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I’ve spent a great deal of my life wishing I had never been born.

Now I have two kids who are just like me. They wish they had never been born.

In the aftermath of a huge argument, precipitated by my reaction to my husband’s reaction to my son’s reaction to the news that his trip to see his cousin was going to be postponed yet again, my son, my daughter, and I were sitting outside on the ground.

The clouds overhead were dark and carrying rain, the light was in that stage of the gloaming where the clouds and the trees to the east are so fantastically colored that they look fake.

I groped and grappled in my mind for words to comfort my son, who has been diagnosed with ADHD. He insisted that my fight with my husband was his fault, that it was always his fault, that he wants to kill himself every time we start arguing because of him.

“What exactly do you think you will get out of killing yourself?” I asked him gently.

“The fighting will stop.”

“No,” I explained. “The fighting will get worse. Your dad and I will fight until we get divorced or I kill myself. Then your sister will have a dead mom and a dead brother.”

I was trying to talk him into thinking beyond the moment. Thoughts like that are what stop me from killing myself. But just as soon as I uttered those words, I realized that I may have just added fuel to his fire. Because he also carries a great rage inside. It is that rage that he turns in on himself. But I sense he can also turn that rage outward, and ideates this much more often than I realize.

Thoughts like the ones I just expressed might just push him into killing himself to get revenge.

Flash to a few moments before, before we all sat down. I was looking for him, and he came walking over from an unexpected direction, his pocketknife out and open.

He said something. I told him to give me that knife, that he was far too angry to be carrying it just now. He gave it up without hesitation.

Recalling that moment, I realized I could not take back the words I had spoken, and so I simply changed the subject. After a period of silence, I asked him what in this whole world would make him happy. He could not answer this.

“Anything,” I pressed. “If you had the power to make a whole new life, different parents even. What kind of life would make you happy?”

“A life that never was,” he said.

To my bewildered sorrow, he clarified:

“I could only be happy if I had never been born.”

My daughter, drawing in the dirt on the other side of the electric fence wire, nodded agreement. “Me, too,” she mumbled to the earth. She is on medication for depression.

I felt so heartbroken. My kids are just like me. I have passed on to them my hopelessness. They are only 11 and 14.

I determined to think before I spoke again, this time.

Finally, I said, “I’ve felt like that, too, before.”

“I feel that way all the time,” he said.

It seemed there was no winning this one.  I launched into how much his father and I love him, and how sorry I am that we fight, and that none of it is his fault, and that all of it is my fault, I start all the fights with his father, and how much his father cares and wants him to be happy. It was all so desperate and now, trying to remember, seems so empty. We all knew we were together, and separate from someone else.

Eventually the dogs came over. I started picking the loose fur out of one, and white dog hair flew everywhere. My son laid backwards to escape it. He seemed annoyed.

“It’s snowing!” I said. Then the other dog came up and pushed his little nose into my legs. “Oh, no.  I know what’ll happen if I try to pull loose hair off of you!”

My son was smiling.  I imitated the dog’s yelp, sure to occur if I plucked a loose tuft of fur. Soon we were all laughing. Then the cats came over, and my daughter had the tuxedo cat chasing a weed in circles while the calico kitten crouched intently at a distance, watching every move, and the lazy, long-hair orange cat just watched. We were all enjoying the pets together and I thought inanely of the healing power of animals. Everything was all right again. Or so I thought.

Out of nowhere, more dark words came out of the mouth of my son. More tears from me, wishing I could give him whatever that elusive thing he needs that love alone cannot provide. And as my attention remained focused on him, my daughter was silently suffering from a crushing series of blows that had occurred this week. I couldn’t be there for them both. I didn’t know what to do.

Later my son and I sat at our kitchen table, and he spoke on and on, lost in fond memories of past excursions during visits with his cousin. Because he needed it so desperately, even though it was late at night, I gave him my “full” attention…to the best of my ability between my racing thoughts, worry about my daughter, and my own exhaustion.

When I convinced him it was bedtime, he went out to the couch. On the other couch, my daughter was lying, her face streaked with tears each of which had been shed for a good reason. Neither went to bed. I feel terrible. I have failed completely to be effective. I have been trying so so hard to be a better parent, and all I achieve is more arguments with my husband, more pain for the kids.

My husband gets angry when we express our emotions by crying or being angry. It’s completely justified, every time HE is angry, but nothing in my children’s perceptions or my own are important enough for it to be okay in this household for us to express any emotion except agreement with him. It is so wrong for me to insist on my right to defend my children to him, because it causes him to escalate, and then our arguments get loud in front of the child being defended. But how can standing there watching my son crying while my husband, yelling, orders him to “settle down?” Could anyone sobbing miserably settle down just because someone orders them to? My son stops crying out of fear, but has not settled down.  I started the argument that led to the tableau of us sitting outside. I am wrong to blame my husband. This is all my fault because I am bipolar and I am a terrible mother. I am a failure.

Even admitting I am a failure is a sin because expressing feelings such as these is self-pity, and there is no place for self-pity on a beautiful piece of land like ours, lush and green, in Colorado, a state that is withering, drying out, and burning like hell itself all around us; and in a marriage that has survived incredible hardships. But feelings are their own beginning and end; and have nothing to do with circumstances unrelated to them.

Food on the table where others have none does not lessen the blow of the loss of a pet. Neither does living in America while people across the globe are suffering tsunamis and genocide ease the pain of deep depression or horrible family crises. Anyone who thinks they do are kidding themselves. I know that I’m a failure as a parent and as a wife and as a friend, I have little to no hope, but I don’t have the option of giving up. I have to try to learn how to strengthen my kids. They are already strong, but very troubled, just like me. Why? Because of me.

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