Thursday, May 26, 2016

parenting through loss

It's hard to be a parent when you feel broken. It's hard to live for someone else when sometimes you can barely live for yourself. Parenting through grief is just plain hard. You want to be in the moment for your child, but sometimes it's practically impossible to juggle it all.

The week we traveled to Chicago for my procedure, James and I left Joe at his parent's house. I remember the day we dropped him off like it was yesterday. It took every ounce of strength I had to let my mother-in-law take him from my arms. I was already losing one child, and in that moment, it felt like I was losing another. But deep down I knew it was for the best--I needed to protect him from everything that was happening. I needed to protect him from seeing his mom and dad so broken.

I think that innate sense of protection comes with the territory of being a mother. I actually think it's something that you instinctively gain the second you see that 2nd pink line on a pregnancy test. I just want to protect Joe from the sadness that is happening all around him so he doesn't have to feel any it.

But lately, "hiding" my emotions from Joe has become somewhat exhausting. And as it turns out, I'm not that good at it. Kids just know when something is wrong, no matter how hard you try to hide it.

So what am I really gaining?

I don't want to be an emotionless family, or a family that pretends everything is okay when in reality it isn't. I want Joe to feel like he can come to me when he's going through something difficult. I want him to know that it's okay to show your emotions, especially in front of family. I want him to be comfortable expressing himself. I don't ever want him to think grief is something he has to carry alone. 

So maybe I've had it all wrong. Maybe showing some emotion around your kid doesn't make you weak... maybe it makes you more human. More approachable. Parents are supposed to lead by example, so what would make this any different?

Ironically, Joe has been learning all about emotions at school these past several months. The few times he's seen me cry, he's been quick to point out "momma's sad" to identify my emotion. At first, this made me even more upset. I felt like a terrible mother--like I was "ruining" my son. But every time Joe proclaimed my sadness, he would come over and immediately give me a hug and kiss. He would show me compassion. And his innocent display of love would always make me stop crying. Joe has gotten to experience the power of love first-hand, which is something you can't teach.

So have I completely ruined my son by crying in front of him? I honestly don't know the answer to that. But if at 2 1/2 years old he has learned that sad people need extra love, perhaps he's not a total goner.



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