“Come on Ben! You have to toughen up!”
I say this to him after urging him to do his practice math test all morning. I say this after he’s blamed his teacher, math (for being stupid and boring) and me for not feeding him properly. (For the record, I have offered him waffles, latkes and a banana – all of which he’s refused.)
I can see he’s afraid, frustrated he doesn’t understand his homework and knowing he will likely fail his test. My heart goes out to him and I soften, “I’m sorry Ben. I see how frustrated you are. I’m here to help. Just stay in the game.”
But then he lashes out again – “Well if you would just FEED ME or actually HELP ME…” and then I lose it again. “I’ve been trying to help you all morning!!” I shout.
And then he collapses on the couch and looks like an exotic bird, his lips pursed in a frown, his hair dyed bright turquoise in a Justin Bieber-like do. And that’s when I say that regrettable thing about toughening up.
Whose line is that anyway?
I remember an adult saying that same thing to me as a kid and wanting to either crumple in tears or punch them in the face. It’s not a kind thing to say. And Ben, the ultimate truth-teller, says what I wish I would have all those years ago: “What kind of mom tells her son to toughen up?”
I put my hand on my heart this morning as I drove to an appointment. It’s part of a practice my coach assigned me, a way to speak to my heart and listen to what it needs. It’s part of some grief work I am doing right now.
“You are not a perfect mother,” I tell myself. “But you are a good mother. Your heart is good.”
We got through the practice test and Ben and I were able to recover. I learned a new concept recently – repair – which apparently is even more important than trying to make everything smooth all the time. If you can practice the repair, if you can trust there will be time and space and love in that process, then it’s like a bone broken and healed. It will be even stronger for it.
Before I had kids, I would hear people say: My kids are my teachers… and I liked that idea. I imagined them showing me how to be a kid again- how to be present, how to tell the truth, how to move through emotions and not cling to them, how to play. All of which appealed to me. But motherhood has shown me that they also teach us about our shadows.
They show us where we still have healing work to do.
They show us where we need to be more compassionate. Where we judge. Where we need to grow.
They show us that we are capable of making mistakes and saying horrible things and shouting.
They show us that we are the full spectrum of being human – the dark and the light.
This is humbling.
They are our teachers and they are also our healers. Sometimes I wish that wasn’t the case! I love that thing people say about how I was the best parent before I had kids. In fact, I just found an article on this topic that cracks me up.
This is for all the imperfect moms out there. With good hearts and potty mouths. With lots of love and lots of, ahem, healing work to do. 😉