Yesterday was an emotional rollercoaster. As usual I was up at 6am but by 10am I was ready to curl up in a ball and cry. The day before everything seemed to go right; my clients were satisfied, the bills were paid and the kids seemed to have a good day. I awakened for once restful and hopeful. When I went into my daughter’s room to get her up and ready for school, I could tell she did not rest well and was starting to have a panic attack. The panic in her eyes turned into a full body muscle spasm which if you’re the parent of a child with anxiety and panic disorder, you never know how it’s going to turn out. I immediately expect the worse – a day of recovery involving missing school and the dreaded call to the school that will end up in a phone call or letter from the superintendent. I hoped for the best – a quick recovery and breaking the speed limit to try to get her to school on time to avoid a tardy mark on her report. Either way you feel like a failure as a parent and it erases, for the moment, everything you did that was succesful the day before. You want to cry but you are trying to stay strong and think clearly. What can I do to help? What can I say to help? How will we ever get to where we’re going in time?
I used every tool I had to get her calm and at a point where she could sit up and think about what she was wearing to school. In the meantime, I’m conscious of the effect that her crying has on my anxious son and how this must be making him feel. My son had a morning appointment with his therapist and an afternoon appointment with his psychiatrist. By the time I got her calmed and ready and willing to head into school she had missed the first two periods and he had missed his first appointment. I wanted to cry after I dropped my daughter off to school. I wanted so much to make it to my son’s appointment as consolation, but they couldn’t reschedule it. Instead of commending myself for salvaging what could have been an absence for one child, I felt like a failure because I let down the other.
These are the moments when solo parenting is the most difficult. When you’re stuck in a moment and there’s no lifeline. No one who’s available to rescue you from your temporary emotional crisis. It’s these times I come face to face with my Creator. I call on everything I’ve learned from my grandparents, from my church family, from the buddhist mantra classes, yoga and meditation workshops and the wisdom of my ancestors. I remind myself that everything that happens, good and bad is temporary. I take a breath and ask for the willingness and summon the breath to wait until the miracle happens.
Feeling the morning was a failure (and knowing there was no bread or milk in the house), I drove directly to the supermarket with my son. We had a few hours before it was time for his next appointment and since he lives with social anxiety I was concerned he would be uncomfortable being in a place with strangers and bright lights. I took a deep breath and parked the car, expecting the rest of the afternoon to be just as challenging. Unexpectedly, he asked what we were getting at the supermarket, grabbed the reusable bags when I asked and seemed almost excited to be doing something other than school work. I showed him how to use the market’s self-scanners and he seemed to enjoy being in charge of scanning and packing up the groceries, and being in charge. We came home and he helped put away the groceries without asking and made the entire experience the breath of fresh air that I needed at that moment. When it was time to go to his therapy appointment, he wasn’t resistant. His therapist was happy to hear that he was not only engaged during our trip to the grocery store but also that it became a teachable moment and life skill experience for him.
I often feel as a mother and solo parent I spend most of my days making lemonade out of lemons. He learned how to shop for himself. I learned how to start my day over. Though lemons by themselves are sour, when we choose to add the sweetness of life, you can make them into a messy, enjoyable batch of thirst quenching lemonade.
I share my stories, and my life to help other mothers feel that it’s okay to be imperfectly human and not the martyrs society tries to tell us we should be.
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