A Thank You Letter to my Toughest Kid

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I never thought I’d write you, of all people, a thank you note. Shouldn’t it be the other way around? After all, for what on earth do I have to thank you? If there’s a debt of gratitude here, isn’t it from you to me?

But I’m reading “Field Notes on the Compassionate Life- A Search for the Soul of Kindness,” by Marc Ian Barasch, and like any book worth the paper it’s printed on, with every page I am propelled into an emotional tug of war.

“Soren Kierkegaard said we think a person who is loved owes a debt of gratitude to the one who loves them. There is an expectation that it should be repaid in kind, on installment, “reminiscent,” he says sarcastically, “of an actual bookkeeping arrangement.” Instead, he turns the whole thing on its head: “No, the one who loves runs into debt; in feeling himself gripped by love, he feels this as being in an infinite debt. Amazing!”

Was Kierkegaard onto something? Is it I who owes you for the privilege it has been to love you? For the way that love has transformed me? Shaped me? Whittled me down to the core of my personhood? Dared me to look in the mirror and see myself for who I really am– flaws and imperfections included– so that I could fully understand who YOU really are and all the ways we are more or less the same? So I could see how similar our struggles really are? So I could humbly take note of all the things I want to change about you- that I pray you outgrow- and clearly see they are the very things I hope and pray for myself?

Like a hurricane, you have torn through my life at times, upsetting all that was so meticulously thought out and designed for my comfort and enjoyment. My ease. You force me to regroup. Re-think. Re-configure. Your selfishness forces my hand to be more generous in word and in deed. Your frequent lack of concern for my feelings forces me to see all the ways I, too, am selfish and self-centered and want the universe to revolve around me.

Your strong-willed spirit requires so much more from me than I knew I had.  Your absolute insistence to do things your way instead of mine constantly reminds me that I do not own you. You belong to yourself and you need to live in a way that makes sense to you, even when I don’t understand, even when it would never work for me.

You would not let me be a lazy mom (if such a thing exists). You’ve demanded I be present. Involved. Aware. Creative. Much more thoughtful. Smarter. Clever. Strategizing and learning to cope with what I, in my piety, have deemed a difficult person.

For all the circumstances you dragged me into involuntarily that required me to get over myself; That obligated me to learn how to circle the wagons in loyalty even when my heart was breaking in humility, thank you. For compelling me to dig deeper and become the best version of myself as a mom, a woman, person, just by being who you are, thank you.  Because of you, I’ve seen the very worst and very best of what I’m able to be. Do. Overcome. Persevere through in order to give you more. More. More. More. Thank you.

You see, the other children are easy. Rule followers. Quick to listen. Quick to act. Wanting to please. They require so little of me, really. I can relax around them.  But not you. Your struggles. Your needs. Your unwillingness to just do things my way, dammit will not let me rest. They have driven me crazy with anger and frustration and grief and made me search. Search, search, search.

You have kept me awake at night, gripped with fear. Whispering prayers in desperation. Prayers for you, prayers for me. Holy utterings that one of us will somehow get this right. This growing. This learning. This becoming. And somehow, even though I am the parent and you are the child, it’s happening together. It’s happening to both of us at once. While I am trying to teach you, you are teaching me. And though I would not have chosen it to be like this– while I would have rather taken the easy road, it’s the difficulties here that are refining both of us.

And I have finally accepted that the toughest chapters of my life have always. Always. Always been followed by the best chapters of my life.  And that includes the pages with your name on them. And your name is on all of them.

I’ve always believed each child should secretly suspect they are their mother’s favorite; That I’ve done such a thorough job favoring each one of you, NONE of you would believe this is about you.

So if you’re reading this and do imagine it to be you? Thanks, kid. I owe you.

 

{Looking for another Mother’s Day read? Check out The Mosaic of Motherhood from a few years back.}

 

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Starting Over on a Tuesday

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Yesterday was the first official Monday of the New Year. And it started out bright and early and shiny with so much promise. There was coffee. There was meditation and journaling. There was all sorts of positivity and optimism and good feelings. All kinds of regrouping and restarting. Ahhhh. A New day. New week. New Year.

