I have a niece (I've written about her before) who has been a part of my heart since the day she was born a little over 31 years ago. She was born to my addicted sister when she was 17 which means I was a mere 21. For the last 31 years I have loved that child with every fiber of my being and given her all that I could to make her life as normal as possible.
While she was growing up, we had her every weekend and most of the summer. We funded and cheered her ice skating "career". We were Santa Clause and the Easter Bunny. We made sure she had clothes and books for school. But, most important of all, we gave her a safe place to land. We gave her "home".
Or so I thought...
You see, my niece has the "crazy gene", as my nephew calls it. She has the personality traits that make her behave like my mother and sister. Everything must always be about her. She's a compulsive liar. When she talks about herself she always has the best job, is the most important person in her neighborhood, is a better, mother, churchgoer, worker, student than anyone else. Everything in her life must involve drama or it doesn't hold value for her. She's sneaky and manipulative and will stop at nothing to get what she wants.
The hubs has been telling me about her since she was five years old but I, like most mothers, would hear none of it. I just kept trying to be a better mother to her hoping that love would win out over genetics.
I was wrong.
The older she gets and the older I get, I realize that I love the way I love. I love unconditionally. I don't always love equally (I try) but I love fully and with my entire being. I don't define my love with material things but I try to fullfill wishes and indulge rather than spoil. I respect boundaries but will step in if asked. I listen with my heart and my head and, if asked, will give advice (and sometimes when I'm not asked...d'oh!) No matter what, I am always ready with a warm hug and a kind word. However, if your ass needs kicking then I'll do that too. I'm the mom...it's what I do.
Sadly, it's never enough for my niece. No matter what I do, she needs more and even that is not enough. I recently told her that I was not able to love her any other way. She's convinced that I love "my" kids, or my stepdaughter or my nephew more than I love her. I don't do enough, call enough, send enough money, give enough presents, etc., etc., etc.
All I've got left to give now is love. My love, my way. If that's not enough for her, then so be it. I'm out of options. Life is short and quite frankly, I'm tired.
So I love her for who she is and I no longer take responsibility for her happiness. I used to obesses that she was angry with me or upset or bad talking me but now? Not so much. I am who I am and she is who she is and it's not my fault. I didn't cause it. I can't control it. And it's taken 31 years but I finally know I can cure it.
But I can love it.