The Wall

I. Am. Exhausted. Truly, I should have put a lid on this day hours ago and just gone to bed.  But instead I sit here staring at the glowing screen, writing, hoping to claw whatever I can out of my brain so the thoughts – no, feelings – will subside.  Then, perhaps, I can sleep.  Because after today, I need to get some of this OUT.  Today, of all days, I need to let. it. go.

Today, I hit the wall.  The proverbial parental W-A-L-L.  We all know it; the one you hit when you’ve given your last warning; taken your last deep breath.  The one you hit when you’ve counted your last “ten”, and lost your last nerve.  The one you played chicken with all week long because it’s been that kind of week and you’ve been doing everything in your power to be the “good Mom” who doesn’t lose her cool by pulling every coping trick you have out of your little magic bag.  Yeah, THAT wall.  I hit it. Hard.  Not only did I hit it, I sailed clean over it.  I pole vaulted the damn thing.

Sarcasm is funny; true.  But today, it was nothing near.  It was ugly.  Flat out scary.  All filters gone, full-blown anger.  All the lessons I’ve learned and re-learned in the last ten years of self-improvement, making myself a better mother, all gone completely out the window.  WALL; face-first.  The only redeeming moment was the one when I recognized that I’d actually done it, and I stopped.  I happened to be near a mirror at the time, and I stood there staring.  The eyes looking back at me were haunted and so pained.  I had become the worst possible version of myself in that moment; and at the same time, I felt, the worst possible mother.

So I took some long ago advice from a trusted mentor; I reached out.  I called someone I loved and trusted, and shared what happened.  It was awful; I was embarrassed and so very ashamed, but I forced myself to speak the words.  I . Had. Failed.  I screwed up.  I was wrong.  And what I was met with was not judgment; but love.  Acknowledgment that we all break under pressure sometimes.  It doesn’t make it okay, but it does make us human.  I heard a reminder that I’m not actually a horrible mother, but a strong one who sometimes carries too much.  One who needs to learn to lay some of the weight down sooner, so it doesn’t break her next time.  I received kindness, and understanding.

My ability to speak the truth out loud to her and be loved allowed me the courage to do it a second time to the person it really mattered to; my child.  I apologized.  I owned up.  I explained that just because I was mad, didn’t make it okay.  I stated that I was wrong, and I would try to do better.  It was hard. Really hard.  But it was important.  Because it’s what I try to teach her; we admit our wrong-doings.  We say them out loud.  So that’s what I did for her.

Afterwards, however, I did something else I’ve been advised in the past.  I took some time, and some space.  I left the house for the rest of the day to be on my own.  I was spun out enough to know I was not much good at mothering, and just needed to be elsewhere.  So I got lost in the crowd of a mall (easy to do).  I stood in a bookstore staring blankly at the titles while wanting to carve my heart clean out of my chest.  I drove along a quiet stretch of road and just looked at the sky.  I sat alone in a dark movie theater and silently wept for a while.  It took a lot of thinking and working through the events of today to come to terms with it; but I faced it.  Head on.  And then, I decided to forgive myself for today, and try to do better tomorrow.

Because I am not perfect.  I am, in fact, markedly flawed.  I am the mother of an amazing child who happens to have some behavioral challenges, and I often do not have all the answers.  Some days (or weeks, or months) are much harder than others.  And I am learning the best path for her as I go along.  So I have to forgive myself; because if I wallow in self-hatred, then I won’t have the strength to keep pushing forward.  For her, or for me.

For all the other parents out there who have hit their Wall today…you’re not alone.  You are not perfect, either.  You are human.  You are learning as you go.  Take a break; take a breath.  Take a minute to forgive yourselves, and learn from this, too.  And try to do better tomorrow.

One Tommorow At A Time

Blue-streaked beauty

Blue-streaked beauty

It was an interesting juxtaposition. My 8-year-old child, sitting in the salon chair waiting for her hair cut, as the other girl walked by. She was probably around twenty-one; average height; athletic – you could see how muscular her thighs were through her jeans. She was wearing a tank top, casual sweater, and purse slung across her relaxed torso. She had just chopped a good 6-8 inches off her already long brown hair, and was obviously happy with her fresh new look – almost emboldened by it; you could see it in her posture.

