February 10, 2020
It’s 8 o’clock on a Monday night, and I’m returning home from my ex-husband’s house. My eyes drift across the waterlogged windshield. Halos of lights making it impossible to look at the traffic head-on.
Stigmatism. Makes night driving almost impossible. Add rain, and I’m done. I close my eyes at the redlight, exhaustion seeping in. I take a breath before resuming the drive through gritted teeth.
Once home, I throw my boots in the corner and flop down on the bed.
Dress, jewelry, tights and socks are still on, but I don’t care. I pull the sheets over me. I’m too tired to change.
“Babe, get changed.”
Keith walks in to check on me. A lull in the Toy Story 4 story progression. Noah content and laid out on the living room couch.
“I’m too tired. I really think it’s just mental exhaustion,” I say.
“Yeah, you’re right. Where do you keep your sleep shirts?”
His voice muffled from around the bathroom wall and inside the closet.
“Top drawer of the plastic cabinet.” I mumble.
He emerges from the double bathroom doors and tosses me a shirt, which I have yet to put on. I’m still reeling from the acceptance of what I heard earlier today.
My child struggling with emotions so strong that they are a destructive force. I understand those emotions and how cataclysmic they can be.
And I am guilt-ridden.
- Should I have seen this coming?
- Is this because of all the times they’ve seen me struggle?
- Am I too honest?
- Am I not honest enough?
- How could I have equipped him better?
Have I derided myself too much in front of them, punished them too harshly, nagged too much, not said I love you enough? The questions race through my brain.
“Don’t you dare blame yourself,” Keith said earlier that day. But how can I not feel complicit? This is my child. And that is how most of us feel. As moms, as parents, as family members. The children we love and have poured our lives into . . .
When we see them hurting and tearing themselves down, their inner voices at war within . . . we wonder where we went wrong. How did we not prepare them better?
When my kids were younger, I couldn’t wait for the easier years when I could stop giving them baths, playing endless rounds of zombie infection, staying up all night worried about fevers and stomach flu.I didn’t realize that raising young adults would introduce so many new angles and edges. I wasn’t prepared for the sadness, the frustration, and the self-damning emotions that my children would go through.
But tonight, I realize, I am raising humans. I mean, real live humans. And humans have real emotions. Strong emotions that can take them to strange and scary and exciting and exhausting places. I miss my 13 year old who’s now at his dad’s house. Happy in the moment but handling teenage emotions that throw him loops and curves when we aren’t with him.
I miss his little kid hugs and his little kid voice. I miss the three of us, my boys and me, spinning around the living room for our Friday night dance sessions and our mommy-son cuddle time, me sandwiched between the boys as they vied for my affection.
Noah bursts in, startling me. I sit up slowly as he sprawls out next to me. He grabs me in a tight hug, and we hold each other for a bit. And I give myself grace for being the best mom I could be in the past. For being the best mom I can be right now.
That’s the message I want to communicate. The message I constantly need to here. You are doing the best you can.
So the next time the shame creeps in, remember the greatness of who you are.. . . the time you’ve sacrificed for the people you love . . . your compassion . . . your goodness. You are learning as you go, and you are accepted just as you are.