Addison came home from school leaping into Ian’s arms. I cried. A broken brain and a cracked heart have made the days long and the nights forever for my brave son. I hadn’t seen him smile from joy in too long to remember. Addison brought that out of him in her fierce, loving way.
3 days later there would be no smiles, as we would be loading Ian into an ambulance and sending him to an inpatient treatment facility for the fourth time.
The picture we have of parenting when they are little is equal parts bravado and bullshit. Bravado-as we must be wholly convinced of our own ability to keep this entirely dependent creature alive and thriving. Bullshit-when we realize that indeed children can vomit across a room as fast as they can climb stairs and break into a childproof container of muscle relaxers.
My parenting picture has expanded with soul-full sisters-in-law who bring beautiful babies into the world. I’ve become Auntie-the human chew toy and giver of many treats.
My mothering picture is blurred slightly as they grow past me at a pace no one prepared me for. In a blink a grown man is in my house, looking past me into the future.
I never pictured my mothering to include therapists, and lock boxes to keep the means for my boy to die out of his hands. As if I’m locking away hope. Hope a smear of watercolor my prayer-full tears wipe from the canvas.
The frame is mental illness, the lines adolescence and the picture, on most days, is Dali-like with melting clocks and sharp edges from broken glass.
If he just…then we could…You let him get away with…There is something missing from my discipline/emotional support/fill-in-the-blanks…He didn’t exactly hit the genetic lottery with my family history…Why do you treat me like crap…Please leave…Please come back…Stop…just stop….
Those are some of the words that obscure my vision for any clear picture of who this child is underneath the behavior, blank stares and punched walls. My frustrated, angry, reactive words color it whatever is darker than black.
Just when we say to each other, “I’m done,” and crawl into our respective corners to stew, bleed and weep, out of the corner of my eye-a small glimpse.
Today he rapped inappropriate lyrics as he urged me to drive faster to get him to school. Today he smiled. At me.
The picture of my parenting is being redrawn. With shaky hands I, again, pick up the camera to see, the pencil to outline and the brush to paint. I’ll settle for a ginger colored smile-like his impossible to control hair. A twinkle in his blue eyes, absent of red from tears. And green from tiny reeds of hope breaking their way from beneath the dust of crushed preconceptions of perfect parenting.
Picture this- bravado anchored in the complete confidence that it really is all bullshit. That what really matters at the end of the day is that he is still in my picture and that with breath there is hope.
“I haven’t slept in weeks,” the beautiful woman shared from across the blue covered picnic table. A mother to a 17 year old, a 2 year old and a 3 month old-all foster to adopted children. None from her body. However, in the blue bruises under her sleep deprived eyes and hair in need for highlights, the grays peeking through, I only saw a compatriot in the trenches of diapers and attitudes and messes.
It took many years before we saw an ultrasound from my husband’s sibling. They were told it would probably never happen, and yet it did. The fall will bring a miracle baby into our family.
My dearest manager at work became a step-mother to an 11 year old who has now grown into a handsome, successful young man. She humbly discounts her role in his life, but in the way he smiles at her, you know this is truly his mom.
My brother said he would never get married nor have a family. He insisted he was fulfilled with spoiling our children and pursuing with passion his career. Then she happened. And in two short years he married and will be bringing a baby into the family this fall.
My friend will be mothering her son’s girlfriend as she moves in for a time; bringing another woman into a house full of men. Last night I made her laugh so she didn’t cry at the enormity of the changes.
Too many friends of mine have had complicated and painful relationships with their mothers. One is spending this day removing freedom from her mother-in-law to save her from dementia. Another has posted a meme on how birthing a child does not make a mother, rather heart does.
For me, mother’s day puts pressure on old wounds of mothering failures. While healing is ongoing, it’s so easy to feel the pinch of things remembered through the haze of depression and anxiety.
I remember my mother and grandmother. Tough and tender, I never quite understood them until long after they were gone.
I received this as a mother’s day gift from my sparkly 2nd grader.
I spent the majority of the day in jammies sobbing over a maudlin Nicholas Sparks movie (the only one where no one dies). I called my dearest sister (in law) and talked babies and summer visits and teaching and all things wonderful.
We went to a superhero movie and out to dinner. At dinner I quickly grabbed my phone remembering we hadn’t called Joyce. Then I cried. Joyce is my mother-in-law who has been gone for 5 years. So real is her presence still in our lives.
This day has been one where I have been thinking of all the kinds of mothers I know. The ones still waiting, the ones who are walking through addiction recovery, the grandmothers who are mothering again because their own children are incarcerated or incapable. I’m thinking of all the women who mother children in their classrooms or youth groups or on the job; like Wanda, the office manager, who taught me white people under-season their food and how vanilla should be quadrupled in any recipe.
To all the mothers from whom I learn so much, I say thank you and pray for your hearts to be full and your blanket warm and your nap uninterrupted.
Would you share about the mothers of all kinds in your life? I would love to read about them.
I have over 12,000 words to get out in the next two weeks.
I am hosting Thanksgiving and I swear the carpet stains are conspiring to rise up and eat the dog.
I work a part time job in a store in the midst of the busy holiday season.
I am a full time Mom whose husband works 60+ hours a week.
To say there is much going on would be an understatement.
I needed to put in a couple hours this morning on a contract due in three days. It’s a complicated federal proposal. I am working with a group of about 10 practitioners in a field I have never worked in. I woke up hardly able to breathe.
Of course, it would be THIS morning, my oldest would forget how to move forward, listen and problem solve how to get dressed/brush teeth/tie shoes.
It would also be THIS morning I would have to run out of coffee.
This blog explores eating less, praying more and loving abundantly. This morning, I nearly ate the entire box of donuts, rendering my mouth incapable of praying around the fatty sugary goodness. Loving a smart-aleck, sleepy and slow-as-molasses 9 year old, was a tad less than abundant.
As I returned from speeding to the school and back, my five year old asked me to play “Frosty Basketball” in the driveway. In my head reverberated the scream, “ARE YOU KIDDING ME?”. Out of my mouth came, “Sure!” I set a timer and made clear when it rang, we would be done.
We played one-on-a half (my son is only 3 feet tall) for 20 minutes until the cold made our fingers too painful to play. I thought, as I sat down to finally work, I would be in pain for not having spent the previous hour nose attached to the screen. Instead, I found my head to be clear and my heart light.
I’m behind on the work a bit, however, I know I’ll catch up. I feel stronger and ready to tackle the challenge.
There’s something about taking a pause to play which thaws our often frozen hearts. I will never forget my son’s giggles as I used the ‘tickle defense’. I can still feel his little arms around my waist as he celebrated making the shot.
How will you pause to play today? Is there a frosty basketball hoop which could use your attention? Your heart sure could.