By Rachel Pastiloff.
If I close my eyes and think hard enough I can almost remember the house. Almost. I can’t remember if it was brown or green. Maybe it was brown with yellow trim. I do remember the chain link fence in the back yard, and the rabbit hutch my Poppy made for us. I wish I could remember more. I just said to a friend this past weekend, “I wish I had a photographic memory,” but then realized that would probably be a curse.
I still dream of those days. The ones that happened before July of 1983. Maybe I could go under hypnosis and while in a trance bring a Polaroid camera with me. I had a Polaroid camera once. It was pink and I loved the instant gratification. I would take my Polaroid and snap a photo of all the moments from January 15th, 1978 until July 15th, 1983.
I have a snapshot of the day my daddy died. I have that moment etched in my brain. Chinese checkers, shag carpet, curse words and fist slamming, sirens, strange men, family arriving. I remember all of that. The den where I was held captive as they took Mel, my dad, away on a stretcher. I snuck away and caught a glimpse of his lifeless body. I had no idea it would be the last time I saw his beautiful face, although it did not look beautiful on that stretcher, blue and dying.
In the weeks before he passed my mom and dad had “the talk” with my sister and me. It was the “we are getting a divorce talk.” I remember the bedroom and the bed we sat on with its putrid ugly yellow sheets. My father had an armoire that held all of his “cool” stuff. Probably the same place he placed his drugs, the ones that would weeks later rip him out of my life. That talk would leave an imprint on my life.
I carried it around with me like a 200-pound appendage.
My last memories of my father were of him saying, “You can have Rachel and I will take Jennifer.”
A few weeks later he died. I carried the burden of his poison laced words with me, the words that a five year old hears, in five-year-old comprehension.
- You don’t love me?
- Why don’t you want me?
- Why won’t you take me?
- I am unlovable.
For years I’d ask my mother why?
Why didn’t he think I was worth taking, loving, or keeping? She always made excuses for him. None of them ever took it away.
His words became my inner voice.
I am a mother now. I have the choice now. As I read the post on Facebook it knocked me over.
“How you speak to your children becomes their inner voice.”
I couldn’t breathe when I read it.
I have to make sure that their inner voice is one that says: I am loveable. I am wanted. I am smart and kind. I am heard. I am special.
This is a challenge as the mother of one child with a rare genetic disorder and autism, and another child with ADHD and a mood disorder. It’s a major battle sometimes to remember to breathe, and sometimes, just to conquer minute by minute of the day.
I have not been the most gracious mom over the last six months. I am depleted in every possible definition of the word. I have had more than my fair share of ugly mom moments, last night being one of them. I was yelling and pounding my fists, scaring even myself. Watching myself as if I were in a movie, looking at my little one stare at me as if I was a monster.
Those moments pass and we are fine, but what is the ripple that I have created inside his voice pool? Rachel, your words become their inner voice.
Your words are what they hear when they lay their heads on the pillow and fall into their dream state. I finally had that epiphinany.
“Epiphany,” the book written by Elise Ballard. I bought it and kept wondering when my epiphany would come. I want it to be profound and earth shattering. I want the world to feel a mini earthquake when my brain finally gets it.
That isn’t even close to what happened. Instead, I lay in my bed last night and told myself to just breathe in and just breathe out, over and over again. I remembered that Facebook post I read.
I want my voice to lift my children up. I want my voice to inspire my children everyday so much that they think to themselves, “I am so lucky, I have such a good life.” I want my voice to be the thing that lights a fire in my children, and keeps them going even when it hurts. I want my voice to be the one they hear in their dreams that tells them, you are so loved, you are so wanted, you are a special gift, and you are love.
My sister Jennifer often says: At the end of your life when you ask one final “what have I done?” Let your answer be “I have done love.”
At the end of my life when my children say their good bye to me they will say, She did love. She gave me my voice.
Rachel is a native of Philadelphia/South Jersey. She currently resides in Atlanta with her husband and two young sons, ages 7 and 4. In 2009 Rachel’s oldest son was diagnosed with a rare genetic disorder called Prader-Willi Syndrome, with a diagnosis of autism to follow shortly after. The diagnosis was traumatic and forever altered the course of her life. Rachel has made it her mission to educate the world about children who have special needs and their parents. In her spare time between doctor’s appointments, therapy sessions, and the normal stuff everyday parents do, she writes a blog RachelPastiloff.com. Rachel is also a yoga teacher and a health coach in Atlanta. She received her training from the Institute for Integrative Nutrition. Her passion for food, nutrition and wellness are her biggest passion. You can find her on Facebook, instagram at @rachelpastiloff or assisting her sister Jen at one of her retreats around the world.
Heart-breaking, beautiful, human, tragic and inspiring all at once – thank you.
I love this, Rachel! I’d say this is quite an epiphany, you lovely, beautiful mother, woman, sister and friend. 🙂 Thank you so much for sharing and for the inspiration. You Pastiloff girls enhance my world and leave a ripple of love and uplifting, life-affirming energy wherever you go and in whatever you do…it’s truly inspiring…
Your honesty is refreshing and your moments of “less than gracious” familiar. You are an inspiration to me in all your authenticity..stay true stay strong!
So beautiful and so honest. I love that when you realize your moments aren’t what you want them to be that you know you can change them for the next time and you see clearly what your children need. You are a great mom and you are human. Love you
I love this post. And it is good that you had that epiphany because being gracious can be a struggle but it is definitely one worth having every single day if it means your kids’ inner voice is one of love and respect. I understand the yearning to parent in love and make sure your children know that they are loved, accepted, valued and cherished. It really hurts me when I see parents who do not instill these feelings into their children (and I don’t mean that they sometimes yell at, talking sternly to, or are “less than gracious” in some moments).
Feeling loved is something I struggle with every single day. I don’t think when I was a kid I went around consciously thinking “I don’t feel loved”… but now, when I look back on things, I realize that I didn’t feel the love most kids should, and I still really don’t feel it as a young person. It’s hit and miss. To me, you shouldn’t have to justify feeling loved: you shouldn’t need to look into another person’s words or actions and say “I think she MEANT to be showing me love”.
It is not about words for me, so much as actions. Words are obviously important: if someone cuts you down with words, you won’t feel loved. But I don’t think positive words are enough. Someone can say “I love you so much” or “you are so loved” and then ignore you for a week (and unfortunately, parents can be notorious for this as well)… or do things that don’t line up – those are the things that drive me nuts – the feeling of being ignored is, to me, the feeling of being unloved.
One of the things that I love love LOVE about this community is that that feeling doesn’t exist. I don’t think Jen lets ANYONE be “invisible” or ignored. Everyone is heard and has a voice. And everyone is valued and loved for who they are.
What a beautiful piece. Your children are so fortunate to be loved by you. I am sure you are an inspiration to many.
Your boys know love. Yes they do.
Sending love to you Rachel – to me you are the epitome of courage and love and inspiration. I speak from experience when I say, you do not have to be superhuman to be a great Mom. I am a mother who was away from her small children for nearly 3 months because of an illness… I had to accept the cold hard truth that you are already a great Mom when you are simply PRESENT in their lives. Go ahead, declare victory. You are already a magnificent example. They already hear your loving inner voice – but it’s the inner voice not of an unattainable angel, but of a human being, just like them. :).
Really, really beautiful.
I want my kids to hear nothing but love from me too. It doesn’t always happen, but it happens way more than not, and that’s the best I can do as this human that I am. xo