When life hands you lemons

 

A few days ago I asked people to email me any questions they have for me or what they would want to see me write about. A good amount of people have asked me what it’s like to have my mom in jail. What do we tell our kids? Do they visit her? What do they say or think about it? What’s it like?

Gosh, it feels weird to think these are the decisions we’ve had to face, I wouldn’t have guessed it in a million years. This isn’t at all what I pictured for my life or for my kids. Yet, here we are, navigating our family through a very difficult situation.

For those of you who don’t know my story, I’ll sum it up very quickly. A month before Sean and I got married, our lives changed drastically. I got the call that my mom was arrested for murder. Yes, you read that correctly. And just like that, our happy little OC family was forever changed.

Let me back up, 14 years prior, I had faced another incident that changed our lives forever. My mom’s wealthy fiancé, Bill McLaughlin, who we lived with and adored, was murdered in our home in Balboa. We were devastated, I was devastated. They never found  who shot him or why they did it and it became a cold case for 14 years. I was 8 years old and really didn’t understand why everything was changing so fast. I just missed Bill.

To make a very very long story short…my mom was having an affair with an NFL football player, Eric Naposki, while engaged to Bill. My mom and Eric broke up soon after Bills death and went on to live very separate and normal lives. They were both randomly arrested 14 years later for the crime. They believe my mom told Eric to murder her fiancé for financial gain. Both Eric and my mom are now serving life sentences in Prison.

I won’t go into detail about the case or my thoughts because I’ll be publishing a book about it all at a later time and it would take far too long to describe this tragedy of death and conviction in a quick blog.

Now you’re caught up on the background… Sean and I got married a month after the arrest, it’s now been 7 years and we have 2 kids and a baby on the way.

Yes, our kids visit my mother, Nana as they call her. Was this a hard decision for us? Not at all. Those of you who have turned your parents into grandparents already know the special bond between a grandparent and their grandchild. I’m pretty sure our kids are loved more than we are by our own parents at this point! I didn’t want to stop that bond from forming just because its not a normal circumstance. I also don’t want my kids to think that we just abandon our family if they mess up or give up on people because they’ve made mistakes.

That being said, if my mom was a threat or abusive to my kids in any way-then yes we would revisit the decision. But there is no harm or danger to my family!

How did we explain it to our kids? Well, Brynn doesn’t ask much and is still too young to know. Brax is 4, but if you know him, then you know he asks questions as if he were 24! We’ve always told them the truth. The watered down, age appropriate truth. “Nana is in jail because when you hang around people who make bad choices or you make bad choices yourself, there are consequences. She made mistakes in her life and even though God forgives her and so do we, there’s still a price you pay.” We break it down like this, “when you hurt your sister, don’t you get in trouble? Well, the bigger mistakes you make, the bigger trouble you get in.”

We also use it as an opportunity to point out how important the choices we make in life are. We teach our kids to forgive others when they have wronged us. We teach them how God forgives and how Jesus died for our forgiveness.  We teach them to have grace on others, love them and to pray for them.

The strange thing is, Brax actually gets it. He applies it and really understands the meaning of grace and forgiveness because of this. They both love their Nana and have a blast in visiting. However, Brax doesn’t understand the “life sentence.” He asks when she can come home and why she can’t just leave with us. He even said, “Nana, there’s the door just come with us now. Pleeeease.” My eyes watered and I wished it were just that simple. I sympathize with him because I still haven’t wrapped my head or heart around a life sentence. Is my mom really going to spend her whole life there? And I still look at the door and think to myself, “why can’t she just leave?!”  It’s one door holding her back from the freedom of the world and we are about to walk out of it, why can’t she just come with us? Ok it’s like 4 doors and a gate with electric wiring but still…

We all pray together and ask God for her to be able to come home one day if its His will. I told Brax, when we don’t understand something, we can pray about it because God does understand and He will give us what we need to get through even if we don’t fully understand it.

We have used this situation to teach our kids a lot about Gods love and how we can love others. I’ll be honest, it’s hard. It sucks. He has asked me things like, “is Nana a bad person?”  I asked him, “well what do you think?” He said, “no, she’s really nice to me and I love her.” So I leave it there. My mom is not a threat to my children, she is so good to them and loves them wholeheartedly. I can’t imagine my kids not knowing who my mother is even though I know they will ask questions for the rest of our lives. It’s so hard to respond to questions we don’t have answers to ourselves.

It’s easy to judge a situation when you aren’t in it. If you asked me 10 years ago, “would you take your kids to jail to visit someone who was in there for murder?” I would say no! But being in the situation gave me a whole new outlook and continues to teach me lessons. Doesn’t life teach us so much about compassion? I hope you can find it in your heart to respect our decision to let our children learn from this rather than run from it. I have said from day 1, we will raise our kids to be strong enough to be able to handle the hard things in life and to have enough faith to trust God in it.  I have had some negative feedback from a few people on social media about our decision to take our kids to visit my mom, and all I can say is I get it….I get that there will be people who don’t understand.

I’m humbled. I’m heartbroken. I hate that this is how my kids have to experience my mom. My mom….the mom who always had fresh oatmeal chocolate chip cookies made, the mom who threw a heck of a party. The mom who hugged me 50x a day and would give the shirt off her back for the ones she loves, and always made everything fun and adventurous. The mom that made motherhood look so easy and enjoyable, who always took time to spend with her little girl.

I wish my kids could experience my mom the way I did.

But I’m thankful she’s alive, I’m thankful they get to experience a piece of her, I’m thankful they get excited to go visit Nana. I’m thankful we get to buy $10 ice cream from the prison vending machines and play tag on the lawn with her. I’m thankful that the women in prison are hearing about Jesus because of her. I’m thankful that God can use anything for His glory if we let Him.

I’m thankful that when we get to heaven we will party it up and make up for a lot of lost time!

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