I get this call from my girlfriend, the one I have known and loved for over 20 years. Her voice is sad and weary, which is not like her…but it’s the kind of voice I’ve come to know for moms that usually means whatever the particular burden, it’s about one of our kids. I don’t know how to feel, she tells me, and I know what she means. She parents a senior in high school, her beloved firstborn whom 18 years ago she carried under her heart. Her girl is older now, and can speak up for herself. But though she’s older, the instinct of her mom hasn’t changed–ready to pounce, ready to take on and challenge anyone who hurts her beloved baby.
Over the next hour she tells me more, about how her daughter has been bullied; abused, really. And it’s all come to a head only one week before her graduation where thank, Jesus, she will never face these mean kids, again. Just as this practical thought about separation seems it might help, the private Facebook page comes to light — the one she never knew about that the ringleader has started and her classmates have joined in saying they hate her and other mean things – and even the knowledge of them separating soon doesn’t do anything to help heal the damage in her heart. And so, her mom hurts, too.
We moms know there’s nothing that hurts more than your child hurting.
Hurting kids make our own emotions go wild.
The situation with my friend reminds me of one of my own – different, but similar when it comes to emotion: that day in 2002 when my husband loses his job and I have three kids under the age of 4 pulling at my legs, needing for me to fix them dinner, when all I want to do is get in my closet in a fetal position, shake my fists at God and cry.
We moms know our own pain doesn’t mean we get to stop parenting. No matter how much we hurt, for the sake of our children, we must press through.
But pressing through doesn’t mean ignoring. No, we are still human under our supermom skin. And being human means we hurt and cry and get upset and can’t figure things out, whether it’s how to pay bills with no money or how not to hate our soft bodies or how not to crumble when our own friendship we have invested in suddenly goes away. We don’t know how to wipe the tears fast enough so our kids won’t see and try to guess what is wrong. We don’t know how to not overreact over spilled drinks and say to them in a way they can truly process: It’s not really about your spill, honey. I promise.
The truth is: there will never be a break from parenting despite emotional obstacles. Life doesn’t stop for us to collect ourselves before we mother our kids.
But, good news. Parenting our kids through our own painful emotions might be tough but it’s not impossible. That’s why God. That’s why prayer. And remembering too, these few practical things…
Being present is key.
When it gets tough, as much as it seems it would be easier, don’t withdraw from your little people. They need your touch, your presence, ragged is it is. Stay close. Hold them often. Pure love, not perfection, is a healer.
Don’t ask your kids to save you.
Staying present and asking your kids to be your savior are two different things. Staying present reassures. Smothering complicates. Your emotions are yours to handle, and no child needs the job of making his mom be ok. That’s God’s job.
Use your alone time well.
There will be those moments, though brief for moms of littles, that we find a moment alone. Put down the phone and shut the computer. Instead, pray. Sleep. Do something to refresh and renew.
Don’t make their pain about you.
I know. This is hard. They cry; we cry. They struggle; we struggle. We think back and remember cruel things said to us, our hard high school years, that mean bully who once bullied us. But we have to stay above that in order to parent them through with wisdom and grace. They need this from us, the older and more experienced in the relationship. They need a mom to follow.
Our emotions won’t kill us, even with the stress of mothering through them. Instead, they will help both us and our kids become stronger as the watch us face hard things, with God’s help, together.