The Joy...and Heartbreak of Motherhood

Friday, April 5, 2013
Everyone always tells you how much joy you'll get from being a mother. "Oh, it's so great. Having kids is awesome. It's so rewarding."

I don't dispute any of it. It's all true. 

When your children experience joy, you are joyful. It's an unbelievable high.

When your children experience heartbreak, your heart breaks. It's an unbelievable low.

No one ever tells you about that.

As resilient as children can be, they can get knocked down pretty hard too. 

I watched as one of my own got knocked down recently, and to say that my heart was broken is a gross understatement.

It all started last Tuesday when I struggled to get Emma out of bed in the morning for school. She whined and complained and cried. Cried. I haven't had crying since the preschool days. She complained of a stomachache. So, I let her stay home, and I carefully watched what she ate. She seemed fine after an hour or so, and she was even eating normally. I coughed it up to "just one of those days".

The following day was more of the same just less intense. And this time she went to school and went to early morning band practice. Those were good signs. But when Thursday morning rolled around, she complained of a headache this time. I told her if her headache persisted, she should go to the nurse. She got on the bus on the verge of tears.

Since it was a four-day weekend, I decided to watch her behavior and her pattern of headaches and stomachaches. None.

Until Tuesday morning. There was nausea and tears. Tears flowing from her eyes and from mine. Why was my child so sad? Why did my child have an all-of-a-sudden aversion to school? I put her on the bus...she walking on in tears, and I walking away in tears.

This wasn't about headaches. This wasn't about stomachaches. This was about school. Something happened at school.

That evening after Emma finished her homework, I asked her to tell me what was going on. I pleaded with her to be honest with me, to tell me what was bothering her.

After much prodding she finally told me. "During a small group activity, I answered a question incorrectly, and a someone in my group said I was dumb".

My heart sank.

"Am I dumb, mommy?" She asked. This time my heart broke.

"Of course, you're not dumb, sweetheart. You are a bright, intelligent young lady. Who said that to you?" I asked.

Suddenly, an IMAX movie I had seen recently about a mother polar bear came to mind. She was fiercely protective of her cub. Stopping at nothing to maintain its safety.

As upset as she was, she wouldn't tell me the name of her classmate. I was at a loss.

I am certain we both cried ourselves to sleep that night.

The next morning was, again, another struggle to get out the door. As soon as everyone was on the bus, I rushed inside, promptly sat at my laptop and began typing an email to her teacher.

I explained the situation. I tried to be as diplomatic as I could. I didn't want to be judgmental. I didn't want to jump to conclusions.

A few hours later, her teacher responded and asked me if she had my permission to speak with Emma about this situation. I gave her my full permission. As parents, we must have full trust in our teachers. We need to know that they are the protectors of our children while they are away from us during the day.

The next day she spoke with Emma and found out the name of the student. Not only was he her classmate, he sat directly beside her in class and rides the bus with her every morning and every afternoon. Suddenly, everything was crystal clear. Her hesitancy to ride the bus and go to school all made sense.

Emma's teacher reassured her that she is a wonderful student with a heart of gold. She made every attempt to help restore her self-confidence. And she promised to speak with the student and his parents, and move Emma's seat in class. The next day when she walked into the classroom, her desk was in a new spot.

She's on the mend. I am on the mend. We are mending together.

For nearly 8 days, I watched as my daughter was a shell of herself because of a comment from a classmate. I am trying not to judge this boy, but it's very hard. The years and years of hard work that I have put into building the self-esteem of my daughter were nearly destroyed because of an unnecessary comment by an insecure child.

Sad, detached, uninterested only begin to describe my daughter during those 8 days.

Maybe one day when that boy is a father himself he'll understand how the smallest of cruel words can be so damaging and hurtful to an impressionable child. Maybe he'll feel helpless just as I did on those mornings. Maybe he'll feel sad just as I did as I tucked my child into bed each night amid a sea of tears.

I am done wasting time on that boy.

My focus is on my daughters.

I saw this on Facebook tonight, and I thought it was appropriate for this post.

If there is one lesson I hope to pass on to my daughters, it is to be a good friend. You'll make a lot more friends being nice to people than you will being mean.

Actually, there is another lesson I'd pass on. Don't be afraid to be a polar bear. 

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