That Soak Into Your Soul
Carrie Scarborough Kinnard
© Copyright 2018 by Carrie Scarborough Kinnard
Words that soak into your soul, are whispered…not yelled.
Ever wanted to feel not good enough?
Ever hoped to live with someone who thinks they know more than you ever will?
Ever had the desire to sense you’re just really not that smart?
Ever wanted to pray so much you were certain God was beginning to tune you out like a staticky radio station?
Then, if you’re single, I suggest you go out and find yourself a man with a teenage daughter.
And then you marry him.
"Right this way, Ladies, right this way! Don't be afraid to step right up! Get your very own I-know-everything-there-is-to-know-about-life-and-you-don’t teenager right here! Get'em while they last! Ladies, the circus is about to begin!"
When you marry a man who already has a teenage girl in his life, you’re looking for a fight. Whether you realize it or not. Doesn’t matter how nice you try to be or how fair you try to play. You’re head down and butt up looking for a fight. For a fight you aren’t even sure how to fight. A fight you’re uncomfortable dealing with. A fight you really are too old for. No matter what your age is.
“My dad hates the way you cook.”
“Why do you wear your hair like that? And why so much makeup?”
“Stop telling me I make you proud. I do what I do for me, not you.”
“You’re here for him, not me. I don’t need you.”
“ You tell me you love me too much.”
And the best part? All of this has been said more than once in a calm, controlled manner. As if it just came naturally. By someone who’s goal in life is the perfect selfie.
I’m not sure if dealing with a jealous ex-girlfriend wouldn’t be easier. Make your choice wisely.
I’ve always felt I was pretty darn good at letting crap and mean stuff people say just bounce right off of me. But there’s one thing I’ve learned:
“Words that soak into your soul, are whispered…not yelled.”
You can yell and scream at me all day long and that garbage is gonna bounce right off. Sticks and stones, darling…sticks and stones. But simply say the words with a peaceful tone? That is gonna stick like butter to my biscuit.
And I don’t think for one minute that you mommas out there don’t already hear this kind of stuff from your own teen-aged daughters. Go ahead, laugh. I would if I were you. But let me tell you…it’s pretty hard to stomach words like this coming from a child you didn’t carry for nine months or a toddler you didn’t cradle in your arms at the most god-awful hour of the night because they couldn’t sleep. Or a pre-schooler you didn’t strap a little pink helmet on and teach how to ride a bicycle. Or a kindergartner you haven’t kissed the skinned knee of. Because they were crying and calling for you:
No, this brand new mom of a teenager stuff should come in a bottle. A medicine bottle with a label. With all the side effects listed:
*May cause nausea, diarrhea, vomiting
*Inability to breathe at times
*Occasional burning eyes
*Excessive eye rolling
*Regular gritting of teeth
*Constantly repeating yourself
*Constantly repeating yourself
*Constantly repeating yourself
Let me start from, what I know as, her beginning.
In his mid-twenties, my husband was married to a woman for about ten years. During that marriage, she became addicted to prescription drugs. Which eventually led to much harder stuff, as well as infidelity. As usually the case is. He became a police officer during that marriage, and much to his surprise, he’d get to proudly wear that uniform while bailing his wife out of jail. More than three times.
And taking her to rehab.
More than four times.
And don’t think you’re going to ask anything I didn’t? “How did you, as a cop, not know what she was doing right there in your own house?” “Did you not suspect anything?” “Oh, my Lord…weren’t you so embarrassed? I mean, when you wallow with pigs, you gotta know you’re gonna get dirty!”
He’s answered those questions and many more from me. As I’m sure you can imagine. And it seems like when unsavory things are happening right under your nose, you either don’t see it…or you choose to not see it.
And I guess I can understand that. I mean, in my first marriage I kinda knew my husband was not being as faithful as Mother Teresa. Oh, who am I kidding? The neighbors cat I threw rocks at was more faithful than him. But if I acknowledged it then I’d have a fight on my hands. And who has time for that? And what if I’m wrong? But what if I’m right? And where will I go? What will I do? What will my family think? Maybe if I just do nothing, it’ll all go away.
Anyway, just as he was contemplating divorced, she became pregnant.
A brown-eyed, 5 pounds 13 ounces, 17 inches long, curly-haired baby girl.
