
We all wish the best for our children, especially health and contentment and fields with butterflies. Things change, for them and for us, and they sometimes bloom late. But it never gets easier.
Joan, Thank you so much.
Linda, I ask myself what I could have done every day. Thanks.
neilpaul, I'm sure you're right. Thanks.
Susie, All we can do is accept whatever hand life deals us. Thanks.
Lea, Thanks for sharing those thoughts.
This was very well written a powerful. Ach, life.
It is truly unconditional love when you can write like this, the love shines through the details.
rated with love
I watched my parents experience the same hopeful disappointment with my brother, and so I know that you can be a "perfect" parent -- the best you can possibly be -- and still have raise children who have problems, and well, don't we all have problems? Some of us are just much much better at hiding it than others. My children have a long way to go before they are self-sufficient and they may never meet the definition of "successful" if that means wealthy and high-powered (they're both artists and free spirits), but as parents we continually adjust our expectations and celebrate each step toward happiness, even if those steps don't follow the path we had set for them.
Sarah, your honesty and love for your children shines through. I think we all wish for better things for our children at times but if they know that we are there for them no matter what, that we love them unconditionally ... that we are reliable and available ... then perhaps that is the greatest gift a mum can give. Don't be hard on yourself for wanting only good for them. You love them. You care.
fernsy, Thanks for the kind words and sympathy.
RP, The power of love never ceases to amaze me. Thanks.
Bell, Thanks for those words of wisdom.
LK, You say that so well and with such feeling. Thanks.
Sometimes it's hard to remember that our children are not extensions of ourselves and that we don't own them. Two of your children sound like they live pretty fulfilling lives, and you should be proud of them. All three are adults and have made their choices. I hope your older son finds his way; it sounds like he's on the right path and some people take longer than others. But you've been a good mother; it comes through loud and clear in this post.
I greatly appreciate your post. I have much to write about in regards to the struggles with my own son. Tough love was just that....tough. The police was involved more times than I want to admit. I cannot express how proud I am of him of him now. He had to figure out who he is and some pretty amazing things have grown out of it.
Beautiful, touching and honest post. It's so hard to be a mother.
Gorgeous writing, Sarah. You perfectly captured unconditional love and the detachment required of parents whose children take these paths we despair.
Very touching and I quite understand your concern and feelings.

But we give them life and must allow them to live it and hopefully learn from their own mistakes.

My son broke my heart when he married against all advice, but we pick ourselves up, move forward and love them whatever. I hope your youngest will come good eventually. He has a great Mum.
Sorry to get here so woes! Congrads on the EP, was so glad to see that. Having 2 sons and knowing how you feel, I discovered something along the way. If they can get to "happy" eventually and be loved, I have everything. We all place way too much emphasis on life accomplishments, and we see them as differing things. I understand wanting sucess and to see your kids not work super hard all their lives, but their happinesses may differ from ours, for them. I'm just sayin'. Glad they are happy.