Writer’s note: I began this blog at 10:00 am this morning and am finishing it now at 9:00 pm. I feel it’s disjointed and plan to revise a bit, but wanted to share my roller coaster of a day. I will be be back, but until then, I need to get the words out. Thanks!
If you’ve ever thought that ‘getting up on the wrong side of the bed’ was just a figure of speech, please know that it is absolutely true. From the moment my feet hit the floor this morning (on my side of the bed, I might add), I have been out of sorts and itching in my skin. Anger pored through me because Richard didn’t stay in bed for our morning snuggle. What? The entire get ready for school routine irritated and annoyed me. Why was he preparing fried eggs this morning and not any other morning this week? Why was he drinking coffee out of a mug rather than his carafe? Was he secretly planning to go to Starbucks while I left for work with my coffee from home? When I reached for my boiled eggs for breakfast, one of them was mysteriously gone, apparently snagged by a middle schooler as he darted out the door. I was beside myself with frustration. You see where this is going.
I was basically out of my mind with irrational, selfish, and ridiculous thoughts. The worst part is that I knew how wrong I was. I was being a colossal ass. But I also knew I had to rise above it and move on. That’s a daunting and exhausting task.
When Richard returned from the morning drop off, I apologized for my behavior. It was embarrassing and humiliating to admit how silly I was, but it would have been worse if I hadn’t done it.
As I was stupidly congratulating myself for getting a grip, Ellis came out of his bedroom and announced he’d awakened to a bloody nose that had stained his sheets and comforter. He seemed fine, but it was time for me to leave for work. I had no real time to assess the situation and figure out what was going on. As I put my things in the car, I realized that parenting when the boys were little was so much easier for me in so many ways.
I relied heavily on my Dr. Sears Baby Book and a network of new mom friends, both online and in my daily life. We would spread blankets out in the park, let our babies crawl around us while they foraged on puffed Cheetos while we talked for hours about what was happening in our lives. My sister had boys about the same age as my middle and youngest and so we had each other to talk to on the phone about their development. As they got older, I still consulted books and the web and yes, my instincts. I felt like a good mom who worked hard to do the best for her boys. And it was fun.
People talk about the ‘terrible twos’ and the difficulty of having little ones, but those were blissful, beautiful days. I thrived and shined during that time, even if I didn’t know it then.
Somewhere along the way, though, I ran way off the tracks. If you aren’t sure about the existence of the midlife crisis, those exist too. Mine was horrible; full of embarrassing, regretful, and shameful mistakes. I hit bottom, skidded to a halt, sat for a long while, and then slowly began rebuilding myself and my life.
You know that special vase that you love so much? It sits in prominence on a table in your most visited room? Well, I’m that vase that gets knocked off the table and shatters on the floor. But I didn’t break into a million pieces. While I shattered, it was into big chunks. I was able to be put back together, although my cracks and flaws are visible now.
I am wholly un-whole. I sit on the table, at first glance together and lovely, but upon inspection you see I’m a modified and altered piece of art.
Which brings me back to this motherhood thing I do every single day, because I have to, but mostly because I want to and need to.
Maybe because I’m more fragile now and I’ve seen how life can sideswipe you right off the table of life, I have more worry and fear about the boys and their lives. Maybe because my days of rosy outlooks have abandoned me, I know that there are big and bad things out there, waiting to pounce if the opportunity arises.
Maybe I simply don’t know why I worry more than I used to. It could be in my disposition. I know that I had irrational fears when the boys were babies, but I can only really think of two serious ones. I have never really told anyone these thoughts that plagued me as a new mom. One was that I would drop them. I could envision myself holding them and then my arms would inexplicably collapse and my baby would fall, in slow motion, to the ground. It never happened, but in my mind, I fought that demon constantly. My other irrational fear was darkness or night time. I could parent and mother all DAY long with ease and comfort, but as twilight and nighttime approached, my anxiety would surface and almost smother me. I had to train myself that nighttime was the exact same thing as daytime, as it pertained to motherhood, minus the sun. Anything that happened at night would be just as easily surmounted as anything during the day.
I’ve never really confessed those fears. Maybe they’re normal, maybe they’re not. Either way, they are my honest thoughts and reality. And I overcame them.
So, here we are today. My biological kids are 18 (next week), 15, and 11. My step-kids are 13 and 10. And I am a nervous wreck. I worry that every update from the news station about a wreck involves my oldest son (he’s super safe). I worry that the 15 year old is addicted to gaming and harbors extreme anger and angst about his parents’ divorce and my remarriage (he doesn’t). Don’t even get me started on the 13 year old. He happens to be a hot mess lately, but he’s not my biological child, so I can’t parent him 100% like I normally would. He is complicated and intelligent and not my own. That translates to a worry I can’t even describe. My 11 year old is wonderful, but weird. He is weird in a way that I know will end up being massively cool, but until that time, he might endure some serious bullying. I think he’s strong enough to endure, but how is a mom to know? The youngest is making headways in school, but is still far behind, despite already being a grade behind. He has made such amazing strides, but I still worry about him.
It is exhausting. EXHAUSTING. And I’m too tired to figure it out.
So, what’s my point? I don’t really know! I know that marriage and parenting is hard freaking work. And parenting step kids takes it to a whole new level of incredible difficulty. I know that I am not terrifically qualified to be the best candidate for the job, except I am the one God chose for all of this. I am my boys’ mom. I am the step mom to two great boys.
I still have irrational fears that sometimes choke me and bring me close to my demise. Like bloody noses on a Thursday morning and fried eggs instead of cereal for breakfast. Like boys who spend more time with a video game controller than their mom and sons who like all things pink. Like a whole bunch more of stuff like that that paralyzes me but would bore you to death. But my motto lately comes from the amazing Glennon Doyle Melton, who says so bravely and quite often for us to “just show up”.
On those days where your feet accidentally hit the wrong side of the bed and you want to hurt the people you love for NO GOOD REASON, please know that all you have to do is ‘show up’. And from what I’ve learned lately, once you show up, everything else sort of works itself out.
As for those irrational fears that are lightyears beyond your realm of control, well, you just have to look them in the eyes, stare them down, and send them on their way. Send them off and do your best to let go.
None of this is easy. As a matter of fact, it’s ‘heart’ work. The hardest I’ve ever known.