He was certain this was the answer to steer his wife straight and turn their marriage around. To get her on the right path. To take her attention off the drugs. And for the most part, in the very beginning, he said he felt that was exactly what was happening. But when he came home that one evening, and the baby was in the same clothes she slept in the night before, an unchanged diaper, and her mother was passed out on the sofa, he knew it was time to go. That was the last straw. She could hurt him and cause him pain, but he could not allow her to hurt this baby.
Cayla was 18 months old.
He filed for divorce.
After a year of back and forth with attorneys and custody disagreements and such, she walked away. She asked him for $1,500 and the title to his boat, handed the baby over, then simply walked away. Forever.
So, now he has no boat, but he does have his baby girl. And all that baby girl has, is her daddy.
Rejected by her mother.
My parents have been married for over fifty years, so I have no idea what it’s like to not know one of them. Though I will admit, during my coming of age years, I would have sold my soul to have not known my mother. And not have to hear her ridiculous questions of where was I going and who would I be with and when would I be back and did I unload the dishwasher? And what about that pile of clothes on my floor? And the bathroom…did I clean the bathroom? You know, all that ‘caring’ stuff mom’s throw out there.
So, that was her beginning.
Now, here is my beginning.
My first marriage happened when I was 23. I had it all together. My humor and my outlook on life was bright. This guy may not have been exactly what I was dreaming of in a man, but he’s kinda nice to others, makes a good living, and wants children. And well, he may not always show it but he does tell me he loves me. So surely that means something, right?
If I had any kind of real smarts, I would have immediately noticed he treated me nothing like my daddy treated my momma. Or my granddad treated my grandmother. Or how Desi treated Lucy. And nothing like all that real love stuff you see in the movies that really isn’t real love but it’s a movie, so come on.
But I knew best. So, down the aisle I went.
A few years after getting all settled into young married life, the days started to feel a bit hum-drum and the desire to hear little feet running through the house was growing strong. One year of trying to conceive turned into three years. The word ‘infertile’ was being mentioned more times than I care to count at doctor visits.
The bottom line? I can not have children.
Rejected by God.
So, after hearing that, and then enduring a year or three of his infidelity, I called it quits. It was all just too much.
So, surely all these yeas later, my finding Keith who has a daughter with no mother, must be God’s way of giving me another chance at this motherhood stuff, right?? And His way of giving Cayla a chance at having a mother, right??
Really? Now that’s funnier than a one-legged cat burying a turd on a frozen pond.
For this has been the hardest job I’ve ever endured. I’m not sure I’ve ever prayed as much. Or shaken my fist at God so much. Or questioned Him so much. Or doubted Him.
I refuse to believe I wanted more than most other women in the world, when it came to children. To simply be a good mother. To have a child that loves her, cries for her, laughs with her, hides from the world in her. A child she can teach, nurture, instill values and morals, raise up to love God and others. Why was this plea so difficult for God to understand?
So, when I met Keith…I just knew not only was he an answered prayer, but so was Cayla. She was like a big, giant bonus. I would have the family I had dreamed of and prayed for…but would I be good enough?
Once Keith and I married, the first year or so of family life was heaven. We were living in high cotton. We all three just fit. We clicked. We were good together. It felt like it was always meant to be.
I looked forward to sitting in dark school auditoriums clapping for her choir concerts. I excitedly cheered for her while she ran the bases at her softball games. I eagerly offered to drop her off with a hug at slumber parties.
Cayla and I were a great little team. Lots of weekend lunches out while her dad worked. We did movies, plenty of shopping, pedicuring and manicuring, just tons of girl stuff. We bought bras. We bought boots. We bought time together. She was beginning to feel like the daughter I never birthed. It was like she was always in my heart, just not in my life. It just took me a little while to find her. That ‘something is missing I’m just not sure what’ hole in my life was being filled. It was actually overflowing.
And then like that great pair of heels you just can’t live without? The newness began to wear off. Blisters were starting to form. Family life was beginning to get, well? Hard.
Cayla was a full-fledged, thriving teenage girl now. Which means doors were being slammed. Sarcastic comments flowed daily. Her bedroom reeked of feet and dirty hair. And her bathroom? Please. I wouldn’t bathe a filthy sow in there. Chores constantly forgotten or purposely left undone. Lots and lots of eye-rolling and even more loud sighs. From me. Nothing was ever good enough. Not even supper.
