There Is Light

Surprises

I don’t tell the boys when we approach a visit with their sister.

Part of this stems from the true joy I have in surprising my sons with just about everything under the sun. I absolutely love watching their faces when they either realize where we’re going or what is about to happen… or the sheer joy when I pull off a 100% shocking surprise. Oh, that’s my favorite.

I should note that I loathe surprises and if my parents had done this to me I’d probably require more therapy than I already do. I thought maybe working surprises into the boys’ lives might help in that regard. Parenting is a crapshoot at best, and they seem to like it. So we stick with it.

And part of it stems from a few smaller known issues.

Plans can change. When plans change, feelings can get hurt and emotions can run high. While our home is a safe space for big emotions, I really try to avoid letting them down. I hold enough guilt for how my actions well before they were born continue to let them down in a number of ways. I acknowledge that the whole “letting down” thing is going to happen in their lives, but I try to minimize it where and when I can. I mean, I also regularly let them down because I’m a boring curmudgeon of a mother. You know, there’s that.

There’s their excitement and, hand in hand with that, anxiety. “Is she here yet,” quickly escalates to an argument over who gets to sit next to her in the car. (Meanwhile, the both do, because she sits in the middle.) While some might see that as sibling rivalry extending into our unique family unit, I recognize my sons’ personalities and anxieties for what they are: They worry they won’t get enough one-on-one time with their sister. Gut punch.

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Lastly, a totally selfish reason: I’m anxious enough about visits for approximately eleven billion reasons. Do I have enough food and snacks and drinks for everyone? Is the house clean enough? How many times will Callie excitedly pee on the floor? How much is too much? How much is not enough? How do we fit in all I want to do? Is there enough down time for a bunch of introverts and Nicholas? How do I properly process my emotions on the fly during a visit? How hard will the boys crash emotionally on Sunday when they leave? How hard will I crash on Sunday night when the boys go to sleep?

And so on.

I no longer fret about what to wear. I did realize last visit that we only take them to the same restaurants every time, so we’re gonna change it up a little bit this time around. But my brain can spin out of control if I let it. When the boys aren’t asking me eleventy billion questions about the visit, I have time and space to breathe, to make room for the emotions that are not only allowed to exist but continue to help push me toward some semblance of healing and peace.

Every single time I mindfully enter into a visit with an attitude of humble acceptance instead of anxious expectancy, I feel a growth and a change inside my soul. Oh, it’s still hard as fuck when she leaves. There’s no sugar-coating that truth. But I’ve noticed when I take that purposeful approach to a visit and practice some good self-care before hand, good things happen somewhere deep inside where things lay buried.

Remind me of this on Friday afternoon. I’m also hoping to snap reactionary photos of the boys seeing their sister, which should be at two totally separate times thanks to baseball (which has us at the field Monday through Saturday this year, folks!). For the past year and a half, I have witnessed that all on my own. I’m hoping to capture it this time. It’s truly a thing of beauty—something we worked hard to make a safe space for all.

Progress. She happens, especially after a period of hard, dark personal growth. Spring is here, and there is light.

Surprises

 

Fitbit Flex Activity + Sleep Wristband

Deep Thoughts on Snow Day Four

Snow Day Four.

We slept in. They played video games while I did some work. We went to play with friends. Hit the library. Ate one of their favorite meals for dinner. Read books. I, personally, answered a billion and one questions.

Like, “If a blind person opens their eyes under water, does it still hurt?”

I’ve never, ever thought of that. My youngest son is always, always thinking. I think he’s fantastic.

Snow Day Four doesn’t hurt too much.

I figured they’d at least have a delay if not an entire Snow Day. I kind of wanted the full Snow Day because I wanted an excuse to be lazy. A lazy day with my boys and my dogs and some carbs, because we all need carbs in the winter. It’s how we survive, really.

And then I asked the older of the two boys to take the first, but younger, dog outside to do her business. He didn’t watch her. He didn’t know if she did her business. I was in the process of making dinner. I felt a little frustrated.

So I yelled.

I really don’t like yelling. I would rather avoid yelling. I want to talk about things, teach from a place of calm. Yelling scares me, so I know it has the potential to affect my boys in negative ways too.

My son went off to his room, on his own. I continued stirring homemade alfredo sauce, trying to time noodles and broccoli to end up cooked, but not over- or under-cooked all at the same time. He came out, cheeks and eyes red and swollen with tears.

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“I’m sorry,” he whispered.

I took him into my arms, my chin resting on the top of his head.

“I know, buddy. But this is what Daddy and I have been talking about: responsibility, paying attention, being present. This is part of growing up and gaining more independence. It just comes with more responsibility. I love you. Always.”

He nodded. He went and got the book he picked at the library and sat at the dining room table to read while I finished up dinner. He helped set the table. He helped feed the dogs after we finished dinner. Everything went fine for the rest of the evening.

Much like I want my sons to know that one mistake is not the end of the world, I need to model that in my parenting. I sent my husband a text about how negatively I felt about myself for yelling. But if I expect my sons to rebound from supposed or surmised mistakes, shouldn’t I also do the same? Shouldn’t I also give myself the grace I afford them? Shouldn’t I work harder to forgive myself?

My therapist wants me to bring a picture of my 22-year-old—and pregnant—self to my next appointment in two weeks. I’m supposed to talk to myself, tell myself the reasons I’m still angry with that young, scared, very, very alone little mama. Because it’s true: I hold anger with absolutely no one else as to how everything happened. Except me. I’m so very angry with myself.

Today a friend related a story of a mutual friend’s unplanned pregnancy. She shared how she supported her friend through each step of the process. My heart welled up.

“I just needed you,” I said as I walked out the door, heading off to the library with the boys.
“I know.”

It is my goal to someday forgive myself. I know—I know—I did the best I could with the knowledge I had at the time. I repeat that to myself regularly. My therapist said the same thing at my last appointment. The tricky part is getting to the point of forgiveness, of letting it all go.

Because if I’m no longer mad at myself, what’s left?