Nearly every night my children find their way into our king size bed; it seems far too small when I think of my entire world laying beside me. There are moments when I wake up and see these two little bodies cuddled up closely, blissfully unaware of what this life holds. The magnitude of my love for them is magnificent and overwhelming. The fear, anxiety, grief that I hold deep within is paralyzing.
It’s 9:30 on a Tuesday morning. Both of my children are sweetly sleeping off the tantrums and attitude that were thrown at me just an hour before. We’ve been up since 6 am, and two of the three of us didn’t get enough sleep last night. I know when they need naps before noon, when our morning is thrown off kilter, and the only way to salvage the rest of the day is to sleep off the bad tempers.
My son starts Pre-K on Thursday. I know these tantrums and the teenage attitude he’s been giving me are part of the fear he holds deep inside because something is about to change. I have been lucky: this firstborn child of mine is pretty darn near perfect. But he has been through a lot in his four years, and the changes keep coming. I know these outbursts are normal, it doesn’t make dealing with them any easier. There is so much I need to do to ensure these outbursts don’t become the norm, that we both understand the changes that keep occurring in his life are shocking and hard to deal with but they’re not going to stop. Together, we need to find solutions to keep the tantrums at bay, to minimize the fear that creeps up and manifests itself into ugly behavior.
The thing is, I’m also afraid. This is the first time I am dealing with a child who has a disorder that makes aspects of our normal life more difficult. This is the first time I am navigating therapy and IEPs and Pre-K. I am always nervous dropping him off with anyone because his speech is hard to understand, I fear he will know he is not being understood and that his basic needs will not be met. I fear he will feel lonely and isolated and there will be nothing I can do because I am not there. Perhaps the attitude I have been trying to keep under wraps is partly due to the fear I hold deep inside my heart, too.
He doesn’t want to go to therapy anymore, but he is nowhere near close to done. Twice a week is a lot for anyone, let alone a four-year-old. But now, it’ll be four times a week, twice at school and twice at private therapy. I know it’ll be overwhelming for him. I know he will struggle and rebel and react the only way that is natural and easy for a little boy – he is going to cry and yell and be mean. I know I need to mentally prepare for what could occur as we transition into this new stage. I know I need to start preparing my heart for words that sting and an attitude that makes me crumble under the heaviness. I know I need to start preparing myself for an impossible standard of patience I will need to show my son. But I already feel like I am failing and the battle hasn’t even begun. Part of me is hoping it won’t. Part of me knows I am going to be falling to my knees more often than I ever have in my four years of motherhood.
I know the weight of this job is going to crush me. I hope I am strong enough to endure the weight of motherhood. I am only four years in with the rest of my life to go. We are going to endure battles that far surpass the ones we are fighting today. I want to do this job well, I want to carry the weight on my shoulders and not let it break me. I don’t want the pain to make me collapse. Motherhood is not for the weak. We never know what is going to be thrown our way and we are the ones that have to keep everything together, even when everything is falling apart.
At some point during this day, I opened up Facebook to find out that a colleague of mine from nearly a decade ago had passed away. My emotions were already at an all time high from the tantrums and the attitude, I could no longer contain everything that was brewing inside of me. I cried on and off for the rest of the day, running away at times to be alone and catch my breath. I don’t understand why his passing hit me so hard, why the air was stripped from my lungs and I felt weak.
When a loss occurs of someone you once cared for and relied on for support, grief slaps you in the face and turns you into a sobbing, emotional mess. It doesn’t matter if eight years of time and distance separated you, if eight years of silence practically made you strangers. Your heart digs deep down to pull out the memories you once held onto so tightly and you feel the pain as if you last talked eight days, rather than years, ago. Memories come flooding back and tears continue to break through the dam, leaving me exhausted. Fear has a way of making your heart cold, so does grief. The ache that I feel for my colleague is deep and I have to remind myself to still be kind to my children. I have to set an example for how to handle fear and grief gracefully.
It seems ill-timed that this week, of all weeks, is when he would go to his eternal home. He was such a kind heart, a champion for everyone. We need his light more than ever as we navigate a world full of devastating hatred and injustice, when fear looms around every corner and grief becomes a sidekick nobody asked for.
The ugliness of the world, the loss, and the fear all hit me so much harder now that I’m a mother, now that I have precious hearts to protect and grow. It doesn’t matter if I am fighting fear regarding my children, if I am mourning the loss of an inspiring colleague, or if I am wincing at current events, I want to shield them from everything I can. I want to help them avoid fear, anger, anxiety, and sadness. I know how deeply the forces from the outside world can wound you, I know how hard it is to not let them plant themselves deep into your heart and make life insufferable. I want so much better for my children, for their future world, for their hearts.
When a tragedy occurs, when loss happens, when your heart aches deep to the core, you can’t let the heaviness weigh you down. That’s one thing that I’m struggling with as I navigate my way through grief and fear – how do I not let the weight of motherhood and the weight of the world completely overwhelm me?
I wonder if I am doing enough to instill kindness and acceptance and love into my children’s growing hearts and minds. I wonder if my son’s disorder is teaching him and his sister how powerful and wonderful our differences can be, that we can all learn from those who are different than us, that our differences should not have the power to divide us or be an excuse to wound others. I wonder if navigating these circumstances together will help ease the fear that will reoccur frequently in their lives. There’s so much at stake as I help mold them into caring, kind, and loving citizens of this scary, but ultimately beautiful world we live in. I don’t want them to grow up under this heaviness, I’m willing to carry it all for them. I want them to be the light.