I can remember the first time someone criticized one of my children. My son was about a year old, sitting on the floor in a white onesie. A neighbor was having tea with me while he played on the floor. She looked over at him smiling and said, “Have you noticed there is something wrong with his toes?”
I had noticed. In fact, my now teen son jokes about his toes often. “Mom, God put all the good looking on my face and forgot about my feet,” he actually said this morning. “They are some funky feet.” We laughed together when he said this. However, when “that woman” who no longer deserves to be called “my neighbor” said that, I felt something I had never felt before. I had been flipped inside out, vulnerable, and completely exposed. The tears took me by surprise. There were so many, and although I was willing them – no, begging them to stop – they kept coming. I scooped up my son, went to my room, and sobbed. I had never felt this vulnerable before. “I am stronger than this,” I told myself as the tears kept flowing. Later that day, I bought him a board book about baby toes and how much moms love them. We read it over and over again, and I still can’t get rid of it because it comforted my heart to be doing something about the “foot” situation. I read it thinking, “By golly, he might have ugly feet, but he will never know that”. My plan failed miserably and beautifully. He knows his feet are ugly, and he could care less about it.
I am not a person that is easy to pick on. I grew up with four brothers. Our house was full of boys who celebrated my toughness and dissimilarity to other girls. I was good at taking care of myself and others. This comment would be the first of hundreds that have undone me as a mother.
As a professional, I sit in countless IEP meetings advocating for the kids I work with. I am bold, determined, and composed. As a parent, I sit in IEP meetings begging my tears not to betray the strong presence I need to have. They do not listen. They betray me every single time. I am such a blubbering mess in those that I determined not to attend any more IEP meetings without my own IEP advocate and my mom. Yes, I am 37 years old, and I try not to attend any IEP meetings without my mom.
Why do we feel so incredibly vulnerable as moms? I believe it is because, frankly, there isn’t a d*** thing we care about more than our kids. We care so much that we stay turned inside out much of the time. We both find a Hercules strength we didn’t know we were capable of, and cry so many rivers of tears we never imagined were part of this journey. Motherhood kicks a**. Motherhood makes you feel like creating a new drink that mixes caffeine and alcohol…energy and calm…snatch your child out of the street and restrain yourself from strangling them! “What! That isn’t a new drink?” you ask. Then it was certainly created by an exhausted mother. If you are wondering why I am using asterisks instead of cuss words, it is because my children read my blog, and I would never live down cussing around them.
I thought this would get easier as my kids got older, but it doesn’t. It just gets harder. I am no longer the most important voice in my children’s lives. Peers voices get louder and louder, and they are never as gentle as my voice. Kids develop insecurities and hurts you can’t fix. And you, poor Momma, are never more happy than your most unhappy child! It is both the curse and the connection in motherhood. You can’t stay connected if you don’t stay tender. So stay tender, cry a river, put on your armor and cuss very quietly.
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