My keyboard is drenched in tears. Each key sopping with disappointment and exhaustion. My eyes are red and hot. As I type this, we are just hours past the meltdown of my career as your mother. Motherhood is full of peaks and valleys, and, lately, our valley has felt vast beyond measure. I’m not sure when I stopped, but, son, I miss enjoying you.
Although I struggle to remember specifics, I know there was a time when our relationship wasn’t this painful. There were certainly times, even after newbornhood, when you were “mommy’s little dude.” Scraped knees sent you searching for my comfort. Snuggles were accessible and kisses readily available. I was your person. Oh, how deeply I miss the days when I tangibly felt your love.
Your dad says the shift started the moment I got pregnant with your sister, but, honestly, I’ve blocked out of my mind most of those first
weeks months. Survival, at its finest. I know I can pinpoint the start of our issues right around the day she was born. Your sister was a difficult baby; I’ll give you that. She often took me away from you, whether to feed her, change her, or cuddle her. I’m sure giving up Mama was a painful pill for your toddler self to swallow.
You never seemed angry with her, though. You saved it all for my porcelain, postpartum heart. I’ll always remember the night you pushed me away, steam almost literally coming from your ears, when I asked you for a hug. While my heart shattered, I resigned to take the bullets myself. And I would do it again for the promise of your sweet sibling friendship.
Seeing the pain behind my eyes, your dad gave me the idea of Elijah/Mommy dates. These dates would be an opportunity to win back your affections. A day planned around your interests, a day to say “yes,” instead of “no” all the time. Our first date went . . . not great. You cried at learning it would just be the two of us. It was painfully obvious we had a lot of work ahead.
We went anyway and had a decent time at the museum. I only said “no” a few dozen times and ultimately had to drag you out to get dessert. (I’m such a wicked, wicked woman.) The ice cream sandwich was messier than you liked, so you refused to finish. I forced down my frustration and reminded myself this was supposed to be a fun date, and, by golly, if you didn’t want to eat an ice cream sandwich, well, there were worse things to refuse.
Our subsequent dates have gone much better, and we’ve had a few more successes between us. My motto in this time of darkness is any progress is, indeed, progress. Whether or not I feel like our alone time is enjoyable, I must push forward and continue to put myself out there for you. No matter what, you are my little boy, and I love you.
Even with the success of our dates, life in the last month has been rockier than before. We have regressed, and this time I just don’t have the energy. My will has faltered; I’m grasping at straws. A month ago, you started your first year of pre-school. We waited longer than most and hoped the wait would make for an easier transition. Boy, were we wrong. Instead, we have faced more adversity and struggle than ever. You have upped your power playing and opinion
Most days, it feels like we are unraveling in a whole new way. While I’m sure many of our struggles are part of the growing up process, I find little relief even in that knowledge. Much of the last month has ended with surrendered arms high and streams of tears, feeling completely out of options. Regardless, dear son, if this is our cross to bear, I will grit my way through this refining fire, as long as I get to laugh with you on the other side. Until then, I will find joy in the journey, put one foot in front of the other, breathe deeply, and trust that one day, this will all be a distant memory.