It took about thirty minutes of being a new mom to realize life with a child doesn’t always look like a rising progression of wonderful, rewarding achievements. Sometimes it looks like sweet, peaceful bliss. Yet, other times my spirit and home seem to have been blindsided by a gut-wrenching tempest, resulting in me feeling like a big, fat parenting failure.
I think I felt this right from the get-go. Right when I seemed to grasp something with my son, things would change, he would change, we got off track. A milestone was met. I felt disconnected as we tried to adjust.
So many ups and downs.
One step forward, a bazillion steps backwards. Or so it seemed.
I remember a roller coaster track that was drawn on the whiteboard during a parenting class I attended when my son was a toddler. The up and down zigzag of childhood. The equilibrium and disequilibrium.
Are you kidding me? I thought my kid invented that roller coaster.
From the time he was a baby he’d have a good few weeks, then a harrowing couple of weeks that’d put my early childhood credentials to shame. I’d go from feeling like I knew my sweet child followed by a week or so of feeling like my dear motherly accomplishments were being shredded to pieces by the world’s cutest hellion.
My son is (normally) a sensitive, intuitive, observant and cuddly kid. I love this part of him so much. We bonded well from the time he was born and we’ve depended on that bond to get us through some tough days. But sometimes that bond doesn’t seem to be enough. Sometimes I feel more like a pile of quick sand than a pillar of strength for him when those hard days hit. Especially when the hard days turn to hard weeks.
Basically I feel equipped for the sweet days filled with cuddles and I love yous and really just need a time out as a mom on those off weeks. Can you tell I’m a first time mom? Obviously I needed to come up with a better plan.
The truth is, I have a tendency to fall apart when the roller coaster dips down.
On the day my son turned three weeks old the colic hit. Single moms with a colicky child need to be given some sort of serious reward because that’s the moment it feels the universe is truly 100% against you. I remember insisting I hold my newborn during his daily bouts of colicky screams. I remember shouting over his cries to anyone that wanted to help me, in my own ugly grown up sobs, insisting I be the one there to help him.
I thought to myself (and probably yelled to those lovingly by my side), “This is my chance to show him I’ll be with him through anything. Even if I can’t fix it, he needs to know I’m here to see him through.”
My heart swells with emotion at the thought of that time. The thought of all that motivated me to hold him through hours of screams.
That colic was intense. In hindsight, I know it’s okay to pass your colicky baby on to another helper. But I can’t change my choices then and I think I’ve learned a little something in the process.
I don’t necessarily think that colic and the phases of disequilibrium are the same, but I do find myself feeling similar in those moments and in turn, deeply wanting to see him through.
Even when I can’t fix it.
It’s the one thing I can always do.
Show him I’ll always be there.
Even when just yesterday my sweet, sweet child was full of snuggles and kisses and today, for whatever reason, he can’t stop telling me he hates me and that he’d like to commit capital crime against me. Even then, sometimes the only thing I can do is show him I’m there for him. (He’s four. We’ll talk about the severity of his word choice when he calms down.)
Colic. Disequilibrium. Bad days.
It’s all a part of childhood (a part of life) and it’s not his fault. I know it’s not fun for him either.
During those rare bad weeks the intensity of his negative behavior will, at some point, send me to my room, laying face down on the bed drowning my pillow in tears, truly fearing that I’ve ruined my once brag-worthy boy.
I miss that little guy so much during those days. My tears are just a plea for his safe return from the hard place I know he’s in.
I try to take a break for a moment. That’s what moms are supposed to do so they can be better for their kids. It’s those days he pushes me more. I rarely am able to get the space I need. I don’t actually think I should wait around for a mommy break to be something good for my son. It’s those weeks he tells me he hates me, but I know he means he needs me. Not in a dysfunctional high-school-boyfriend-girlfriend-relationship kind of way. Rather, in a childhood-can-be-hard kind of way.
The disequilibrium stages are normal. And in learning so I’ve been able to embrace it as a normal part of childhood rather than entertain the idea that I’ve ruined my kid forever.
So, eventually I get back up.
I wipe the mascara from my eyes.
I look over at him…
And tell him I love him forever.
I fall so in love with that sweet little boy that I know is in there.
All mothers know the struggle. We’ve all stained our pillows with tears and have hit the books and parenting forums desperately seeking a way to fix our children during these hard weeks.
We’ve all felt like a failure.
You are not a failure.
You are not ruining your child.
Grace is real and it’s yours to hold on to. And it’s yours to share with your children and these are the days to hold tight to it. I can’t tell you just how much I rely on that fact as a mom.
Because really, this is life and life is full of ups and downs.
This is the time to show your child that you are there, even if you can’t fix it all.
That you are real and imperfect and trying just like they are…to do what’s good and right, even though we sometimes have off days. Disequilibrium is messy.
These are the times to show them that sometimes the only good in a situation is to know that you’re always in this together.
So wrap your arms around that little one of yours (if he’ll let you). Kneel down at their bedroom door when they’re so moody they won’t let you near and believe that sweet little person is in there. Hug them when they’ve been nothing but naughty. Massage their little feet, let them cuddle up with you in bed. Be creative, be gracious with them, be gracious with yourself.
Know that even those hard phases have purpose.
Show them that life is better when you have someone by your side.
Because it is.