This week, I had a talk with my 19-year-old daughter about leaving home. Because some of her friends had left home and then had to come back due to financial difficulties, we talked about the emotional aspect of “going back home”.
When we talked, she told me about the feelings of shame, failure, disappointment and many other negative feelings that would be associated with having to go back home. It was after this talk that I realized there is one more thing I want my kids to know.
The following is a very true story.
Wendy met Michael when she finished her medical studies. She was from Melbourne Australia and he was an intern from the US. Their love was big and they moved together to the US to live next to Michael’s wealthy parents. Wendy’s parents were not happy about it at all.
When their second child was born, Michael, who had easy access to drugs, became addicted and started using drugs regularly. When their third child was born, Michael had a drug-induced psychotic episode and tried to kill Wendy and the baby.
Wendy was scared. With no support system and after attempting to get Michael some help, Wendy filed for divorce. She went to court to get custody of their kids, but being a dependent in the US, during the court hearing, Michael got custody of the kids – a 6-month-old baby, a 2-year-old and a 3-year-old.
Michael could not function at all as a parent because of his addiction, so his parents had the kids for about a year until the court finally decided to give the kids to their mom.
Happily reunited with her kids, after the worst two and half years of her life, Wendy decided to go back to Australia. She called her mother in Melbourne and said she had the kids and she was returning to Australia in two weeks. Her mother said, “Don’t come here”.
When I heard Wendy’s story, it was inappropriate to cry in front of her, but I then made up my mind that I would let my kids know that my door is always open to them and that if they ever need me to shelter them from the world and help them recover from whatever happens to them, I will embrace them and accept them, together with their own family.
Here is what I wrote for my kids:
My dear child,
I want you to know that whatever happens, in whatever trouble you are, no matter how silly or stupid or dangerous the thing you did was, no matter how old you are, no matter how many kids you have, no matter what conflicts we have and how upset I am, my door is always, always, always open to you!
If I have to, I will have your kids in my bed for years until you feel strong enough to live on your own.
Home is not the bricks that surround the space we live in. Home is where people who love you are with their arms open to hug you and comfort you in times of pain.
My wonderful kids, here is a poem for you. I want you to carry it with you so you will never have doubts:
When you are happy, the door is open: we are here to congratulate you on your success.
When you are sad, the door is open: we are here to comfort you in your disappointment.
When you are lonely, the door is open: we are here to keep you company.
When you are scared, the door is open: we are here to spread our wings and shelter you.
When you feel you have failed, the door is open: we are here to remind you of your great achievements.
When you are hungry, the door is open: we are here to offer you the food on our table.
When you are in trouble, remember, the door is always open.
When you feel lost, we are here.
Come in. No need to knock.
We’ll give you a compass to find your way.
As long as I am alive, my door is always open.