Sunday, April 3, 2011

Letter to My Son

I know that I haven't always been the best mom to you. I know that our life together has been pretty rocky. I know that I haven't always fought for you the way that I should have and that I have fought with you entirely too much.

You tell me that you think I favor your sister and that she's my little princess. I want you to know that although I do love your sister deeply, you have a bigger piece of my heart.

When you were born I was 19 years old. I was still a baby and I had no idea what I was about to get into. When you were born I became a mother and a woman all in an instant. I became your mother and that has forever changed me for the better.

When you were still a tiny baby boy we would spend hours just staring at each other. We could communicate without words. I could tell what you needed by the way you would breathe, or blink, or wave your tiny fists or kick your little legs. You hardly cried at all because you didn't need to. You and I had a deep connection that didn't need words or cries. You were a little piece of my soul, of God, of sunshine and perfection all put together into the shape of a little person. You were mine and I was yours.

When I named you, I chose a name that meant "courage" and "faithfulness". I know how hard life can be and I wanted you to have a name that meant something good, that hopefully those qualities would become a part of who you are and they would help you. I think it worked. You are one of the bravest and most faithful people I know. You keep loving me even though I have not been very good to you. I need to learn that from you, how to be more brave and faithful.

Of course you know by now that life isn't perfect. It just can't be, not all the time. Even though I loved you so deeply I still resented you. I placed the blame for my life taking a drastic turn on you and your existence instead of on myself and my own choices. I was terrified that I would never have any kind of life, that I would miss out on all the things my friends were doing, that I would be trapped in this "mom" role forever and it would be horrible. What I didn't realize then was that by you being in my life I would have more of a life than I could have possibly hoped for and that I would experience the world in a way that just wasn't possible without you.

In my place of fear, I began to withhold my heart from you. I thought that would protect me somehow from something too big and scary to name. I didn't think about how that would hurt you. I didn't consider that you would need me to be strong for you and to show you that it is okay to love another person so hard and deep that it hurts. I didn't think about how you would need me to show you how to love yourself. I didn't know that you would not see in yourself the many things that are incredible and worth love.

I am so sorry. More sorry than words can say. So sorry that I don't even think I can feel the sorry all the way.

The other night when we went to the hospital for you to be evaluated, and you cried when I told you we were leaving, my heart broke. It shattered. I saw what my actions had done to you and it broke me. I saw that by blaming you for my actions and choices and keeping my heart from you I had put you in a cage where you are trapped. I don't know how to make this right. I don't know how to fix it. The only thing I can think of is to go back to the beginning, but starting now, and to do what I should have done then.

I need to give you my heart all the way. That still scares me because I have been hurt by so many people. But you are worth whatever the price is that I have to pay. I'm going to say that again to make sure that you understand it: I give you my whole heart right now. And if my whole heart is crushed into dust it wil be worth it because you are worth it. You are the most worthy thing I have ever done in my life.

You are smart, funny, sweet, helpful, intuitive, creative, strong, loving and simply wonderful. When you are not home the house is quiet and boring. You bring life to my world and to the worlds of the people around you. I have more fun when I am with you, just by you being there. Watering the plants is more interesting with you. Lying on my bed reading is better when you are next to me reading your own book. When you play your flute I hear the music of heaven. Please don't stop playing, you are so good at it and you will only get better. I am amazed that you can make any noise come out of that instrument at all, much less the beautiful music that you play. I can't even read music, you bring it to life.

I know that I'm hard on you a lot. I'm still trying to figure out how to help you be the best you without being mean about it. I see how amazing you are and how amazing you will be as an older teenager, and an adult, and I feel like I need to push you to be the very best you can. I am terrified that you will make bad choices that will ruin your life forever. I worry about the people you hang out with at school, the movies you watch, the video games you play at friends' houses, the bad influences that surround you that I don't even know about. How can I possibly protect you from everything bad in this world? How can I expect you to fully live your life if I keep you in a little box forever?

When you make choices that cause problems for you it kills me. I feel like I failed as your mother, that I did something wrong. And I get even more scared that something bad will happen to you and I'll lose you forever. Or I won't be able to fix it. Now that you are older I can't just put a bandaid on your wounds and kiss it better. Now your wounds are on the inside and I can't even see them. How do I heal a hurt that I can't see or touch?

I don't know if everything in this letter will make sense to you now. But I want you to have it now because you need to know these things. You need to know that I love you more than I love any other person alive. You need to know that I will do anything for you that I need to. You need to know that you are an amazing person and you have great worth. You need to know that it is not your fault.

I love you, Kaleb. I love you all the way to the moon and back. And as long as I'm living, my baby you'll be.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Being Momma Can Hurt

There is a song called "Love Hurts" that I have always thought was stupid. The song is talking about romantic love and how essentially it's all a bunch of crap that will only destroy you in the end. I never believed the song and I still don't. But... love can hurt. Being a momma and loving your children can, and often does, hurt more than anything else in the world.

Two nights ago I spent several hours in the emergency department of our local children's hospital with my children. My son was getting a psych eval. No mother ever wants to see her child hurting physically, mentally or emotionally. We want to protect our babies, no matter how old they may be, from all kinds of hurt and harm. We want to keep them safe in a warm, happy little bubble forever.

Unfortunately, this is entirely impossible. The only time we can come close to keeping them safe in the bubble is when they're in utero and not even born yet. At some point that baby is going to come out and he or she will begin the inevitable process of growing up. Part of growing up and experiencing life is to live through heartache and wounds, whether they be physical, mental or emotional. The mean kid in preschool who hits you and takes the toy you were playing with. The girl in 2nd grade who tells people that you still sleep with a baby blankie. The best friend in middle school who suddenly turns on you for no apparent reason and crushes you. Your first love ending your relationship and walking away without a thought. Life can be rough.

As mothers we have lived through many of these rough spots and we know the hazards that life can hold for our babies as they grow. We do our best to shield and shelter them, knowing all the while that we cannot protect them forever. Inevitably something will come crashing into the safety of the bubble and the result will be hurt and sadness.

Thursday night was not, by any means, the first time that the bubble had been crashed into during my son's life. It was the first time that I felt like if something drastic didn't change immediately that our entire family was going to fall apart so badly that we would never be able to find all the pieces. Our lives would be shattered like the teapot that I cannot possibly put back together because some of the pieces are so tiny they are dust.

I want my son to be safe. I want him to be happy. I want him to know what an amazing person he is. I want him to see the beauty that lives in his soul. I want him to know from the depths of his being that the world is truly a better place because he is here in it. I want him to know the joy that he has brought me. From the first time that I saw him still wet and wrinkled from birth and looking very similar to Curious George. My son is one of the sweetest people I have ever met. And I have not been kind to his sweet self. Life has not been kind to him either.

But when push came to shove and my choice was to throw up my hands and walk away from the pain and difficulty of helping him find his way back to himself or to stand and fight for him when he can't do it for himself, I chose to fight. There are no easy answers in being a mother. There are no easy answers in life. But I do know that my son is mine and I am here to help him be the best person that he can be. It is my job as his mother to protect him and fight for him in whatever way I need to. And that is very scary and it hurts a lot.

Elie Wiesel said "once you bring life into the world, you must protect it." I brought my son into the world and I must protect him as much as I am able. The part that hurts is knowing that there will never be enough that I can do to protect him as much as I want to. I walk a fine line between keeping him safe and letting him live life. This is the part of parenting that makes it so difficult. To let him experience new things and to try out his frail little wings, knowing that at some point he will be hurt and there is little that I can do about it. The hurts that our children experience hurt us twice as much as they can ever hurt the child himself.