Sometimes being a mother breaks my heart

Today wasn’t a good one. I can’t and shouldn’t measure my mothering skills by what happens in one day or even one moment. However, I can’t help but feel I’ve let them down. Again.

I know tomorrow I will wake up and all the pain of today will have lost its luster. The tears we cried a memory getting fainter as the days go on.

But tonight I hurt.

I ache.

I bleed.

My heart breaks for the pain you felt today. The pain WE felt today.

When I saw you both all packed up and ready to go ride bikes, I could tell there was more.

I felt it.

You said the food you packed was in case you got hungry. But I saw the look you gave each other and I knew it.

I let you go anyway.

I stood at the window and watched you go. I prayed you’d be safe and knew you’d come back.

I didn’t really know. Couldn’t really know what you’d been plotting while you sat on the swing last night together. I thought it was something like hunting for fairies or looking for magic doors.

When you came back less than 10 minutes later, hot and defeated, I could sense it was so much more.

You both started crying within seconds of coming through the door and my heart dropped. It took some time to get it out of you. The plan. The secret. The wish.

Your plan is adorable and heartbreaking at the same time. Ride your bikes to Pet Smart. You’d wave at a stranger, pretending they are your parent, fool the staff. You’d adopt a kitten and a puppy. Ride home with the pets in your backpacks. You’d keep your little babies in the playhouse in the backyard. You’d feed and care for them when we aren’t looking.

You’d have the pets you so long for.

My heart breaks.

I hold you both as your tears flow and mine join in with yours.

You’re probably wondering why I don’t run out and buy seventeen kittens and puppies.

I want to.

My husband is allergic to cats and refuses to get a dog. Its been an ongoing topic of discussion and every few months it rears its painful head again.

I support him in front of them, but argue with him about it frequently. His list of reasons is short, but he will not budge.

My heart breaks.

We leave the house and go shopping to break the moment. I try and distract with humor, new books and a shared cookie.

It helps for the moment.

Later in the day though, it surfaces again. More tears. This time rage and anger. You fight with each other and get violent. You hit me. Hit each other. You scratch me. You tell me I am awful. You shake with frustration.

I listen. I hold you. I talk to you.

We talk about better ways to vent our anger so it doesn’t hurt others. You ask why I’m crying too, and I tell you I hurt when you do.

You cry more and I apologize.

I should not have cried.

I should be stronger.

We make it to the end of the day and when daddy comes home we try and hold it together. I want to rage and scream and scratch, like you. I want to make him feel the pain you do.

I don’t.

Of course I don’t.

Someday you will see I am protecting you. Marriage isn’t easy and being an adult is about compromises and sacrifice.

Or maybe you will be in therapy someday telling them you wished your mother were a stronger person.

I don’t know.

We snuggled before bedtime and I told you I loved you more than you could ever imagine. I read to you and kissed you. Tomorrow will be a better day, I say. Tomorrow we will do something fun.

You look up at me with wounded eyes and I want to cry again.

Sometimes being a mother breaks my heart.

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Then again, sometimes things are just bullshit

His hands and feet have always been filthy.

When he was just a few days old, I would look at his tiny nails and wonder at how it was they were always in need of cleaning and cutting. I’d use my teeth to carefully trim them and then gently soak them in water to release the dirt.

As he lay in the hospital bed, I keep looking at his feet. When was the last time I cut those toenails? I need to teach him to take better care of himself.

Guilt courses through me like ice and I lean forward to touch his shoulder. He shudders and frowns at me.

“Stop trying to help me mom. You can’t do anything!”

I hate those words and I frown back.

That can’t be true. I refuse to accept that. I am his mother and I am responsible for everything that happens to him. This is my fault and now I have to fix it. I NEED to make it better.

“Let me rub your head.”

“Your lips look dry, let me put some chap stick on.”

“How about I sing you a song or tell you a story?”

“I love you.”

He screams out in pain again and his body starts to shake.

“Just stop mom! STOP IT! You can’t do anything!!!”

I swallow hard and force myself to keep it together. He needs me to be tough.

All I can do is sit here with him and listen to him cry.

I hate it.

This whole situation is complete bullshit.

Anger bubbles up at the hospital staff and the impossibly slow way they are moving. I hear the nurses discussing another patient and I want to slap them across the face. How can they endure his cries of pain? Why are they not running around helping us? Why are they so calm?

Hours go by and we move through the motions.

X-rays.

IV in the arm.

Painkillers that barely touch the pain.

Confirmation that his wrist is indeed broke in two places.

Crying, shaking and begging for water.

Waiting to be put under.

Heart monitors.

Nurses come and go.

Papers to sign.

Drugs given that I don’t fully understand.

Bones reset by what the doctor calls “barbaric procedure.”

Waking up and wanting all the “tubes out.”

More x-rays.

Waiting to be released.

Paying.

When we finally get into the car, it feels as if we’d been gone for days. We are hungry, tired and emotionally drained. As we cue up in the drive-through for some well-earned milkshakes, I look at my boy in the mirror.

“You know I really wish I could have done something to help you,” I tell him. “I hated seeing you in so much pain.”

“You couldn’t mom,” he says. “There was nothing you could do.”

There it is again.

Bullshit.

It has been a week and he is on the mend. He will get his regular cast on Friday and the pain is under control now.

But I’m stuck. I’ve written and erased this blog post a dozen times. The truth is, I am struggling to understand all the emotions that this event has evoked.

Guilt: I keep replaying his fall off the play structure in my head and I can’t stop blaming myself. After all, it happened after school on my watch. I have told him to not stand on top of the monkey bars about 30,000 times, and I was about to yell at him again when he fell. If only I had.

Fear: My body keeps flooding with the memory of how completely and utterly incompetent I felt as I saw his clearly broken arm. I didn’t know what to do and I am fearful of all the ways it could have been so much worse.

Weakness: Not being able to fix my sons pain or even comfort him made me feel like a very inadequate mother. I don’t recognize this pathetic, uncertain and full of worry mom I am turning into.

Embarrassment: The school is looking at playground safety closer and sent out a note about how parents need to watch their kids after school. Clearly, if I had been a better parent none of this would have happened. Right?

Despite my best efforts, I can’t seem to shake all this crap away and turn it into something positive.

“He learned his lesson,” falls flat and I’m not even sure it’s true.

“I learned my lesson,” puts too much blame on me and it feels icky and wrong.

Really, it was an accident. Kids get hurt all the time and it just happened. There is no lesson or getting over it.

I guess sometimes bullshit is just that.

Bullshit.

Cooper with cast

But at least he is cute.