The Summer My Children Saved Me - Conexus Counselling - Bergen & Associates - Winnipeg, Manitoba

The summer my children saved me

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I love the tagline of the movie, "Because of Wynn-Dixie": The tag line of the movie, Because of Wynn-Dixie is: Discover what happens when you go looking for a miracle and a miracle comes looking for you. That movie spoke deeply to us...the miracle found us that night. It describes our first summer on our own.

Mother’s Day is a day for celebrating motherhood…and it’s often a day when mothers are celebrated and honoured.

I love the way my Junior Tribe Members have made macaroni necklaces, picture frames from popsicle sticks, and handmade cards over the years. (Teachers–bless you, truly).

But I’m even more grateful for how my Junior Tribe Members (JTM’s) have made me a better person for having been their mother. This Mother’s Day, I celebrate that I get to be their mother.


The JTM’s have been a personal fan club…they’ve cheered when I walk in the door.  They’ve jumped up and down when I’m serving mac’n’cheese (they don’t care when I’ve been too tired to make anything else!). They have waved from the preschool Christmas choir concert and then all through the years…including now, sometimes a look in the camera with a salute when I watch a JTM play games live streamed over the internet.

They catch me when I do something I’ve told them not to do.  For years, I got called on it when my elbows were on the table, or I said something was stupid. As they grew older, we would discuss ideas, and they simply wouldn’t let me get away with behavior which was something other than what I expected from them. Why should they?

And one summer, I believe they saved me.

11 years ago, I became a single mother.  You know when a car accident is gonna happen…it hasn’t happened yet, but the wheels are in motion, and there is nothing to do but wait the fraction of a second for it to happen? That was what it was like for several months before he left. It was coming. It hadn’t happened yet. But there wasn’t anything I could do to stop my life from blowing up.  It was like living in a perpetual state of wincing…that state of raising your shoulders and closing your eyes waiting for the big crash.

On April 11, the crash happened...but it was three long weeks before he could move into the apartment he subleased. We all went to a JTM’s basketball game that Saturday morning, came home, had some fruit and muffins for lunch, and then he left. The JTM’s peered over the back of the couch with me, and we all cried as he pulled away.


I didn’t know how I would go on.

Didn’t know how the mortgage would get covered. Didn’t know how I would juggle all the balls of raising these precious ones and a career and managing the whole household on my own. But mostly didn’t know how I would live in a world where the man who had affirmed and encouraged and believed in me for 16 years now seemed to not care what happened to me.

I wanted a coma.  A nice, long 6 month coma.  It just all seemed too much, and I just didn’t want the pain of existing. (I know–I KNOW–comas aren’t a very effective way of checking out of life…but this wasn’t about being practical…it was about not wanting to face life in the months after I was left alone)


Kids are kids…And the good thing about them is that even the day after your husband leaves to start a life without you, kids need breakfast.  And to get dressed.  And they need extra reading to, extra cuddles, and extra reminders to practice their piano lesson. They needed me…and there was no room for staying in bed, never mind a coma.

Kids are kids…

They grieve and cry…but they have short attention spans and a need and desire to live. They wanted to play…even the week after he left, they wanted to play.  Of course they did.  And they asked me to play with them.  And reluctantly, I did. But I did–of course I did, that’s what mother’s do.

Mothers dig deep even when it feels like they have nothing left–because moms find a way.

I played with them…and it was good for me.

In the summer after he left, we were a little band of three.  We played tennis, used sidewalk chalk, had friends over, rode our bikes–just generally spent a lot of time together.  We needed each other.  We needed to see that we were each OK.

(Yep, they saw their dad regularly that summer–that was hard for me.  I was a mom that signed up for parenting 24/7 and so seeing them go with him was like having my momma heart pulled out of my chest for while they were gone. But it was great for them–and important. And then they came back.)

Our resources were tight, but my aunt sent me $40.00 in an encouragement card…and I declared that $40.00 our “fun money” for the summer.  We stretched that forty bucks a loooooong way.  Slurpees once or twice on a hot day.  We went for ice cream too.