And then it happened. Later on in the day, it happened. I totally lost my shit with someone. And I’m not telling you this because I’m proud of it. I’m telling you this because SERIOUSLY? It was Monday! Monday, January 5th! The new start! The fresh week! The Do Over! The Reset! I should’ve still been basking in the after glow of New Year’s resolutions and inspiration! Still full of hope! And I was! Until then.

But it was Yucky. It was like an Ugly Cry- Jesus, Excuse Me for a Minute, I’ll be Right Back- kind of moment. There may have been a foot stomp or two and a door slammed or so. You know the type. Yeah. One of those.  Happy Effin’ New Year. Blah blah blah. Bite me.


But luckily. Luckily, I had read this little gem of an article earlier on when I was still in my right mind. It was all about pausing in the midst of a total train wreck moment and deciding to say thank you. I know. I know it sounds totally whacked. But when I stepped away from the mess I had just been standing in and collected myself, I sat still for a few minutes and did it. With a few tears running down my face, I said to God and to the Universe, “Thank you.”

And at first, it was weird. Because, seriously, what was I thankful for? That I hadn’t just committed complete Harikari  in my own home? But Kate, the kick ass Life Coach and author of the article over at Your Courageous Life, had said this~

“What can shift in those seconds when you are in it, and deep, and you start saying “Thank you” is that you are paving a way to say that all is not lost–that there is something divine about this experience–there is something to be gained.”

And indeed, there WAS something to be gained. Besides composure. It was a very fast, very clear moment of self-awareness. I immediately was thankful that I could see exactly what the trigger point for me was. And exactly where I still have work to do in 2015. And 16. And probably 2017, 18, 34, and 52.

And in defense of my trampled little self-aware heart, the trigger was someone hurting someone I love. Which somehow makes me feel a teeny bit more justified about my fit. I don’t get worked up over traffic. Or long check-out lines. Or someone being late. But hurt someone I love and I will rip the bow out of my hair, clutch the pearls from my neck and go all Beer-drinking- Buffalo girl on you in two seconds flat. But still. It’s something I want to learn to handle better.

Which leads me to this: While I love a new year and a new start and fresh, clean slate as much as the next person, the truth is, every day is a Do Over. Thank God, every single day is a Do Over. Turning off the alarm every morning is like hitting a reset button. No need to wait for January. Or Monday. Or Spring. Or whatever it is. God knew exactly what He was doing when He divided the sunshine and moonlight into manageable blocks of time called Day and Night. He totally knew we would need time to regroup in between. Time to say, “Help.” Time to say, “Thank you.” And the continual promise of a Do Over every single day.

So here it is, Tuesday. And I’m starting over. Again.

No, thank YOU.

For the past 10 years I have run the Thanksgiving Food Drive at my children’s elementary school. It’s a small but heartfelt operation that provides all the typical Thanksgiving dinner fare, including a turkey and hopefully a few extra pantry staples thrown in. It’s incredibly meaningful to me because it serves families who have fallen on tough times right in our own school–as in, boys and girls that might be sitting next to my daughter.

But yesterday was a first.  The school nurse, who is in charge of identifying the families and distributing the boxes operates under the utmost of confidentiality and discretion so as to maintain privacy and dignity for the recipients. So in my ten years of running this event, I have never known or seen a single family receive a box. But yesterday, during the sorting and packing and boxing up, a woman introduced herself to me and followed up by saying,”Every year I receive a box. This year, I’m still receiving a box, but I decided to help.”

Wow. What could I say? I didn’t want to lose this sort of intense moment by talking too much or too soon or sounding too…whatever the word is. Like a superficial suburban mom who might be somewhat out of touch with the reality of my neighbor’s hardships? I still haven’t really found it. Because in my heart of hearts, my intentions are good. And I just wanted her to feel like we were friends, working side by side at school PTO event. Because really, isn’t that what we sort of were?

In all of the humility it took for her to reveal herself as a recipient, ironically, I felt humbled. Very humbled. I thanked her for coming. And she thanked me back. And it’s hard to feel simultaneously thankful and a negative emotion at the same time. Such as judgmental or critical or resentful or whatever other emotion either one of us could have chosen for our own private reasons.

We wished each other a Happy Thanksgiving. And then we continued to work side by side. A little awkward. A sort of weighted silence. But still just two moms trying to show our kids and neighbors what Thanksgiving is all about. Choose to be thankful this week and watch how easily everything else falls away.