A Mother’s Worry

I say I don’t worry, but that is really a lie.

I worry constantly.

Maybe not all-consuming-life-wrecking worry, but “is that normal?” and “what if…” creep into my mind when I least expect it.

It’s usually when we are playing.

He’s 8 months old…shouldn’t he be crawling?

He’s three and a half years old…shouldn’t his speech be correcting itself by now?

Most of these worries are ridiculous because as soon as these milestones I fret about happen? I cry.

I want them to both grow up happily and healthy and…normal.

Normal.

What does that even mean?

It’s something we mothers beg God for…”Let our babies be normal“.

What if something happens to Eddie at daycare and I can’t get to him?

What if Charlie is not getting his needs met at this age the way Eddie did because Cort was home full-time back then?

What if Eddie gets bullied?

What if Charlie’s roll down the stairs did something to his little brain?

What if someone tries to hurt Eddie? Will he tell me?

What if someone tries to hurt Charlie?  How will I know?

The things that are not happening and may never happen cause my heart to hurt and my stomach to turn.

If I let them, they will keep me up far into the night and invade my dreams when my body finally demands sleep.

They are the reason I can’t watch some of what used to be my most favorite crime shows like Law & Order SVU and why certain news stories get turned off or avoided in our house.

They are the reason I did not talk about the little boy who died in an accident during my school’s homecoming parade.

Some things I can’t face because they start a chain reaction of chest-tightening, feet-sweating, panics.

If it can happen to someone else, why not me?  Why not my family?  Why not the people I love?

Most teenagers think bad things can never happen to them.  They are “indestructible”.  This was never my view of life.

When someone told me taking drugs would kill me? I believed them, and consequently have never done a drug in my life.

But what if my boys do drugs?

What if they lose their way and can’t come back from bad choices?

What if I lose my sons?  My babies?  My heart and soul?

All of these thoughts happen in just a snippet of a moment.

Eddie could be pretending and I am captivated by how sweet and innocent and wonderful his small world is.  His easy smile, his doe eyes, his mop-top head.

And then, just like in the movies, my mind scrambles and horrible, awful worries seep in.

Intrusive thoughts.

Charlie could be sitting, reaching for an object and he eases to his tummy to see if that will help.  He is so small.  His happiness depends solely on his needs being met.

And suddenly, the eye of my mind zigs and then zags and I have anxious visions.

I worry about their present.  The present I can’t control because I am not a part of it.

I worry about their future.  Something I will never be able to control, but can only do my best to shape parts of.

I worry about comments like, “You can barely handle two, what makes you think you should have more?”

I worry about things I know are not true. Or at least I am 99% sure are not true.

But for some reason, I let those untrue…or not happening…or not going to happen (probably) worries consume me…even though, logically, I know it is for naught.

If a friend of mine wrote this blog post, I would shower her with, “you’re a great mom, and you know that” and I would be tempted to say, “you know you shouldn’t be worrying, so don’t!” but I would more than likely say, “me too”.

Although inside, I would want her to quit worrying if she knows she shouldn’t worry.

That would be the hypocrite in me.

Sometimes when I am feeling my worst, I hate to see my reflection in other people because I don’t want that to be me.

But it is.

I worry.

I have intrusive thoughts about what could happen.

Not what I might do, but what others…or the world…or my boys’ choices…might do.

I envision the worst and I am left drained and depressed and tired.

My psychiatrist recently asked me if I was having any intrusive thoughts and I said no because I thought he meant like I wanted to hurt my family.  I don’t have those thoughts.

But I do have another kind of intrusive thought.

The kind about everything else beyond my control hurting my family.

I know staying home with my boys would not fix this {I suck at being a stay at home mom, remember?  And they love daycare}.

Because new fears would crop up to replace the old.

I know giving into my fears is not a possibility.

Because I can’t shelter them forever {nor does the completely rational part of me want to}.

However I can’t shake the way my brain runs off on its own and scares me nearly to death.

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Through Their Eyes

This particular day, I had been asked 2347983345ddfa234879 questions.

(yes, there are letters in the middle of that number.  It’s a whole new high number that was just discovered the day that many questions were asked of me).

Every single one of these questions was begun with either “Mrs. Sluiter?” or “mom?”

And all of them ranged from slightly tinted with whine, to being drenched to the point of dripping with it.

I had calmly answered all of them.

(Calm being subjective.  On the outside, I never snapped.  There may have been twitching, but no snapping.  My insides, however churned fervently.)

For those wrapped up in getting their questions answered and their “needs” met (needs also being subjective here and really would be better defined as “wants”), nothing was different.

