While the dust has settled and our new routines as a family have become familiar, we have days like today that rip your parent heart at its core. My seven-year old son has struggled the most, or at least the most outwardly, with the transition of our divorce. A creature of habit and routine, his life has been completely turned upside-down, and to his credit, he has handled it better than I expected. I remind myself in my guilt-ridden moments of children’s resiliency and abilities to adapt.
But he is MY kiddo – the one I grew inside me who first made me a mother. The bond he and I share is special, and his heart…oh, it feels so deeply even though he appears stoic on the outside. This week he’s tapped back into a place of anger, acting out both at school and at home, the kind of shenanigans that have caused a halt on all technology for the week. BIG TIME.
Today, I picked him up from school, and he reluctantly admitted that he had made a couple of “bad choices” again today. My gut felt sickened when he uttered something that I hadn’t heard in a while: “This would never have happened if we lived together in our old house and I went to my old school. I just want to go back HOME.”
When you first hold your baby and look into his eyes for the first time, you make extravagant promises that your heart truly believes it can keep – that you would do anything to protect and care for that baby, to make sure that he never feels pain or loss. Surely, this is impossible, but nevertheless, it still tears your heart in two when you see their pain and know that decisions you made caused it. I remind myself all the things – that growing up in a house of strife is painful too, that in handling my grief in a healthy way I’m modeling healthy conflict resolution for him as well. But in that moment…it’s all too real.
After a fairly uneventful dinner things turned south again, and he was sent to his room for his choices. I finished the dishes, let my daughter play princesses in her room for a few minutes, and sat down to catch my breath. I saw a Facebook notification from a friend who tagged me in a post about little boys growing up fast, and it hit me in all the feels.
A few minutes later, I see those lanky legs and arms peer around the corner, and he tiptoes in my room. I asked him to crawl in bed with me, and he snuggled into my arm as he has often does during our talks. I could see that he was braving himself for another lecture, but his face turned to me with wide eyes when I instead, blinking through my tears, told him, “I want you to know that I love you, and I’m so proud of you. We all make mistakes, and even though we do, your heart is what matters. You’ve gone through some big changes this year, and you’ve been so brave through them.” He patted and rubbed my arm gently, the way I do when I try to calm him. And we just held each other.
I bought him this book called “It Will Be Okay” by Lisa Tykerst when we moved out of our old house. It’s a lovely allegory about a little seed packet and a little fox who like where they are and are scared of change; the kind and loving Farmer is always caring for them and has a plan for them, even when they can’t see it for themselves. I told him, “All these changes have been scary, huh?” and he nodded.
“Do you ever feel like that little seed packet sometimes? Remember how he was scared to leave the Farmer’s warm shed?” I asked.
He said, “Yeah, but then the Farmer planted him in the ground, and he started to sprout. Then he grew into a big, strong tree!”
“Yes, he did – do you think that maybe our old house is like that Farmer’s shed, and even though it’s scary right now, that you are sprouting and growing like the little seed?” I replied.
I knew this was a stretch for my bright but literal-minded kid. But I could see him rolling over the metaphor in his mind, and he thoughtfully responded: “Yeah, and my sister is the little fox, because she’s always there for me.”
Oh, my heart. I told him that God was our Farmer, always taking care of us, even when we couldn’t see it and that He has a bigger plan for us. He nodded, and turned over, wrapping my arm around his little but big body, and I wished time would stop and move forward all at once – so I could keep him this sweet forever but also to fast-forward through the pain to a place of acceptance.
I know I’m on the right path; I know that our marriage had to end – it was beyond repair. I’ve accepted it as an ex-wife. But as a mother, it is still a struggle sometimes. I want to protect them from pain and heartbreak, but I also know that in itself is an illusion; we can never really protect them from that because we live in this world. But I can love them though it, validate their feelings when they express them, and help show them ways to cope with those feelings.
Today was one of those days that I am thankful is over. They are both tucked snugly in their beds, with at least five separate trips for hugs, kisses, and noseys. We will begin again tomorrow, and hopefully my little seed will sprout a little taller – and so will I.