It was one of those days- one of those hard mothering days when you’re sure you’re doing it all wrong. You’ve ruined their lives.
You couldn’t fix it now if you tried. There’s not enough time, and besides, they’re not listening anymore. You’re the teeniest tiniest little blip on the radar in terms of their sphere of influence.
Sure you breastfed them and gave them organic food and read to them and sang to them. You kissed them and tucked them in every night. You sent them to the very best preschools and took them to church and made sure they were clean and brushed their teeth.
But that doesn’t amount to much now. They eat all the ramen noodles and drink all the coke they can get their hands on. They go to sleep after you do, and you try to sniff their heads and inquire about the last time they’ve showered on a regular basis, but it’s a battle hardly worth the fight some days.
Today, everything you’re saying is stupid and annoying. They’ll try to placate you for a moment, sure. They’ll give you the “I love you mom. You’re cute with all your ideas mom.” But if you keep trying to relate to them or guide them or instruct them, they’ll be sure to let you know in no uncertain terms that YOU DON’T GET IT. You couldn’t possibly understand their feelings. You need to educate yourself about what’s going on for them because you are a dinosaur, and nothing is or was or ever will be the same for you and them.
Your clothes and make-up and hair also might be stupid OR if you are wearing something cute, look pretty, can sing, draw, dance, write or do a yoga pose really well, they are jealous of you. They want what you have and, if they can, they’ll take it. Often, you’ll freely give it. Sometimes you stop drawing or singing or wearing cute outfits in their presence for awhile in a misguided attempt to give them space to shine.
You remember those earlier days when you were also sure you were doing it all wrong, but the consequences of your missteps were mostly something like a tummy ache, a tantrum, a rough night’s sleep. Now it seems the potential consequences are more dire- delinquency of every kind- failing grades, drug use, sexual promiscuity, pregnancy, suicide. Who knows!
The mother’s imagination can run wild on those bad days, and when you’re busy beating yourself up, one of the worst things that crosses your mind is that they might end up like YOU. They might have to go through all of the very things from which you’ve tried with all of your might to protect them.
But then my husband comes in, and he gives me the words that no one else ever, ever has. He says, “I see you every day being the very best mom. They love you so much, and they know how much you love them. The world would be a much better place if everyone had a mom like you.”
How does he do that? This man who thought he’d never marry and who never wanted any kids of his own, came into my life and is relentlessly supportive. He tells me that my being a mother is no liability. He tells me that watching me be a mom is one of the things that makes him love me most.
He tells me he’s with me no matter what comes. He’s happy to talk me through whatever comes up with the kids but will ultimately support any decision I make. Then he reads to me or pets my hair until I fall asleep. Every Time.
This stage of parenting is reminding me so much of those days when your kids start to refuse to hold your hand alongside busy streets and in parking lots. They are determined to do it themselves. You can engage in an all out wrestling match and force them to hold your hand. You can pick them up and carry them as they kick and scream. And if you feel you can’t trust them or the circumstances are just too unpredictable- sometimes that’s the very best option. Let them scream. Let them fight.
But whenever possible, it’s best to give in, ask them to stay close to you while reminding them to stay alert and watch for danger. If you take that third option, you must also be watching like a damned hawk to swoop in and save them if they start to run or a sudden danger crops up.
They don’t want to hold my hand right now. I’m so grateful my husband does. I’m grateful I’m in a whole different phase of life than my children are- a phase where the desire for independence is barely a blip on MY radar. I want God to hold my hand. I want my parents to hold my hand. I want my friends to hold my hand.
The traffic of life is moving pretty fast, and I need companionship and encouragement and some extra sets of eyes watching out for me and helping me watch out for the ones who won’t let us hold their hands right now.