Through the play date. Through the school day. Through aisle no. 7 at the grocery store.
Through Sunday afternoon with the in-laws. Through Friday morning at the doctor. Through 11 o’clock Wednesday at the playground.
I see you there. I know you woke this morning to oceans of uncertainty. Of what today will be. Or whether you’re enough to meet it.
I get it. You are waiting for the call. Hoping it won’t come, but steadying yourself if it does. The call from the school. The one that says he did it again. “Can we meet with you?” Again. You hear yourself saying words wrapped in “so-sorry”s when all you really want to do is stick your fingers in your ears and la-la-la it out.
But you can’t. You’ve tried that already and, well, it doesn’t really work. And these days, if it’s not the school, it’s somewhere else. Like that time at the grocery store in aisle no. 7. When the woman holding the peanut butter gave you a look that clearly said “what is wrong with that kid?”
You halfway couldn’t blame her. I mean, something was wrong with your kid. He was angry. And unkind. And seemingly out of control. Right there in front everyone and their peanut butter, for goodness’ sake.
But if they only knew, you thought, about all the other times. The kid he hit on the playground last week. The fit in the doctor’s office. The flip out at grandpa and grandma’s. The words he had screamed that very morning. If they only knew the scene in aisle no. 7 was slowly becoming the unwanted script of your life. Then Peanut Butter Lady would certainly have had reason to cast her judge-y stare at that kid.
That kid. He happens to be yours. And, gosh, how you love him. He’s smart. And cute. And funny. And clever. And everything you’ve ever wanted in a kid.
So, it seems a bit unreal, doesn’t it, that he is becoming that kid? And you, by default, are that mom. The mom with the kid who does stuff like that. And all the other moms know very well if their kid runs into that kid and that kid’s mom, well, they just better keep an eye on things.
And they’re right, you quietly admit.
So you do keep an eye on things. At least when you can. The rest of the time, you find yourself holding your breath. Holding your breath and wondering,
What am I doing wrong?
It’s a question you ask with an achy sigh. Ot maybe a frustrated scream. It’s equal parts heart and head. And it pushes at the edges of your thoughts every time he does something that doesn’t add up in your book of things that should add up. (I have one of those books, too.) It’s a question that invites all sorts of ifs —
If you loved your kid better, he wouldn’t …
If you were more patient with your kid, he wouldn’t …
If you were just _______________, he wouldn’t …
Sometimes you go with the easy answer — the one that says you’re doing most of it wrong. And if you need more proof, you just pull out your mental photo album and flip through all the times you didn’t love enough, care enough, give enough, play enough, hug enough, discipline enough, listen enough, be enough. Each unfiltered memory trying its best to convince you of one thing:
You can’t do this.
But that’s the easy way out. And a mom like you? Who is daily trying to move mountains in her kids’ hearts? Right there behind your four walls between LEGOs and diapers and homework and cleats? A mom like you was not born for the easy.
No, to you was gifted the hard. To you was entrusted the road less traveled. Rocky in many places. Hazy in others. Full of grocery stores and Peanut Butter Ladies and many others who will misunderstand your kid.
But make no mistake: You absolutely can do this.
You will read the books, call the therapists, make the appointments, dig deep for patience, ignore the stares and fiercely love your kid. And then, sometimes, you will still get it wrong. You will still ask,
What am I doing wrong?
But this time you will answer,
What if it doesn’t matter?
What if you get it all right — perfect, even — and he still has moments of being that kid? What then?
Well, then you have to stop measuring your days by how much you got it wrong. And you have to believe that your kid will mostly remember the times you got it right. And perhaps, you have to start remembering those times, too. And maybe you have to remind yourself that Peanut Butter Ladies can’t destroy in 30 seconds the child you’ve known for years. Not if you don’t let them …
Maybe you have to swim in the ocean of uncertainty.
Embrace the hard.
Let go of the easy.
And could it be in doing so, that you, the Mom Who Holds Her Breath,
Finally finds the strength to breathe?