There was something I needed to hear. I didn’t realize it until an average weekday afternoon, when I heard it and my eyes surprised me by getting wet. Like unbeknownst to me the tears had been gathering behind them for a few strong weeks but those words put a big crack in the dam.
“You’re doing a good job.”
When is the last time you heard it? That you are doing a good job as a mother?
For me, it came not as an obligatory Mother’s Day golf clap, but on a random Friday afternoon in the midst of specialist appointments for both boys. The school principal and I had A Conversation. And it was mostly about how I have no more capacity for negative. Even if you never told me one time how difficult my child is, I would still know. I know my child. I know he bounces off the walls and marches to his own drummer and gets stuck on things inside his mind that other kids would never even notice. I know his energy can zap that of adults around him. Tell me something you like about him.
Since I was pregnant with my first hawklet, the downright-scary-at-times labels have come: “Spina bifida.” “Non-stress tests.” “Speech delay.” “Generalized Anxiety Disorder.” “Perfectionist.” “ADHD.” And with the other one: “MRI.” “Albinism.” “Nystagmus.” “Esotropia.” “IEP.” Welcome to parenthood.
The negative is not exclusive to labels and to Different. The negative is all over the news. The Mommy Wars have perpetuated competition and finger pointing and judgment for decades. If you work, you must not love your kids as much as I do. If you don’t work, you must be over-involved in the PTA with an inability to understand guilt and trade-offs.
The wondering if what I’m doing (or not doing) today is going to drive him to drug addiction later.
The anger that the time I have to put into this takes away from that, and vice versa. Falling short. Chronically late.
Those are all scary labels, too.
A lot of what we have to do every day just to get through the motions is So. Exhausting. Sometimes I can’t help but be mad at my own child for making everything harder than it has to be. This is a huge admission, one that I am not proud of, but I’m putting it into words here because in spite of this, in spite of everything related to this, I am still doing a good job. And one reason I know that is because I can still step outside of this and remember that it is not his fault. Sometimes, stepping outside of the moment in motherhood is a herculean feat.
And I also know this is true because someone else said it.
Maybe it was the fatigue that Friday afternoon. But when this person on the periphery looked me in the eyes and told me she’d noticed that we’ve been dealt a lot with both kids that most families don’t have/know/understand and that she sees that we’re on it, that we make it a priority to keep on top of what our kids need and look for the tools available to figure it out… I exhaled. I hadn’t noticed that I had been holding my breath. I think I’ve been holding my breath for six years.
“Thank you,” I responded. I meant it. I needed to hear that. I needed to exhale.
What I want you to know is that you, too, are doing a good job. We are all given a hand of cards that doesn’t match each other’s. We only show each other the backs. All the backs match. But that only makes us eyeball each other to attempt to figure out what we’re hiding on the other side. I don’t know your cards. But I don’t have to to know that you are managing your own dealt hand in your own way with its own unique intricacies I can’t understand. You are doing a good job.
And so am I.