“I” was not good enough.
I couldn’t figure out what happened. It’s like one minute life was grand and the next minute I sucked. No more lunches out, movies started dwindling away, and my life had become one big fog. It was beginning to feel as if I had out-stayed my welcome. And here in the south, we always say, “After a while fish and house guest start to smell.”
I pleaded for kindness. No more huffing and puffing. No more tolerating looks. I just wanted to have a peaceful living arrangement. I wanted us to work together. After over an hour commute home from sitting in a cubicle for 8 hours then standing in line at the grocery store, the absolute last thing I wanted to come home to was an attitude and a dirty kitchen to clean before I could even start supper.
Then there was the day I was informed, “we” don’t use the dishwasher. It’s a waste of energy. “Dad and I always wash the dishes by hand.” “We?” Who is this “we” you speak of? Am I not part of this “we”? I’ve never met “we” but if “we” washes the dishes, “we” is my new best friend. Well, it seemed “we” was nowhere to be found because on most days, there were always dishes in the sink. I looked and looked for “we” but never was able to locate “we”. I was willing to pay “we” top dollar just so I could come home to an empty sink. But to no avail, I had no such luck. Cereal bowls, dirty spoons, and glasses with month old rings in them from being left in her room for so long, lovingly stretched out their arms to me from that sink most every evening. So, I put my foot down and explained that I may be a lot of things, but a maid I am not. And the dishwasher was then used. Heavily.
It seems my feelings were always being beat up on. I was beginning to get tired of feeling not good enough and I didn’t want to ‘toughen up’ as Keith suggested I do. And Keith, God love him, he tried to explain to me it’s just the way teenagers are. They can seem spiteful and mean, but it’s just their way of pushing through life and he was certain whatever she said, she didn’t mean it intentionally. I didn’t care though. There’s no good reason for feelings to ever be hurt and well, when a person tells you you hurt them, you don’t get to decide you didn’t.
OK, maybe in hindsight, I ‘was’ becoming a mom. I mean, nothing I did was good enough or right enough or anything enough. She found fault with the way I cooked, the way I cleaned, the way I breathed. I was infringing on her time. Her way of doing things. Her household rules. She was there before me, and figured she’d be there long after me. It was becoming a struggle as to who was the “Queen”. And I’ve always told Keith, “The day she contributes more than a smelly room and a pissy attitude to this family, then and only then can she make any rules.” But as long as my time, money, and energy was being used up to make her life royalty…I was the “Queen.” Besides, I don’t know of any queens who rule a successful land and sleep till noon in a room with clothes piled knee-high.
I did my best to referee the two of them when their sparks started to fly. And boy did their sparks fly. Keith has the patience of Job. Or more like four Job’s. But when he reached his limit, the sparks would fly. And his meeting place? The garage. I always knew when he looked at her with that “look” and pointed to the garage door…they would be having a “Come to Jesus” meeting. But in the garage, of all places?? I always felt Jesus deserved better.
I also did my best to keep the peace and support Keith the best I could. “Please lower your voice and do not speak to your dad in that tone.” I also did my best to reward her for doing her chores or keeping her area of the house in order. “If you clean your room and get the clothes off the floor, we’ll go get pedicures.”
Because you catch more flies with honey than vinegar, right?
In other words, I did my best to be the best mom I could be. Or at least what I thought a ‘best mom’ was. If nothing else, just good enough. However, that was about as appreciated as tits on a bull.
In hindsight, I should have done what every other good, God-fearing southern woman does with her family: Scream and curse.
“Shut your damn mouth and quit being ugly! Get your ass in your room and get that dump cleaned up or you’ll regret your next breath! And if you don’t believe me, you’re gonna have hell to pay!”
I mean, it worked with my mom. We all turned out OK. None of us are in a prison chain gang or making license plates, now are we? Looking back, my mom probably didn’t scream and curse enough at us kids. And honestly, if it wasn’t for us kids, my mom probably wouldn’t have screamed and cursed at all. Come to think of it, she should thank us for the colorful language we taught her.
