There are things that I’m coming to realize for myself finally, even though other people have been saying them to me ever since I’ve had kids.
Like the fact that time moves really fast. Case in point: I used to hate it when other moms would come up to me as I’m wrangling my preschooler, toddler and infant and say “Enjoy it now, they’ll be grown up before you know it”. Really??? Who says that to the mom who hasn’t slept in days and is wearing a sweatshirt that looks like abstract art but in all the colors of spit up? Who’s body is contorted into a S shape from a baby on one hip and a 300 pound diaper bag dragging down the opposite shoulder? I always wanted to punch them right in the throat.
But now I get it. My kids are older now and I feel like I lost the last 5 years. My son went from 10 to 15 in the blink of an eye and I can’t get that time back again. My girls are 12 & 11 and I miss when I got to dress them and it just took a silly face to make them laugh. Now when I make a goofy face at them they just look at me and say “Mom, stop. Just stop.” And I see the moms with little ones and I want to say to them “Enjoy it! Love it! Soak it all in!” But I’m afraid to get punched in the throat. I hear it hurts like hell.
Another thing I’ve come to know is that you really can love someone so much it hurts. I know that most of the time you hear that phrase associated with a spouse or a lover and I get that. I’ve experienced that with my husband. We are still so in love that we don’t know any boundaries between ourselves. There’s a line from Wuthering Heights that describes it: “He is more myself than I am. Whatever souls are made of, ours are the same.” That’s a pretty apt description of how I feel about him. But it’s different when it’s your kid…
When it’s your child, it’s more of a one sided, protective love that I can’t even seem to find the right words for. It makes you want to hide them away from the world and all the kids of all the assholes you knew when you were that age. What? Why can’t we just homeschool for the rest of our lives and then build 3 more houses on the property for when they grow up? It’ll be fun. Like a commune. We could even think up a name for ourselves and get tax-exempt status. Yea, love for your kids will turn you into a whack job.
Here’s an example of what I’m talking about: yesterday was my son’s first high school wrestling tournament. And he’s like me…he can’t get out of his head when he needs to and then psyches himself out. So I prayed that morning for several things, including his tournament. Because I knew if he just got a good one under his belt, it would change his entire mindset. And I prayed throughout the day about it. And then we got to the meet and I sat in the stands and looked up at the ceiling of the gym and prayed some more. I just wanted so badly for him to succeed, to have a good match, to be able to realize how great he is. I wanted him to be victorious and tough and a key member of the team but most of all, I wanted him to just be able to have confidence in himself and his abilities. I wanted it so badly that it hurt down in my chest. I was a physical ache in my heart.
When he got pinned in his first match I felt that pain sharpen. All I could think was ‘please, please, please God…forget all the other things I’ve prayed about today and just focus on him. please, please, please….” He sat across the gym between his matches with his hat slung low and his shoulders lower. I knew he was beating himself up and it killed me. Please, please, please….
I could tell when I saw him step on the mat for his second match that something was different. He had something to prove now and he worked this poor kid over before pinning him at the end of the first round. I could barely contain myself! Thank you, thank you, thank you… I was so happy for him! My heart felt full to bursting now. That’s what he needed!
And then the third match came and with it my nerves again. This time the kid he was wrestling looked tough. He looked like a wrestler. That may not make sense to someone who hasn’t spent time around the sport but you can totally tell which kids have experience just by the way they carry themselves. You just know by looking at them. And although he held his own, he got stretched into a pin in the second round. Damn, damn, damn…. And there’s the ache again.
It hurts because I can’t help him. I have to let him struggle and sometimes fail. It hurts because I remember what high school was like and all the things that I don’t want him to have to go through, even though I know that’s a futile thought. I want him to be the things I never was: popular, above average athletically, confident and self-assured. Not because I want to relive those days through him; no way would I want go back to high school, even vicariously. Not for anything. But because I know it would make his high school experience so much better, so much easier. But I know we each have to go through it…it helps make us the people we are now. I know that he has to grow into the man he will be and that all of these things are shaping him. These are things that I know in my head but not in my heart.
So yeah…you can love so much that you physically hurt. And it goes both ways: you can ache to protect them and you ache with the blessing of them. Later that night when he was going to bed, I asked him if he saw the hand signal I was giving him between matches. He said, ‘Yea, you were tapping your heart’. “No, ” I said, “not just tapping my heart, I was holding my hand in a C and putting it over my heart. Because you have a champion’s heart and that’s what you’ll always be to me.” His smile and “Thanks Mom” gave me that ache in my chest all over again.