This morning, on the last day of camp, you try to persuade me that you are ill. I know you are feeling the gravitational pull... getting faster and faster and faster and faster... of the first day of school that looms on Monday. Middle school. You tell me your stomach aches, that you feel really, really sick. You can't go to camp. You will be fine staying home and not going on a device.
You are overwhelmed, and so am I.
I wish I could say that my initial reaction is empathy, but it isn't. Sometimes I'm that mom, but today I am not. Your anxiety fuels mine and I sink down into my dark, black hole place, and to overcompensate my voice is harsher than it should be -- lashing out that you must go to camp, that it will be really FUN and SPECIAL and you don't want to MISS this LAST DAY OF CAMP because they have a special ceremony on this LAST DAY OF CAMP and you will get a GRADUATION certificate. The reality is that we both know that it will be fun and special, but MONDAY is coming fast and the way I say the words sound like I am saying ACID and DEATH. You throw yourself on the couch burying your face into the pillows, going to a safe place to lick your wounds and face the fact that you will not be able to slide under the parental radar. There is no avoiding the reality of the LAST DAY OF CAMP, which means you are that much closer to the FIRST DAY OF SCHOOL. And, so... I also give myself a moment to come back to who I strive to be... the mom who speaks to her child with kindness.
It's time to step up my game, to be wise and thoughtful and... I am at a loss, because though I have aged into wisdom it often eludes me. I am navigating this minefield of parenting and making it up as I go. Being the mother of a boy who traverses the world in such a different way, I am often baffled and tired, so very, very tired...
I have devoured books full of insights and tips on parenting an ADHD child. But, there is no "road map for the every day," for putting one foot in front of the other when what I really want to do is shout: I DON'T KNOW WHAT I'M DOING AND I WANT TO QUIT! But, I can't quit. There's no quitting in Parenthood. And, really, I don't want to quit. I just want it to be ...less. Less painful and easier. Oh, I long for having it easier... What I want is a new normal. It's something I will never have.
Oh, my sweet boy, I can only go by my gut, and it feels right to force you to go to camp. To take this last day of fun with your friends and later today you can exalt in having overcome this morning of impending doom. Please... jump in the pool, and run around with your band of gloriously smelly boys playing Dungeons and Dragons. Go get dirt in your toes, and under your fingernails. Yes! Go brag about something you've accomplished on Minecraft or the video you saw on Minecraft or what you're going to do on Minecraft or ... just go! Be a child, because you still are a child. And, I love you.
No, I'm not going to quit today or any other day on you, my precious son. My beautiful boy with the wide blue eyes and impossibly blonde hair. As much as you confound and challenge me, you inspire me -- with your ability to forgive others, the way you rush to someone's side when they're hurt, your view of the world as an open landscape, your ability to think outside the box, and your extraordinary kindness.
There was that time a month ago, when the four of us were sitting outside on a restaurant patio. It had been a blazing hot day and the waves of heat still hung in the air as darkness descended. Your daddy and I were enjoying a last sip of wine, and you and your sister were contented. There was a calmness that we so rarely have within our family, and it was beautiful. We struck up a conversation with a woman at the next table who had a service dog. He lay on the still warm concrete floor, worn out from the heat. Your dad was curious why she had a service dog, and so I asked her. She told us that service dogs are also to help people who have anxiety, or who have suffered from a loss. As we continued to talk, suddenly you appeared with a bowl of cold water - putting it down in front of her dog. While we were wrapped up in our conversation, you saw that her dog might be thirsty and went into the restaurant, talked to the staff, got a bowl of water and came to his rescue. The dog stood up and began to drink and drink and drink. Yes, he was thirsty.
The woman, awestruck by your thoughtfulness, asked if she could give you $10 as a reward, because she wanted to do something for you. And, I said thank you, but ...no, because acts of kindness do not have a price tag. We said our good-byes to her and her dog, and went out to celebrate with ice cream.
The ice cream shop was jammed full of families and children. When it was your turn to order, you impulsively chose the sweetest, largest concoction. You know no other way to be when surrounded by sugar. Your satiety button doesn't work. Bigger, faster, sweeter, more...is how you roll. You were the only one who chose this option, and I let you because this was our celebration of you for being... you. I tried not to, but I felt the judging eyes of other parents on me - strangers, whose children ordered reasonably sized single or even double scoops, and not the largest sundae ever built. But then I remembered the wonder on the woman's face when you brought out the bowl of water to her dog, and I smiled.
These are the moments that keep me moving forward... one step after the other; moments filling me with joy and grace and gratitude and yes...wonder. For, I truly believe, in every fiber of my being, that it is my destiny to be your mother. You carry the burden of anxiety. I recognize it, because I have it, too. You will get through these days and make it to the other side. It may not be the side we imagined or dreamed of, but I know it will be full. This is our journey and we are in it together...