This was the end of your first year in school. You were 4 years old, going on 5. You were the youngest in your class. Pre-school was a difficult time for you. Leaving me was tough. Listening to instructions was even harder. You were still in a hitting / biting / pushing phase. You cried. Alot. I cried, too. We both cried over a variety of things. I recall many times after dropping you off I would hear your pleading voice ghost down the hall way and I would be crumpled up in a ball around a big cement wall, steaming tears pouring from my eyes. I wept mostly because I felt like I was doing the wrong thing and I wasn't a good enough parent.
I have felt this way most of your time here on Earth. Anxiety will do that to you, as well as doubt, fear and shame. You have dealt with this on sometimes a daily basis, and I have done my damnedest for you not to see it. Alot to ask of any child.
We've struggled financially, which has always been on the forefront of my mind. When I left your father, I had no plan, no goals, and no money. We had to radically change our way of living in order to keep the house from going into foreclosure (and some miraculous intervention with my personal pleadings to the loan officer) before we sold it. We wore many layers of clothing to keep us warm and kept the heat down as low as we could stand it without risking the pipes freezing. We ate the same thing for 4 to 5 days in a row. We unplugged every electronic thing we owned if we weren't using it to save on electricity. We didn't go out to eat at all. I thrift shopped for your clothes or took donations of old clothes from friends. For about 18 months I bought no new or used clothes. My sneakers had holes in them. I bought food and produce from the day old racks. There were days I had to shamefully ask co workers for $5 for gas so I could drive the car home. I never showed you the additional tears I spent late at night fretting over which bill I could pay or how much I felt like I wanted to throw in the towel.
But...I always managed to keep you in clean and neat clothes and happily fed, albeit simply fed. We laughed at movies we watched on Netflix and played the same board games endlessly and laughed the whole time. We baked cookies and you loved eating them right out of the oven. We drew endless pictures and made up stories about them. We read I SPY at night with a flashlight. We went to the park, to the library, to a coffee shop..places that were both fun and free. I went without many things, but never a complaint passed my lips because I wanted you to have so much when we had so very little. Truly, there was no other choice. We HAD to survive. Survival was our only option and I've always believed in it. We could do it.
It took me until this year to realize that I will never make mountains of money with what I do for a living and that is OKAY. The other day in the car I had expressed concern that I wouldn't be able to take you on a trip that you had expressed alot of interest in (and that I had experienced huge anxiety about not being able to provide) and you said to me,
"All you need to do is be true to yourself and be a good mom"
"All you need to do is be true to yourself and be a good mom"
The tears were immediate and fierce and I covered my mouth to stop myself from openly sobbing. Where does that kind of wisdom come from? You're not supposed to know how to say that kind of stuff. But aren't you? Haven't I been instilling that type of confidence in you from the time you were small?
I asked you, "Have a been I good mom to you?" He said, "You're the best mom for the best kid in the world."
I don't know if I deserve that title every day, as I am sure I can be a pain in the behind. I have things like rules, and manners and expectations. :) I can also delve right back into an anxiety spiral of epic proportions with or without warning. I graduated from therapy earlier in May after having dug deep into my own painful and colorful psyche for over 2 1/2 years. I did it without any medication. I did it without the help of Diet Coke (which I drank like it was my JOB). I did it while trying to live our crazy and hectic life, journalling away as I could, going to school, writing heavy papers on the unspoken details of my life, dealing with super challenging kid behaviors (including yours), navigating complicated but loving relationships, working as many hours as possible, trying to stay organized to keep us from imploding every morning as you struggle to find your shoes at the tips of your toes and I struggle to find my sanity at the bottom of my yogurt cup.
I realized that not addressing my demons and my skeletons was making life harder for the both of us. I struggled through all that confusing and difficult mess to get to a place where for the first time in my life, I am finally feeling a genuine sense of peace. And I am passing that along to you and to us as a unit.
We have become stronger, closer and more open to each other. We are not afraid to share how we feel, which has always been a touchy point with us, but definitely not as much as before.
This week you graduate from elementary school. In the grand scheme of the world this is not a big deal, but to me, it is a big deal. You may not realize or comprehend how absolutely HARD you worked to get here. In the beginning of your academic career, there was concern that you wouldn't be in a regular classroom and that you would never be integrated. You quickly surpassed that hurdle and now, you are headed to Middle School with some supports still in place, but only if you need them. You're ready to take on many subjects and care for the animals in the classrooms. You want to stop taking trumpet and take up Chorus (where you feel you can express yourself more). You're doing Pirates of Penzance (Gilbert and Sullivan, no less) this summer with me, which will give you more of an education in vocal training than anything out there. You'll be a senior camper at your summer camp, and you're excited to go and try out new things.
But mostly, I think this time is for me to reflect on things and see what an incredible kid you always have been and that you got here on your own energy and determination. I was told so many things were not possible about you: emotionally, physically, academically and we proved them all wrong. You are ready for this transition. I believe and have faith I raised you right.