Things got real tonight. Lots of things hit lots of fans. I hit a wall I've been barreling towards for a long time.
Tonight I hit the wall in front of my 3 year old. (PS - You can't plan where you hit walls... which, for people with anxiety, can be a point of concern. O_o) Anyway! One thing lead to another, and some unique opportunities presented themselves, and that's why I'm writing this. Not because I thought you should know I had a temper-tantrum. (Which I did. I had a major temper-tantrum. It was not cute.) But because of what happened between me and my son in the middle of it...
Ok... So... After I simmer down and wipe away my snot, tears, and mascara streaks, I always think it's funny to look back and see what teeny weeny thing broke the camel's back this time. (The tipping point is always teeny weeny, isn't it? The problems can be huge, but it's gonna be something dumb that makes you cry.)
This time it was the lamp... the kids unplugged it. I tried to turn it on and it didn't work. I had to climb over a zillion things (Things not in their proper place! Things I should not have to put away for the gazillioneth time! THiiiiiiiNGS!) to get it back in working order.
The lamp. Completely tipped me over the edge. There was thrashing. There was tantruming. There was weeping and wailing. There was flailing of arms and stamping of feet. There was curling up into the fetal position. There were convulsive sobs. I am not proud.
And once I finally got it together... (and by "got it together" I mean there were rivers of tears still running down my face, but I was functioning well enough to get the 3 year old into bed)... He asked me, "Why you are crying?"
Oh sisters. We can't hide our crazy from our kids. They see it all. We try to be strong for them, but we're messy babies on the inside more than we would like to admit.
"Why are you crying?"
Of course that pushed me into another fit of sobs. With my face in my hands, I resolved right then and there to tell him the truth. He deserves the truth. Children are much wiser than we give them credit. And I remember asking my mom why she was upset and her always trying to hide it or not let us in... and somehow that was more confusing than ever... so I told the truth.
"I'm crying because I am so tired. I'm a big mom, but I'm also just a person... so I get upset when things are hard for me. It is very hard to be a mommy. No one can help me be your mommy... I'm the only one in the world. And sometimes that makes me so tired.
But, Eames, This is the most important thing... I love you. It is not your fault. You are a good boy. And you do not have to fix mommy. That's not your job. You never have to fix mommy or make it better.
Daddy and God will take care of mommy when she gets upset. If you want to be a helper, you can pat mommy's back and say, "It's ok Mommy. I love you." But don't worry. It's ok to cry when we get upset."
So that's what he did. He put his little arms around my neck and said, "You're ok Mommy." Then he climbed in bed with his current favorite book (The Fox In The Dark) and peacefully blew me a kiss goodnight.
He just witnessed a major melt down of his primary source of security and strength... it could have ripped open a wound of anxiety in him. Especially him! My very anxious and control-oriented little one.
But I was honest. "Mommy has used up all her energy."
And I was clear. "Mommy's emotional state is not your responsibility, dear one."
And I was intentional. "You are loved no matter what."
And he feels safe.
And it's ok.
It's ok to cry in front of our kids, if we can tell them the truth: We are older and wiser, but we are still weak and vulnerable. Even though we're not perfect, you are safe, secure, and loved.
It's ok to be human in front of our kids. It's good! We don't want them growing up with this notion that they will one day leave their struggle behind and become emotionless balls of strength that never fail. No! That's crazy talk. We know it's not true... so we want them entering adulthood OK with the fact that they're not perfect. What better way to prepare them for the struggle than by struggling in front of them with love.
It also prepares them to have compassion for the weak. What are we teaching them about those who struggle when we treat struggle itself like an anathema to hide away? No, sisters, our struggle is for us all. It is the glue that binds us. It is the song that calls us to community. It is the tonic that teaches us how to love others. (2 Corinthians 1:3-5)
What a gift to know, "A person who struggles out loud, but does not withhold love, is strong."
What a gift to feel that even when the foundation of your life is trembling, it will not collapse.
Tell the truth. To yourself. To your children. The truth will set us free.
It is the most beautiful, messy story. Everything else pales in comparison.