Motherhood & Mixed Emotions
Ironically, not 3 minutes before writing this post, I was talking about oxymorons, specifically “clean messes.” with my sons. Little did I know I would soon be in a “happy sad” place and then would experience a whole other set of motherhood oxymorons. Yes, motherhood is full of mixed emotions and many happen at the same time. It’s ugly and beautiful all at once.
I just dropped my six and a half year old off at a gym class.
To be clear, I didn’t want to add another activity to his full schedule of school, swim, occupational and speech therapy. But he so desperately wanted to do a sports class and I figured, it would be really good for his social shyness and besides, how bad could it be?
I should have asked myself, how hard could it be?
Because, oh, it was SO hard for me!
I want that forty-five minutes with him around me. I know next year he will be in school all day. I am not ready for that. I want to keep him around me as much as I can. I want him to grow up, but in some ways, I really don’t.
I watch him run into the class, greeted by two new friends. One eagerly screams his name. My son smiles bigger than he ever has. He used to be so shy, so very shy and now he is so eager to meet and make new friends. He has come so far I think, but sometimes he still shrinks into his shell, he is still vulnerable. I feel proud and scared all at once.Oh, please be nice to be baby I think. Please treat him well. Please don’t say mean things to him. Please don’t tease him when he says his “r” wrong. Please don’t laugh at him when he jumps at the sound of a popping balloon. Don’t do anything but love him the way I do, okay?
I watch him stand side by side with Connor. I think that is his name. My son is just so excited to be liked and welcomed that he screams his new friend’s name in an unintelligible manner. He whispers something to Connor. Clearly a six-year-old secret, clearly one not meant for me. I get different kind of whispers, the “I love you” one’s, but now my son has other whispers for other people. I am not his main squeeze anymore, I think. But oh, good for him! I am happy and sad all at once.
Oh, please laugh at his joke I think. Please tell him you think he is funny, please tell him he is smart, please tell him he is awesome. Please tell him all the things I would be if I had him home with me during these forty-five minutes. Don’t say anything but things to make him smile and feel confident in himself, okay?
I watch him stand alone for a second. Connor and Jack have run off together. They are best friends, neighbors perhaps? They clearly have known each other for a while. My son stands, clearly pondering his next move. I recognize the uncertainty – after all he is my emotional twin. Do I follow them? Do I stand here and wait for them to call my name? Do I find someone else to run around and scream with? He makes a decision best for him at that moment; listening to his teacher who says sit down in circle time! Good move, I think. I feel relieved and unsure all at once.
Oh so relieved that he didn’t have to walk over and be rejected. Oh please I think. Please, will someone guarantee to me that my son will never be rejected like I sometimes was as a child, as an adult. It doesn’t feel good. It feels awful actually. Please let no one ever tell him to “go away, you aren’t cool enough.” Don’t ever let that happen to my sensitive son, okay?
I watch him say to Connor as he saunters over to the circle, “Hey, sit next to me.” Connor isn’t paying attention anymore. He has completely moved on to Jack. They grab each other and fall down into the circle laughing. My son gets up and immediately moves to be next to Connor. Connor doesn’t even notice. My son seems happy though, so it is okay. He knows what makes him happy; I know that he needs to learn the ropes for making friends on his own. He needs to learn by himself about keeping the good and tossing the bad. I feel nervous and angry all at once.
Oh please, say “yeah I’ll sit next to you!” I think. Please look at my son and acknowledge that he is there. Please talk to him and your other friend I think. Please include him. Just include him. Don’t exclude him. Please be nice and thoughtful; please don’t be unknowingly hurtful. My son has come such a long way, his self-confidence is FINALLY blossoming, please help it grow. Please do not squash it. Don’t say anything that could make him think he isn’t good enough, cool enough, smart enough, fast enough, okay?
I watch Jack and Connor start acting out and then start encouraging my son to misbehave too. My son wiggles and squirms and clearly wants to join in the mischief but also clearly knows he shouldn’t. Oh is he conflicted – he so wants to be included, but he so also wants to be good. I feel encouraged and frustrated all at once.
Oh please, please don’t be a bad influence on my son. Please, just teach him the good things: how to be a good friend, how to be a good student, how to be a good neighbor, how to be a good brother and son. Please don’t teach him any of the other junk; unless it is to teach him that the junk in life is bad and you don’t need it. And please, do not peer pressure my son into doing anything he doesn’t want to do.
Because I am not there to protect him, to help him. I mean I am, but I am not.
I watch him for a second more and realize that even though I want to stay and watch and mentally protect him for the entire forty-five minutes I need to walk away. I need to let go and let him grow on his own. I need to let him make new friends. I can be his “Love Bug” and he can be my “Boo” but he needs to have other people in his life too. I can love him, make him smile, hold him when he cries, teach him when he is lost, encourage him when he is down, and I can make him happy. But other people can make him happy too; other people can help him learn about himself too, directly or indirectly. And I need to let that happen so he can grow. I need to let go a little bit. Oh, it is so bittersweet.
End note: My son did enjoy the class. He scored three goals and that mattered to him more than the fact that Connor and Jack left laughing together without saying goodbye to him. Then again, he was so caught up in feeling proud of himself (as he should, he couldn’t really “play” sports a year ago before occupational therapy) that he didn’t say goodbye either. I think the class was worth it. But still, ouch! It hurt mommy’s heart letting go!