This morning has been one of those mornings that make you want to go back to bed, crawl under your covers and hide from the world for the rest of the day. It started out smoothly enough. Wednesday is my day “off,” and I use that term loosely because while I don’t have to go in to work today, I will spend the day cleaning, doing laundry, grocery shopping, paying bills, and trying futilely to bring some order to my chaotic life. During the summer I do allow myself the luxury on my day “off,” of not waking to an alarm clock. The kids and I usually enjoy having a laid-back morning, one where we don’t have to rush out the door at 7 am. But since I have an ADHD child who thrives on consistency, routine, and structure, my lazy mornings sometimes come at a cost.
So, after 2 (ok, 3) cups of coffee, and catching up on my blog reading, it was time to get moving. I kept P updated on how much time before we had to leave so that he would be ready. Still, he was not ready to go when I was. “I want to stay home and play with my dinosaurs, Momma. I want to stay with you.” Who can blame him, really? I patiently explained that Momma had lots of work to get done, and his job today was to go to daycare. I reminded him that he has fun at daycare and with his friends. He was having none of it. He was a sobbing, snotty heap on the kitchen floor, and he was not going anywhere, thank you very much.
At this point, I start thinking maybe I should just let him stay home. I engage in a sort of back and forth dialogue within my own head. “He’s having a rough morning. He’s feeling insecure for whatever reason.” “You will never get anything done if you let him stay home.” “Maybe he’ll play quietly and let me do my work.” “Ha! Have you met this child?” “Something’s wrong, he needs a day off.” “He needs consistency and structure, something I can’t provide for him at home and get my work done. He will spend the day in front of the TV. What if he pulls this tomorrow when I really have to get to work on time?” Eventually, logic wins out over emotion and I scoop him up and carry him, kicking and screaming to the car. This is no easy feat with a 45 lb four year old who is hell-bent on not getting into the car. I long ago stopped wondering what the neighbors think.
P cries miserably the whole way to daycare. I am on the verge of tears myself. Big sister A is looking sad too. “What’s wrong?” I ask her. She answers that it’s just hard to see P so upset. I can tell she is feeling guilty because I have promised her some girls-only time at the pool today after we get our chores done, and while P doesn’t know this, she hurts for him, knowing he won’t get to be with us. Guilt for something she has no control over is not an emotion an seven year old should have to experience. God, I feel like a terrible mother at this moment, like I just can’t ever win. I’m so sick of having to choose which kid to make happy on which day, and usually ending up with both feeling like they got the short end of the stick.
I get P into daycare by telling him I will stay for just a few minutes and he can show A around his classroom. All is well until I go to leave. P falls apart and through teary eyes begs me to take him home. I give him a hug, reassure him I’ll be back, and try to leave but his little arms are wrapped tightly around me and he is sobbing, “I want to be with you, Mom!” I let the teacher gently take him and I walk away to the sounds of his sobs and the sight of him trying desperately to come after me. It is certainly not the first time in my eight years as a parent I’ve had to leave one of my children in this state, but it never gets any less gut-wrenching. I know he needs to learn to cope with frustration, with sadness, with the fact that he will have to do things he doesn’t feel like doing. But does he have to learn all these lessons now? He’s only four and some days, dammit, four year olds just need their momma.
Enter the irrepressible mommy guilt. I should be a stay at home mom. I should homeschool my kids. I should be available at all times when they need me. I should make homemade bread every day, grow all of our vegetables organically in the back yard, and take the children on nature hikes every day. Nevermind that all this is completely unrealistic and besides I would make a terrible homeschool teacher. I struggle every day with questions – am I fulfilling my kids’ emotional needs? Am I doing everything I can do to help them grow into well-adjusted, happy, people who will develop healthy relationships and have the ability to think critically and make good decisions on their own while still adhering to the rules necessary to succeed in our society?
But maybe my job is not to make their lives easy and comfortable all the time. It’s through struggle and discomfort that we learn and become stronger. Right? The last thing I want to do is raise children who feel entitled. I want them to know they have a responsibility to the world, to know that life is mostly hard, and to realize that to be successful, happy, whatever you strive to be, you have to work really hard and do things you don’t want to do. Life is beautiful but sometimes it just plain sucks. They need to understand that.
With any child, but especially those with special needs, it’s difficult knowing when to tuck them under our wing in the cozy nest or to nudge them off the branch. To me, finding this balance is one of the most difficult aspects of parenthood. I guess I will just keep doing the best I know how to do, and in the meantime I’m going to try really hard to quit feeding that damn useless guilt monster who lives in my head.