(And speaking of my mom. I will never understand how or why she did it. I’m sure I gave her much more grief than I ever received. Though not a week passed I didn’t hear, “Look at me like that again and I’ll slap you into next week” and “You better stop that fussing or I’ll give you something to fuss about, young lady!” I always knew her level of seriousness by whether or not “young lady” was tacked on to her threat. And it was tacked on quite a bit.)
Anyway, I’m no saint. Not even close. For the love of all things fiery bright red, I’m a natural-born, pure bred redhead. So, needless to say, there were more than a few times I lost my cool with my little family and barked and yelled and probably threw a sailor or two into cardiac arrest over the words coming out of my church going mouth. But I do remind myself daily that the best sermons are lived and not preached. I just don’t listen to myself daily.
A daughter. The very thing I prayed for, for so many years, was the very thing to cause me such heartache. I can’t count how many times I would talk to me and tell me “I can’t do this anymore” and “This isn’t what it’s supposed to be like” and “Why am I not good enough?”
And listen, if I’m honest with you, as different as Cayla and I are, we’re very much alike.
I eventually realized neither of us want to be hurt again. Or reminded of just how we don’t have the very thing we feel we should have. Her? A mom. And me? A daughter.
It would be so much easier for me if she just wasn’t lovable. If she was ugly-acting to me. If she was disrespectful. If she was a complete heathen. But she’s not. She’s not any of that. She’s been nothing more than a typical teenage girl. Doing what they do best: Being a typical teenage girl.
For the most part, she’s always been pretty awesome. Better than a lot of other kids I know, for sure. She’s never been a problem at school. Her grades continually skyrocket. Her choices are stellar. Her compassion for others is bountiful. Her affection flows freely. At her core, she is the definition of joy. Simplistic joy.
I’ve come to see she doesn’t know how to accept the advantages of having a mother’s love. And am I even good enough to be the one to fill that void anyway? No matter how painful it is for me who simply wanted to be good enough for her, there is no sin in that.
Now, let me tell you, I didn’t barge into this family cracking a whip. I never wanted to be the one to discipline. Or the one to set the rules. Or the one to even enforce the rules. I’m a rule breaker anyway. I simply wanted to feel included. Be part of the family. Feel good enough. To be the one who was called upon when that best friend betrayed her. The one to have long talks with about boys. The one turned to when she didn’t feel well. It was too late for painting toenails and trimming bangs, but I would be more than fulfilled with the other stuff. I don’t know how to be a mother any more than she knows how to have a mother. I just assumed we’d learn together. I assumed I’d be good enough. And I assumed over time, it would all come naturally.
But you know what? It didn’t. And for the most part, it still doesn’t. There’s not a whole lot of ‘natural’ to be found when two people are playing roles they’re not quite sure how to play. And life isn’t a dress rehearsal.
Over the years, there’s been prom dresses bought. There’s been heels stumbled in. There’s been lipstick smudged. I’ve gone up against her daddy on her behalf to let her stay out past curfew. Let her go to that party. Let her push the envelope. Hoping this would make her like me, or heaven forbid, maybe even love me. Or just be good enough.
Sometimes it worked, most of the time it didn’t. Each day was a new day and I never knew what to expect.
However, amongst all those negative comments and harsh words I’ve had hurled at me, I’ve had my hand held each Sunday in church for over 4 years. Once, I even received flowers for Mother’s Day. I’ve been given an abundance of cards for birthdays. Christmas has brought small plaques of love that read, “I love you to God and back.” And when she didn’t know I was around, I overheard the words, “She has more faith than anyone I know and it’s because of her I’ve started doing a daily devotional and reading my bible.”
Once she left for college, I hoped we’d miss each other and somehow over the miles, grow closer. Even if only by phone. Distance usually does a family good. And well, muddy water is best cleared by leaving it alone, right? And I suppose in some ways, we have grown a bit closer. There was that time I was invited to join her for a ‘Moms Weekend’ with her sorority. I’m pretty sure she simply didn’t want to be the only daughter there without a mom and have to explain. So, I was basically the understudy. But that’s ok and it’s more than enough for me. It was a great honor. However, it was the very first time I heard the words, “This is my mom” when introductions were made. I tried not to get sappy. It didn’t work. I sobbed alone in the restroom.