I was just a means to an end.

A grade question.

A make up test.

A missed assignment.

Absent work.

A sounding board for complaints.

Chocolate milk.

Mickey Mouse via Tivo.

That rattle over there that can’t be reached {yet}.

Doing all the things that aren’t allowed.

They didn’t notice the weakening in the wall…the cracks running up from the base all the way to the top, slowly splitting the foundation of the calm exterior.

That which was whole and safe was moments from crumbling.

But no one noticed.

I sometimes wonder if these fault lines would be detected if I was around friends or family or my husband more than I am during the week.

If Cort wasn’t gone three nights a week he might see me weakening.

If I reached out to my mom, maybe she would recognize the tell-tale signs of a wobbly foundation.

If I was around more friends during the week would they notice the chips and cracks?

But adding “people” to my already jam-packed week is more stressful than relieving.

And so the foundation quivers.

And the cracks deepen.

At first I speak uncalmly.

Then I speak unkindly.

And then I do not act out of love, but out of frustration and anger.

My boys cry.

Out of sadness?

Out of fear?

Out of hurt?

Probably all of them.

I don’t hurt my children ever.

Not with my hands.  It never comes to that.

I would rather die.

But I know my sharp words and harsh tone and surprising volume pains them.

They bear the brunt of it because their wants and needs happen last in the day.

All day my bucket is emptied into others’ buckets and there is precious little left for what is most precious in my life.

The ones who deserve the most of my bucket get the least.

As soon as a chunk of my wall falls, I immediately work to patch it up.

Fill the hole with plaster.  Sand it down.  Paint over it.

All is fine.

Fix it.

It didn’t happen.

I’m sorry. Mommy is sorry.

And every time they forgive.

There is love and hugs and…understanding?

But after everyone is put to bed and the house is quiet and all I hear are humidifiers humming and the heaving breathing of all the boys slumbering…

when I lie there and try to quiet my brain–and heart–I wonder.

What do they see?

What does mommy look like to them in a fit of rage and weakness?

And what does mommy look like as she immediately humbles herself and makes herself vulnerable before them?

What effect will this leave on their impressionable hearts and minds?

How will this mold their view of me, of women, of family?

And I am left to pray for a fresh start, a new heart, and a stronger wall tomorrow.

we’ll try again tomorrow

He woke up crying for daddy.

When he saw me, he laid back down saying, “oh no”.

We fought about breakfast.

Pancakes or waffles?

Banana on the floor after begging for it.

He watched far too much TV and had no interest in the games or play I was offering.

He was in time out 5 times before 10am due to toy throwing and hitting ma ma.

I insisted we leave the house.  We could do a drop off at Goodwill, get daddy his Father’s Day gift, stop at the pharmacy, and pick up cat food.

He threw a fit because I wouldn’t let him have the stuff animals at the mall.

He laid on the floor and screamed when we had to leave the play place.

I was a sweaty beast after chasing him around a department store.

He screamed as I buckled him in to go home.

I gave up the plan after the first two stops and went through Starbucks as I fought back tears.

He smiled sweetly at the drive thru barista chirping, “te too” (thank you).  Faker.

He went straight for PBS when we got home.  Took his juice, Lamby, and pipey and sat his butt on the couch.

What kind of mom am I?

We fought over lunch.

He ate fruit and pushed all the ravioli aside.

He refused milk.

He hugged daddy at lunch like he hadn’t seen him in MONTHS.

Going down for nap was a breeze.  Daddy was home.

Nap was short.  Yelling for daddy commenced less than two hours after being put down.

More disappointment when it was not daddy who got him up.

He wanted TV and a snack.

I was determined to do something.

We made butter cookies.

10 minutes of lovely mother-son time.

Daddy came home and took the toddler out of the house for cat food and dinner.

Ma ma cried a bit.

Dinner was a battle.

The time between dinner and bedtime was a battle.

At least three more time outs and one FIRM talking to about hitting.

And then it was bedtime.

He curled up on my lap and handed me Green Eggs and Ham.

As I read, he placed a small hand on the book and looked up in my eyes.

Ma ma.

He spoke his name for me so softly.  And then?  Behind the blue and red pipey?  A sleepy smile spread across his face.

Eddie Bear.

I whispered my name for him.

His head found the soft spot between my arm and my chest.  One hand on Lamby, the other on my wrist and I propped the book back up and continued.

I do not like green eggs and ham. I do not like them, Sam I Am.

He breathed heavily.

The book was over.  He pointed for his bed and turned to my face.

And we both smiled.

Goodnight.

I love you.

Tomorrow is a new day.

 

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