As I watched her carry her new self out the salon door, I found myself longing for all of those qualities – not for me, but for my daughter. Hoping for that bold independence for her; that she gets there, one day. And realizing that there is a part of me that is terrified to admit, in some small way, that I worry “what if she doesn’t?”

My headstrong, confident girl is not always present lately. That day, when she would normally have been so insistent on exactly what kind of cut/color streaks she wants at the hair salon, she instead couldn’t focus on a choice. Indecision is prevalent, and comes with the behavior struggles we have been managing.

The stylist and I eventually helped her land on a blue-streaked bob, but it took a while. She was really happy when it was finished, and commented “I can show my friends tomorrow at school!” I remember thinking that I was glad her new hair would help give her a good tomorrow.

We will get there – she will get there – I know it in my heart. I just don’t yet know what that road will look like. And sometimes it is difficult to keep all my momma worries and hopes at bay while we take it one step at a time.

Parents want so much for our children – we would give them the world if we could, and we often try. But this journey has been a good lesson that sometimes, trying to give them the world puts weight on their shoulders that is simply not theirs to carry. Sometimes, it’s enough just to give them tomorrow. A good tomorrow is a gift in and of itself.

One tomorrow at a time.

We All Need To Be Rocked Sometime

lion-hugWhen I picked my daughter up this evening, she looked tired.  It was warm here today; her face was flushed, as if she was overheated.  She seemed a bit standoffish, not greeting me right away.  Then when she spoke, she was speaking in baby-talk.  Regressed syllables, clipped sentences.  It took me a bit of time to get her moving towards the car.  She wanted to be silly; not follow directions, play games, dawdle, etc.  I had a feeling I was in for a long evening.

My daughter is seven.  She is bright, beautiful, curious, empathic, and extremely loving.  She’s been facing more than her fair share of challenges lately, which leave her more often than not wounded and wondering.  Not much different from the rest of us, really, though we have the luxury of life and learning and how to bounce back better than a seven-year-old now, don’t we?  The regressive speak is a product of feeling vulnerable, and a yearning for being nurtured.  I also gather it’s related to spending time recently at her grandparent’s with her 18-month-old cousin; watching him being coddled and cared-for in a way reminiscent of what she feels she’s needing, when she is expected to be the “big girl” in the room must be especially frustrating for her at the moment.

The toddler-talk continued for the entirety of the car ride home.  I did my best to calmly tolerate it, while also reminding her to use better words.  When I could tell her frustration level was rising, I tried instead to shift topics or distract with music rather than continue to correct.  There’s a time and a place, and an over-tired child won’t soak in the message anyway, so why hammer it in?

When we got home I focused on minimizing her stimulation level (no television), and maximizing her comfort level (giving her my full attention).  I put on some music and we played a game together while Daddy cooked dinner.  As she continued with the tiny words, I tried a different approach.  I told her that I knew it might feel safe to pretend to be little sometimes, but think of all the things she would miss if she didn’t grow up?  Measuring how tall she was against my chest, riding the bigger slides at the water park, getting to go on overnights with her Girl Scout troop.  Those were pretty cool things that only big girls got to do, and she surely wouldn’t want to miss out on those, right?  She answered back in her normal seven-year-old cadence and added a few of her own achievements – getting tall enough to no longer use a car seat, riding the cooler roller coasters, and tackling me when she hugged me, which she then proceeded to do.  After the tackle, she got quiet, looked up at me, and said, “But what about rocking, what if I get too big for rocking?”

I pulled her onto my lap and held her close.  I told her, “You will never be too big for rocking, baby.  We all need to be rocked sometime, even big people like Mama.  I’ll always rock you, no matter how big you get.  Promise.”  Then she clung to me tightly for what seemed like a moment in between worlds – where baby and big girl and Mama all blended together in one swirly thought – and we just rocked there, together.

I don’t even remember who won the game…