Sorry nobody clapped for you, people suck

It is pretty much always the same. Lines of kids in caps and gowns, flowers, balloons, crying moms and fussy babies, speeches about the meaning of life, scattered bursts of applause and snapping cameras (mostly cell phones now).

Every time I attend a graduation, I’m proud and happy for the graduates. I never get tired of seeing all that hopefulness.

But it comes with equally strong feelings of hate for the human race.

I try to suppress it.

I focus on the mom with the tissues in front of me that screams out, “I love you baby!” as her boy walks across the stage.

I focus on the dad beaming two rows down who is videotaping the entire thing with due diligence.

I focus on the grandmother who is overcome with such joy that tears run down her face.

Then it happens again, another name is called that is met with silence.

This kid has no cords around his neck. No awards to speak of.

I clap in my quiet, lame way, but it’s nothing. It isn’t heard because the next kid, the one with 50 family members and tons of his peers screaming his name, is now walking across the stage.

That’s when the anger starts and I think about how fucked up this whole thing is.

I was one of the “good kids.” I worked hard, understood the game, and had lots of family members to cheer me on.

I wasn’t that kid that nobody clapped for.

But I see you.

I know that your life is harder than these spoiled kids with two loving parents and a hundred relatives that flew in from around the country to support them.

I see you.

I know that you barely graduated because you had to juggle taking care of your siblings because your mom has to work. She couldn’t come to your graduation because of work. She works hard. You do to.

I see you.

I’m fucking pissed on your behalf.

You’re the 302nd kid to walk across the stage and I know you feel alone. I can see it in the way you walk and the way you don’t make eye contact with the staff that is shaking your hand. From way up here in the stands, I can feel the pain of your life.

I see you.

This doesn’t diminish the accomplishments of the other kids. The ones that are dripping in awards that they earned, the ones who are famous around campus for their sports achievements, the ones who didn’t miss a day of school. Yes, they absolutely 100% deserve the recognition, praise and love.

But so do you.

I wish you could have heard my clap.

I see you.

The inequity of the hand that you were dealt makes me want to do something. I want to hug you and tell you that it gets better. That everything will change now. That you will be that American success story, rising out of the ashes like the phoenix, and you will get everything you’ve always dreamed of having.

But that’s a lie.

The truth is, you have to keep working. You have a lot of hard work ahead of you.

You have to show up and do stuff.

Every. Single. Day.

Life is not easy for anyone.

The kids that have a million fans in high school are not exempt. Everyone has work to do.

They might also have to face a hard fall from the high of being on top. They may spend a long time recovering from the ego blow coming their way.

They may also be so hard on themselves, a perfectionist bred from parental/societal/internal pressure, that nothing they ever do will make them happy.

We all suffer in some way.

We all have to work hard.

The thing I really want to tell you isn’t far from the silly stuff your classmates said in their commencement speeches. All that shit about “your life is what you make it” and “you can do it.” I know you rolled your eyes. I did too. But it’s true.

One minute you will feel overwhelmed with regret and sadness.

Then your 8-year-old daughter comes up behind you and gently rubs your temples and kisses the top of your head.

You will have a list of stuff to do that never seems to get smaller and you’ll scream at how meaningless it all seems.

Then your 10-year-old boy brings you coffee while your writing and it’s the right amount of cream and sugar. He sets it down and quietly whispers, “I love you.”

So, yah, life is hard. It’s not going to get easier or simpler.

But there is coffee, soft touches and moments that lift you back up and flood you with hope again.

Now get to work.

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What to do when your tires hit the dirt

I should have known.

Most people would have figured it out in about 10 seconds, or certainly after a few minutes.

Not me.

I don’t like to brag, but sometimes I can be completely and utterly committed to making a big mistake.

It’s not that I seek out these little life lessons for myself. It’s more like I just ignore all signs of warning and logic and just keep plugging ahead.

It’s dedicated stupidity of the most spectacular sort.

Yesterday was a brilliant example.

I needed to make a road trip to Topaz to pick up my darling summer daughter from her visit with grandma. The kids stayed home with daddy and I had the car blissfully to myself.

I plugged the destination into the maps app on my iPhone, followed the prompts and indulged in a mini-marathon of my favorite podcast, NPR’s Snap Judgment.

For about 3 hours I listened to stories of lost loves reuniting, people overcoming fear and families reunited after centuries apart.

Then my tires hit a dirt road.

road

Uh oh. This can’t be right.

I stopped, turned off the podcast and looked around.

The road was very rocky, dusty and quite deserted.

This is wrong.

I looked at my phone and it showed me driving 5 miles and then turning right. I was only 30 minutes from my destination.

So on I drove.

Windows and sunroof open, I put all doubt aside and focused on enjoying the ride.

After a few minutes I found this:

mine

I pulled over and read all about the Golden Gate Mine. I was feeling pretty proud of myself. Look at me. Being all carefree and adventurous.

Then I came to a little stream that I had to cross.

creek

Then the road got really steep and my tires were having trouble keeping up with the demands of the trail.

Still I had seen no cars. The only house I’d come across was abandoned and falling apart.

Fear started creeping in and I kept saying to myself, “this can’t be right.”

But I was committed to this route. I couldn’t make a U-turn, because then I’d have to drive all that again.

No going back

The road became gravel for a bit and my turn was only .5 miles away. Way to go Bridgette! You made it.

“Turn right.”

I looked all around. No turns.

No other roads or paths or anything. Just the same rocky dirt road leading further up the mountain.

Then I lost cell reception.

Now I was scared.

I got out of the car and just stood there.