One beautiful summer evening, we ventured out to The Forks.  From our house at the time, it was well over 6 km.  A challenging bike ride to do both ways in one evening when your legs are short. It was the farthest they’d ever gone in a single evening. It was an adventure. The climax of the adventure was to be the sharing of a bag of those little doughnuts which we all loved. We savoured those little morsels sitting outside and enjoyed the evening bustle of our city’s centre.

Half way home, something happened to the little one’s bike chain.  It seized/fell off/broke. His little bike was inoperable…and the back wheel was locked–it wouldn’t roll.  He was just 8.

We figured something out.  We had to.  It was getting dark, and we didn’t have any options.  A couple of kilometres from home.  The JTM’s were tired. So we figured out:

  • I lifted the little one’s back tired off the ground and rolled it home on the front tire, half carrying it.
  • The older JTM rolled my bike back home (it was too big for him to ride)
  • The younger JTM rolled the older JTM’s bike back home (it was too big for him to ride).

It was hard work.  It seemed we would never make it. We got discouraged.  But we didn’t give up. We were tired and rested on the curb a coupla times. When we arrived home hot and sweaty.  They were exhausted–it was hours after their bedtime–and we were mighty proud of ourselves.


It seemed like that trip had us all realize that we could do hard things together. We could make it farther than we thought.  We could carry more than we thought. And if we cooperated, we could accomplish things we couldn’t on our own. 

It was like after that we knew we would be OK, no matter what life threw at us.

We would figure it out, and we would make it.


A few weeks after our cycling misadventure, the JTM’s spent hours making a fort in the basement.  It was awesome.  Blankets and duct tape and all manner of furniture acting as tent poles to create a cozy space that was actually quite livable.

The JTM’s asked for a camp out in the fort.

It seemed like a lotta work.  It seemed like a lotta clean up. A “camp out” seemed too much for a scared and tired single mama who was hardly holding it together..

But in a world where hard things had happened beyond their control, it seemed like this was something I could do for them. I agreed.

That night was magical and it will be forever engrained in my memory.

We had terrible store bought cardboardish-frozen pizza as a picnic in the fort .  Somehow, all food tastes gourmet when it’s in a fort. We giggled and talked.

The fort was cozy with blankets close over our heads as we sat on the floor.  The furniture was close by, to form the walls. In a world that had become big and overwhelming, the fort was a cozy retreat that became a safe haven from the rest of this daunting life we lived.

After supper we watched Because of Winn-Dixie, a cute little movie we rented (yep…another splurge from my aunt’s fun money) in the fort. The movie follows the story of a young girl struggling to find her place in a strange new world, missing a parent, and having a parent who is trying hard but misses the mark sometimes. Her story, though different in detail, seemed in many ways, to parallel our own.

My JTM’s will still recall how much I wept during this little children’s flick.  They remember the evening now as an occasion to tease me over my tears…but warmly, somehow. Even all this time later, they too remember the night under the blankets in the fort, where we shut out the rest of the world and were safely together, watching Winn-Dixie.

We fell asleep in sleeping bags in the fort, knowing we were together and we were ok.

I didn’t make them take it down the next day.  As a matter of fact, our first night in the fort was so memorable, we spent the next night there too…but by nights end, the blanket’s ceiling had sagged and was brushing up against us as we lay.

The fort was tired and ready to be dismantled…but it had done it’s job:

It had reminded us of the little ring of family: Safe haven. Stable base. The nights in the fort reminded me that life could be good again.  That it was already good.

My children reminded me over and over again that summer that my life wouldn’t end even though my marriage did.

They relied on me to be their mom…and expected I would continue routines and patterns…and so I did.  It was hard, and I often wasn’t sure how I would make it through the day…but I did.

They laughed, and their laughter invited me to join them.

I gave life to my children. They gave life to me during the death of my marriage.

This Mother’s Day, I celebrate my children.  Being their mother has been healing and life-giving.

The tag line of the movie, Because of Wynn-Dixie is:

Discover what happens when you go looking for a miracle

 and a miracle comes looking for you.

That movie spoke deeply to us…the miracle found me that summer.

Thanx to my kids, the miracle found me.

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