This is a true story. (I hope you will forgive my honesty as I tell it.)
It is the story of how I became a mother - two years AFTER I had my kids.
One baby who was almost two years old. The other only two months old. A dream come true. The only problem: I had children I loved, but I didn’t yet know how to be a parent.
The first few years had been rough. No sleep – ever. My first born needed multiple heart surgeries. My father had just died. My career - and my whole prior life - was over. Not to mention, these kids. They had feelings that I just didn’t know how to handle. Who was handling all MY feelings?
I thought love would be enough, but all the love in the world did not prepare me for the frustration I would sometimes feel when the toddler hit the baby, or they would wake up for the 12th time that night, or my husband would walk out the door to go to work while I stared blankly at the kids thinking “I think I am supposed to know how to do this better.” I felt isolated from all the easy-breezy, happy moms. The ones whose healthy babies slept in carriers, or all night long, or who had siblings that longed to caress each other sweetly. I remember a day I had sweetly offered a snack to my oldest, who then angrily threw a bunch of food out of the refrigerator - and I yelled at him. I yelled at him for the food and the six times he had tried to hurt the baby that day, and I think in my soul I was yelling about just how hard it was to be a mother, to sit by his bedside in the hospital not knowing if he’d be okay, to have my Dad not alive, to fail at what I wanted most. All of it. I could not believe this was who I had become. Something had to change. At first I thought that something was him.
He was a strong willed kid who had other things in mind. I got to the place where I really thought something was wrong with him and what I perceived as his complete lack of empathy. I just didn’t know what to do. I was so desperate that I seriously considered putting him on medication to calm his anger.
Someone had once mentioned to me an organization called Hand in Hand Parenting. Worth a call? Probably not – “That and a lullaby will get my kids to sleep,” I thought. But my heart stirred again, and I called. A man named Paul answered the phone. He listened. And listened. And listened. He did not judge me. He did not shame me. He cared. And he listened. And he introduced me to what would become a huge turning point in my life. I went on to work with a counselor from Hand in Hand. I learned that my son too was healing from all we had been through. I learned how to support him and myself through ALL of our feelings. I learned how to heal through pain. I learned how to ask for help, and how to get it. I learned the crucial day to day emotional skills I was missing as a parent. And I learned that having someone else care and listen was one of the greatest gifts we could ever give each other in this world.
My kids are amazing, and I love parenting them. I am grateful for the early difficulties because I learned so much. And now I too am a Hand in Hand instructor. I get to support other parents to find their way, and to see the perfectly imperfect beauty in them and their children. And as I do, I pass on what was once passed on to me.
Thank you Paul. Thanks for answering the phone that day. You changed my life, and made my sweetest, deepest dreams come true.
And if you ever feel like you could use someone to call, I hope you reach out too. I am right here for you.
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