Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Hope for Lost Mamas


I remember two years ago, getting groceries with Silas while Calvin and Ruby were at school. Our window was small, with Ruby's pre-school clocking in at just two hours and the drive to-and-from eating up an easy 40 minutes.

We raced the aisles, my belligerent comrade kicking and disagreeing and raging in the seat of the cart, perched on the very edge of his tipping point, ready and scary-willing to blow at the slightest infringement of his personal preferences, and ohmygosh, the list was long.

It was a battle, and I was losing every single day. Especially the days that found us in the public square, or the cereal aisle, as it were.

I never understood the depth of my emotional fragility until an adorable tyrant wormed into my heart.
I never knew how much I sought the approval of others until I felt like I had lost it.

I never knew.

I dug my palms into the bar of the cart as cheap insurance against doing something regrettable and wheeled a week's worth of food and my kid to the van, both of us on the verge of tears and rage, if memory serves me.

Behind us, close enough to recognize the song they were giggling, a happy mom pushed her happy daughter to their happy van.  I turned back to look. I couldn't help myself.

Her hair was done. She looked entirely alive and real, not like a woman on the edge.

Instantly, I fumed, "Must be nice to get groceries with just one kid in tow."

It took me a second to recognize my mistake.

And though I should have laughed, I know I didn't.

I felt the familiar throb of heartache as I stared down the face of my reality: Parenting Silas felt like parenting a small, unruly tribe.

His emotional output was so great, so steady, it felt like too large a quantity to be contained in just one wiry small person. He always felt like far more than I could handle.

Cut to yesterday.

We met a friend at the McD's play area for an hour or so, and my dude was helpful and kind and just the normal amount of rascally.

Then we headed to the farmy greenhouse where we buy our flowers and plants each Spring.

We traipsed down the flower-thick aisles while he suggested I buy every single hanging basket we saw and said things like, "I can't stop loving you!", "I can't stop kissing your hand!", "I can't stop living with you!" (He's long been on the fence about whether or not our living arrangement is permanent or something he can abide on even a short-term basis.)

A rogue rain shower cranked into a downpour and we ducked into this greenhouse then dashed to that one before deciding, what the heck, what could be better right now than getting drenched together?

A girl in a bonnet rang us up while he chattered to me about which plants were the best. "I'll carry the awkward one," he said of the purple basil.

(Cracked me up.)

Then I pushed the cart while he ran ahead, both of us laughing our heads off while rain licked our cheeks and splashed up around our ankles.

For so long, I believed I had lost myself in my youngest child. In my most hidden places, I believed I would never return to who I used to be. She was gone, in so many different ways, but especially this one.

And now here he is, right with the only Shannan I've ever known how to be, hustling flowers and dancing in the rain.

If you're where I was two years ago, please hang on to hope. Clench it with the power of every fear you've known, every lie you've believed. Pinch it when you're feeling low, and on the verge. Grab it when you're crying on your pillow. Find it when you know you've never been more lost.

I know our stories are not the same. I know two hours ago in our house may well have been two years ago. But progress is coming for us, Mama. Make sure you know it when you see it. And maybe even write it down, like I did here, for the days when you need a reminder.