The Fears I Swallow

Posted on | October 1, 2012 | 2 Comments

This weekend, J looked up at me with tears in his eyes and said I was mean to him because I told him “no” about something silly.  And though it shouldn’t have bothered me in the slightest, it actually hurt to hear him say that.  It made me question if I was, in fact, being unnecessarily mean to him because I wouldn’t let him throw rocks in the lake.

It’s strange, really, because I do know that I’m a good mom or at least the best mom I can be.  And I know that my ex and his family know that I’m a good mom. But deep down in the irrational depths of my soul,  when things like that happen,  I worry about what could happen if they decide I’m NOT a good mom.  I worry about the things J might say to them when I’m not around, the stories he might tell that could be taken the wrong way.

Just the other day he told me he didn’t like it when I bite him … and I’ve never bitten him in his life.  He tells me I’m mean to him if I tell him to clean up his toys, he tells me that I hurt his feelings when I make him take a bath.  Hell, he told his daycare teacher that he was getting a baby sister and that is DEFINITELY not true.  If I were half of a whole, I’d probably laugh. Or maybe not.  Maybe these fears are universal in this hypersensitive world we’re living in… the fear that daycare will see a bruise and think abuse, will hear a word and wonder where he learned it.  Maybe every parent worries that someone will swoop in and steal their child away for forgetting to brush his teeth or letting him go to school without a jacket.

Who knows.  Maybe it’s a cultivated fear I have as the result of being single, of sharing custody with another person.  I don’t know what brings it on, but I know that deep down in my soul I fear angering my ex-husband, angering his parents, angering anyone on his side of the family.  I fear that if I’m not overly sensitive to their needs, overly accommodating to their wants, overly anxious to please… they will decide to fight me for the care of my son.  And it is a horrible, horrible way to feel. It’s a horrible burden to place on myself and a terrible way to view the father of my child and the grandparents who love J as their own.

I look out into the future and I wonder if I’ll be able to continue to discipline J, to do what’s best for him, to raise him with a firm hand alongside a warm hug… or if I’ll find myself paralyzed by the look in his eyes, the words on his tongue, the threats of “I want to go live with my father” that could hover in the air when he reaches puberty.  I don’t want that to be a worry.  I don’t want to feel like I’m looking over my shoulder, wondering if someone is waiting to call me “unfit” or “incapable” or “poorly equipped” as a mother.  I just want to be with my child, to be his mother, to love him ferociously and to teach him right from wrong without worrying that I’m doing it the wrong way or somehow jeopardizing my ability to just… be his mother.

Though I suppose, this is just what being a mother is, really…  doing the best you can and hoping against hope that you’re doing it right and that the people looking over your shoulder, though they will find fault, will know that even in faults, you do it all with the greatest of love.


2 Responses to “The Fears I Swallow”

  1. Nissa Prochaska
    October 1st, 2012 @ 10:40 am

    Honey, I hate to tell you but he is just going to get worse with the talking back and saying hurtful things to you. And yes it’s completely normal. My first is going to turn 4 and most of the time he’s great. And then there are the days and weekends and now occasionally, like last week, weeks where he’s not. And that’s when I cry when he goes to bed, when he can’t see that I’m really hurt. Sometimes I tell him that he’s hurt my feelings because he needs to learn that too. But yes, my husband is there to hear me when I cry and ask if I failed as a mom this weekend because both of my kids were crying little hellions. Really it is my problem because this is natural and I can’t give in when he asks for another sippy cup of milk and I say no because then he won’t eat later. Even when he goes to my mother-in-law and asks her, she says yes, and then I’m REALLY a horrible mom ’cause I still say no and intervene.

    The thing is I’m the Mom. That means that other people aren’t always going to like my decisions, agree with them, or truly understand them. And I have to accept and deal with that. This job that I have of being his mom means that I have to not care what other people are thinking of me because I actually know what’s best for my child and why I’m doing what I’m doing. Thankfully his Dad has my back but even if he wasn’t there for some reason, I’m still the Mom and have to do what I have to do.

    You will have more days like this, it will suck, and you need a good friend with a kid who will also understand to talk with. But you also are going to need to trust the other adults in his life to talk with you if they truly have a problem or a question about something he’s said. And then you are going to need to start practicing letting go. Of your expectations of your son, yourself, and what other people think of you. Believe me I am a people pleaser myself and it’s incredibly hard, I get that. But you’re the Mom, you have to do what’s right for him. Not what you think other people want you to do to spare their feelings.

    I know you can do it because I’ve been reading your blog for over a year, without comment, and you are stronger than you give yourself credit for, start believing in that.

  2. Cindy W
    October 1st, 2012 @ 3:56 pm

    I get a lot of what you’re saying, although not so much on the custody stuff because my ex has no interest in fighting me for custody of our girls.

    So, are people going to hear the things he says & believe him 100%? Probably not. Kids this age are unreliable narrators at best. And kids this age fall down a lot, and they get scrapes and bruises, and I don’t think anyone is going to suspect abuse based on that alone.

    Also, something I learned in therapy: part of the reason he is testing you (and that’s exactly what it is when he calls you mean or tries to do something he knows he’s not supposed to do), is because his world was (relatively) recently turned on its head, and he needs to feel safe and secure. So he will test the boundaries, and your job is to enforce them. And although he might not like it and tell you that you’re awful and mean and whatever, what you’re doing when you’re firm on the rules and boundaries, is you’re making him feel secure. So he knows that you’re Mom, you’re the boss, you’re going to be the one to make sure that this Big, Bad Scary World is safe for him, and he’ll know that he’s ok as long as he’s with you. That isn’t being a mean mommy. That’s just good parenting.

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