And then many months later, there was that text. That text that came out of the blue one quiet morning. Expected never in this lifetime. Not from her to me, anyway. The one that made me question my sanity even harder. And it came the very day after I pitched a slight hissy fit because I was feeling like a nobody who mattered to no one in this family. Nobody cares about my opinion. Nobody wants my advice. Nobody cares. Woe is me, huh? My knickers were in a knot if they’ve ever been knotted.
This text that I received? It thanked me for loving her father so well. For being such a good wife to him. And to know I do not go unnoticed and the gratefulness she has for such a role model as me.
And that she loves me.
And it is times like these I am quite sure I am nothing more than three gallons of crazy in a two- gallon bucket.
And it is also times like these I know God must’ve been bored and figured He’d do some good old fashioned knee slappin’ at my expense.
Watching her flourish away at college has brought me some proud moments. Sure, she’s made the president’s list. Sure she’s held a job. Sure she’s active in her church college group. But whatever. It’s the way she keeps her room spotless. Like she saw me do when she was at home. How she makes her bed each morning. Like she saw me do when she was at home. Seeing her car sparkling clean when she’s in for a visit. Like she saw mine was when she was at home. That perfect shade of lip gloss. Like mine. That flawless face of makeup. Oh, and the heels…the cute and sassy heels she has. You get it.
Growing up with a teenager I didn’t raise from birth, is quite possibly the toughest path I’ve ever walked. And I do believe I’m the one who is doing the ‘growing up’ here. I’m having to learn to take what comes and either soak it in or let it bounce off. And there’s never any hints or clues as to which is best at the time. I will say for me, it’s not been all that easy. Half the time I don’t know if I should scratch my butt or wind my watch, for heaven’s sake.
I do see though, every path in life will always have a few puddles. Some puddles much deeper than others. But they will all be passable. None too deep to wade through. None to wide to go around. But there will be puddles. Those puddles will be the very thing that makes you yearn for the fresh, dry land. And keep in mind, some of those puddles will ruin that great pair of heels, too. So you have to determine which puddles to walk through and which puddles to walk around.
So, for any of you who want to be a momma but maybe can’t be a momma or aren’t sure how to be a momma and are unsure you can even be a good enough momma? Do it. Even if you don’t carry them for nine months…do it. I’m not gonna lie though. It’s hard. It’s a giant pain in the you-know-what-times-twenty when you’re awake. It’s a never ending feeling of not being good enough. But you know what? You are. You are good enough. If no one else ever tells you, I will. You are good enough. You’re actually better than good enough.
Why? Because ‘Good enough’ is there because she wants to be. Not because she has to be. ‘Good enough’ doesn’t walk away. When it’s the easier thing to do. ‘Good enough’ stands firm and pushes through. Even when curling up in a corner seems like the better option. ‘Good enough’ sacrifices. Time, energy, money, tears, you name it, it’s sacrificed. ‘Good enough’ struggles. With unanswered prayers, sanity, dirty dishes, feeling left out, and I could go on and on. ‘Good enough’ sits in the shadows. While everyone else gets the credit and the hugs. ‘Good enough’ cries. A lot. And then a little more. ‘Good enough’ prays. Because for the most part, that’s where any and every answer, if there is one, can be found. ‘Good enough’ is simply more than enough.
This taking-on-a-teenager-you-didn’t-birth can pull up past resentments. It can cause lots of anger. It can cause a tremendous amount of heartache. It can make you feel less than bottom of the barrel.
But then, there are a lot of things it teaches you. It teaches you how to be patient. How to be kind, and not envious. It shows you how you should never boast or be proud. It shows you how to protect your heart, trust in God, never give up hope, and to continuously forge ahead.
I do believe though I’ve finally come to realize, my finding Keith who has a daughter with no mother was God’s way of teaching me I am actually good enough. Even if I’m the only one who thinks so, at times. And I also believe this is God’s way of keeping me close to Him. And leaning on Him. And depending on Him. And talking with Him.
And His way of making me see that my joy must be rooted in simplicity.
Simple words. Simple expressions. Simple thoughts. Simple actions.
“This is my mom.”
“ Thank you for loving my dad.”
“ She has more faith than anyone I know.”
“You do not go unnoticed.”
“ I love you.”
Because “Words that soak into your soul, are whispered…not yelled.”
And that, my sweet friend…is absolutely good enough.