Last night I woke up in a sweat from a bad dream. My daughter was being taken away from me. Put into foster care because people were questioning whether or not I was a fit mother. The details are fuzzy, as dreams often are, but I didn’t feed her enough. She was underweight. And someone reported me through the school system.
The dream felt so real that when I woke up, it was an immediate relief.
My daughter is 14.
Yet, somehow my subconscious mind was, and probably always will be, wrestling with whether or not I’m a good mother.
Whether I’m fit enough. Whether I’m capable. Whether or not I’m ruining them or not.
The thing is, now that my kids are getting older, I think I question myself more than ever. Before when they were babies, I could see the magic in every day moments.
The toddler saying, “I wuv you, Mommy.” for the first time.
Teaching them to walk, and what it means to say thank you and please.
The jumping in puddles and looking for grasshoppers on long walks around the block to kill time.
The kissing of boo boos and the fixing of scraped knees seems somehow now like a magical time.
The fact that I even get to be a mama feels magical some days still.
But, as they grow, the pain grows too. The magic slips away a little more.
Sure, there are magical moments. But, they are farther and fewer between as we navigate teenage kids and tweens that are finding their own way.
There is more conflict. Not over who has whose toy, but about whether or not they are grown up enough to walk somewhere on their own, or stay up late with friends and still make it to school the next day.
Whether or not one is being more annoying than the other.
We butt heads constantly, and I find myself falling asleep exhausted.
Not the same as those early years where the exhaustion was so physical from the demands of little babes saying, “hold you.” when they meant, “hold me.”
Not the same as the long years through breastfeeding and sleepless nights.
Not the same as the constant teaching of how to eat, how to sleep, and whether or not they should wear pants.
But, an exhaustion down to my core – am I good enough? Are they learning enough? Will they be able to be set free?
I worry about their friendships, or lack thereof.
I worry about screen time, and smart phones, and how one of them will be driving before I know it.
I worry about whether or not I’m pushing too hard on academics, and whether or not I’m teaching my youngest the value of hard work.
These things are mentally exhausting, and the balls to juggle are less magical.
I am exhausted wondering who they will be. What if they fail?
What if I’ve failed.
I’m looking back with rose colored glasses, of course. Everything about the baby and toddler years was not magic at all.
But, these years are hard, too. They are magical sometimes. But, mostly hard.
And it’s during these hard years that it feels more painful. The pain of watching a breakup with a friend. The pain of watching them fail. The pain of watching them struggle. The pain of disappointing them. The pain of having to say no, even when you want to say yes because you know it’s for their good.
Motherhood is magic, but it’s also pain.
I know the magic will come back one day as they do amazing things. I know the payoff will be worth it. I know that they will make me proud, grow, surprise me, and do things like marry, and build careers, and hopefully have grandkids one day that will bring the magic back full circle.
But, I wish we could talk about the pain more. I don’t know why. I guess it’s because the magic is the highlight reel, and the pain underneath is where the real growth in motherhood happens.
It’s where I learn patience and that I can’t control everything.
It’s where I learn to sit back and watch.
It’s where I learn to comfort a pain that I can’t take away.
The pain is where I learn to be “Mom” instead of “Mommy.”
It’s where I learn to let go of my own insecurities and trust that it will all work out somehow. Maybe. But, if not, that’s going to teach me something, too.
The pain is where I accept that they don’t need me as much, too.
It’s where I learn to find me again, because for a while there I may have lost her.
Maybe that’s magic, too.