“What do I do?” I said aloud.

I’m lost and all alone. Tears started in my eyes and I felt a rising panic in my gut.

I don’t know what to do. I don’t know what to do. I don’t know what to do.

Should I turn around or just keep going? What if the road gets worse and I blow a tire? What if it goes on for so long I run out of gas? What if I lose traction and skid down the hill and crash? I have no food, no water and it’s hot out.

The smart choice was to turn around and head back to the main road.

But that wasn’t fun and I just had to see this through. I’d come too far to turn around.

Dedicated stupidity at it’s finest.

I got back in the car and continued the climb.

Over another stream. Around and around and up and up. I knew I was going to be late now, but I had to see where this went. I kept thinking, the next turn it will become a paved road again.

Nope.

After another 10 minutes of driving I reached the top of the hill. This is what I saw:

mountaintop

I got out of the car and the air was filled with the most gorgeous smell of pine. A breeze blew through my hair and I actually laughed.

Groups of people on horseback were just disappearing into the woods. I walked over to a woman in jeans and a t-shirt that had a surprised look on her face.

“I’m lost,” I told her and realized how funny I must look in my mommy SUV and flip-flops.

“You sure are,” she replied with a little laugh.

She had a beautiful smile and she gave me a big hug.

“You’ve reached Little Antelope Pack Station,” she said. “Welcome.”

sign

She told me about a summer camp they were running for underprivileged kids. The kids get to ride horses, shoot BB guns and learn about nature.

“Want to ride a horse?” she offered. “Something brought you here.”

I used to ride horses all the time and I yearned to take her up on it. The thought actually brought tears to my eyes.

But people were waiting for me.

I have to be responsible.

She told me that I’d have to drive all the way back to the bottom.

No other way out.

I took a few pictures and hugged her goodbye.

“Come back when you have more time,” she said and waved to me as I pulled away.

The drive down the hill was easy and fast.

As I passed all the markers from before, I could remember all the emotions I felt at each spot; fear, excitement, doubt, joy, disappointment and happiness.

Now it all seemed so silly, pointless and wasteful.

I’m very lucky. All that came of my little escapade was a very dirty car and a flat tire (that happened a few hours later).

Things could have been so much worse.

I am tired of moving blindly and innocently forward without questioning things or listening to my instincts.

I’m so stubborn and my craving for adventure and excitement is ridiculous.

It is causing turmoil, pain and regret.

While the beauty I experienced yesterday is something I will always treasure, hopefully this will be a lesson learned.

I am a mother. People are counting on me.

Diversions can be dangerous.

Stupid, bad mommy

Holding her hands back as she attempts to punch me, I forget about her feet and one connects with my side. Hard. All of her limbs are in motion with the intent on doing damage. She is still small and I can handle her blows.

It’s what is coming out of her mouth that feels like I’m being repeatedly stabbed with a rusty knife blade soaked in poison.

“I hate you!”

“Your a bad mommy!”

“I wish I’d never been born because your so bad!”

“Your a stupid, ugly mommy!”

Each hurtful phrase is followed by a scream that comes from deep inside. It shakes her whole body and seems painful. I hold back my tears and try to remember…she is only 6. She is in pain.

But it hurts.

It feels like I’ve failed at the most important job in the world, being her mother. I’ve failed to give her the tools to handle things.

My poor sweet, sensitive girl.

From the time she started talking it was clear she has strong feelings and emotions. She thinks about things little ones should not and comes up with phrases that often leave me speechless. She is always concerned with how people feel and is often brought to tears when hearing a story about someone sad.

For those reasons, and many others, I have to be careful of what she is exposed to. We limit media and she attends a Waldorf school. But I can’t shield her from every hurt and, truthfully, I don’t want to.

This “I hate you” stuff is new. This is the first full week of school and 3 out of the 4 evenings have ended with an outburst (each getting progressively longer and meaner). After the rage comes the real tears and we get to the hurt and pain. Then, most horribly, it ends with guilt.

“I’m a bad kid.”

“Your a good mommy and I’m just awful to you.”

“I’m sorry. I don’t know what’s wrong with me.”

Those words twist the knife and I want to run out of the room sobbing.

The truth behind all this pain is that my girl wants a best friend. She is obsessed with the idea of having someone she can count on. Someone she can trust. I’ve explained that it takes time to build friendships and that she just needs to play with everyone right now.

“Time is all you need.”

“Just keep being yourself and people will line up to be your friend.”

“You are awesome. You are amazing. Give people time to see that.”

I even brought out the old Girl Scout song:

“Make new friends

But keep the old

One is silver

And the others gold”

She wants it so bad that every interaction becomes “is she my best friend or not?” Then she decides the answer is no and is as heartbroken as she will be when her first boyfriend dumps her.

I’m not stupid and can see the correlation between her pain and my own. I know that even at age 6 she can feel her mothers depression. I am not whole right now. I’m broken and I can’t help but feel that she senses it.

How can I expect her to be strong, resilient and confident when I am not?

I hate this.

I want to give her skills that help her find meaning and love.

I want her to feel whole and confident.

I want her to stop freaking out and saying mean things, because this mom can’t take much more. Words freaking hurt.

How can I do all that? I have no clue.

I know some of the answers can be found by seeking Gods help. It keeps coming back to that. We read her book about guardian angels last night and she found some comfort in that. I’m talking to her more about prayer and we are going to start praying together.

My daughter is amazing. I am certain she is destined to do something great with her life.

I only wish I could fast forward through this hard stuff. But, of course, this is the stuff parenting is made of. The hard stuff.

I just hope I survive.