I have been very stuck in my feelings, A LOT, lately. Between Facebook memories showing me holidays past when my soon-to-be 10 year old was once only two, and he had the biggest cheeks and wore a bow tie everywhere, to having to watch him go through his own heart break when the neighbor kids start to pull the “we’re older than you so we’ll push you around if we feel like it” card.
It’s the kind of stuff I spend hours agonizing over when I should be sleeping. Am I showing him enough love? Am I teaching him how to handle conflict and navigate his way through this terrifying world? Am I being patient enough? Should I have played that horribly boring game with him for the 30 thousandth time instead of telling him no to mindlessly scroll social media? It’s enough to make you go insane, if you let it.
The other night we were getting ready for bed and he chose dad to lay with him for a few minutes longer, for another night in a row. And I let my jealousy show, for just a split second. And you know what my sweet, thoughtful, and still very strong-willed child said to me?
He said, “Mom – just because I want to spend time with dad or hang out with him doesn’t mean I don’t love you. You’re the one I go to when I’m sad, or when I’m scared, like the other night during that storm. And you’re always the first person I talk to when I’m feeling frustrated.”
Okay. Please pass the tissues. Sometimes – when I find myself so stuck in my own head, the only thing that helps is when I write about it. So I wrote this letter to my wide-eyed child, and although he was distracted when I read it to him, I hope it’s something he’ll come back to when he needs to, and know that mom loves him; through my imperfections, through my mistakes, he will always be the best thing I’ve ever done. That he will take to heart the lessons that I unknowingly are passing down to him, and that he’ll remember this when he sees me fail.
Dear Son of Mine,
There are no books that adequately prepare a person for parenthood. There are no words in print that can fully describe the love, anxiety, fear, and stress that are born the minute your child enters this world.
When you become a parent, there are two things you want more than anything: for your child to be safe, and to be the perfect parent. But I have learned, against my undying efforts that those two things are not always possible. I have learned that sometimes the best thing I can do is to stand back and watch your heart break and allow you to navigate not only your feelings, but your responses to those circumstances as they arise.
No matter how bad I may want to run out and scoop you up and keep you sheltered forever, I have to let you experience the sadness in order to fully appreciate the beauty in this world. To let you stand on your own two feet as you find your way to climb over the hurdles and reach the top of the mountain. And that you won’t always be able to do so unscathed. There will be bumps and bruises along the way. And some you'll let me clean up and kiss away the tears, while others will need to be mended only by you. And that is the part I am struggling with.
I have felt your hand slipping from mine for awhile now. It's what we want as parents: to teach our children to grow up so independently they eventually won't need us. And yet every moment I stand applauding on the sidelines is met with a shimmer of sadness. Because the person who once relied on me for every little thing is slipping further and further away.
And while I wish I could say that I'm handling these growing pains with grace, it couldn't be further from the truth. I know you watch me fail. In multiple ways, every single day. It’s what keeps me up at night. Praying, and crying, and frantically hoping that I’ll do a better job of it all tomorrow.
I hope you learn from me, though. That in spite of my failures, in spite of my temper and my anxiety, the helicopter parenting because I worry too much, or the silly arguments that escalate for no good reason other than mom feels overwhelmed today, that you can look past my flaws to see that even through the thick of it, I keep showing up.
That even when I do it wrong, (which I realize is often), I still show up. That even if I fail you a million times every single day, you’ll know that yours was a mom who kept trying her hardest. And I hope that you learn from my mistakes. That you learn we are all imperfect people. But even through these imperfections and our demons and the things we struggle with the most, we have to keep showing up. We have to keep picking ourselves back up and trying again anyway.
So please know that I am trying to stand back and let you learn just a little bit how to weather these storms on your own. And while it may be hard for me to do, I have every bit of faith in you that you will be okay. And please know, if there is ever a time you're unable to get to the top of whatever mountain lies ahead of you, I'll be here, hand held out, ready to pull you up.
Your imperfect, but loves you more than anything, mom
A version of the post originally appeared on Not Your Average Mom.