“It’s a pretty ordinary Saturday evening in our house. Your dad and I are tag-teaming dinner prep and you’re playing with cars in the living room. However, it struck me that it’s not as ordinary of a night as usual.
I’m watching you play with what used to be an insurmountable amount of Hot Wheels. I’m remembering why you now have half as many as you did several weeks ago.
One day last month, while we cleaned your room for what was probably the third time in a day, I remarked about the mass of toys you’ve collected. I was telling you about a little boy I had just learned was sent away from his home and into the custody of his aunt, and how he would appreciate any toys. ‘And here you are, appreciating none of yours,’ I had said.
It was the wrong thing to say, I know that. One day you might learn that parents sometimes say the wrong kinds of things in frustration (forewarning: parenting is NOT easy), but most of us have the best intentions. I assumed you weren’t listening, as toddlers often don’t, but the idea of that little boy with no toys concerned you.
‘A little boy has no toys?’ you asked, astonished. ‘That’s right. He had to fly on a plane and he didn’t get to bring any with him,’ I replied.
Without hesitation you said, ‘He can have this one,’ while handing me the car in your hand. Before I knew it, we were filling an entire storage bin with cars and various toys that you wanted ‘that little boy’ to have. By the time you finished giving, your own toy collection looked skimpy.
You’re not even four yet, but this wasn’t the first time your caring nature shined. Last year, right around the time you turned three, you did something similar. I started to pack up some of your old baby toys and items, things you hadn’t touched in months or years, and you asked what I was going to do with them.
I told you I would donate them, or maybe I would take them to the babies in the daycare at the YMCA (who you stopped to wave at and play peekaboo with through the window each day). This answer made you happy. You piled newer and better toys into the donation bin, often remarking ‘the little babies will like this one,’ as you sorted through what would go and what would stay.
I was in awe of you then, just as I’m in awe of you now.
For the entirety of my adult life, I couldn’t wait to be a mother. I specifically wanted a son. I even dreamed that I’d have a little boy with dark hair and light eyes and it was all I could think about for a long time.
Believe it or not, this was actually a point of contention between your father and I not long after we started dating. Back then, he wasn’t so sure he wanted to have any children. It’s a bit humorous to me now, given what a great dad he is and how closely bonded the two of you are.
‘I’m not definitively saying no, but can we just wait and see how things go?’ he said. I was confident in two things then. One, I’m very persuasive when I want to be, and two, when something is really important to me, your dad makes it important to him. (Remember that! It’s how he shows us love.)
Four years and a miscarriage later, there you were: darkish hair, hazel eyes, and perfect. The first six months were hard, grueling even. While pregnant, I had committed to a year of breastfeeding (I was told it was natural, easy even) and I remember wanting to rescind that commitment after one week. You didn’t latch well, wanted to be attached to me all the time, and between hunger and gas, you screamed a lot.
Your dad was there then, reminding me of my commitment and how important it had been to me. We eventually got over that hump, only to find out at four and a half months old that you had a rare skull condition that would require major surgery at six months. I’ll carry the fear, sadness, and helplessness I felt on that day with me for as long as I live.
You know how you handled it, though? Post-op was miserable, yes. You wept in your anesthesia haze, wanted me to hold you when I wasn’t allowed yet, and we both spent a miserable, sleepless night in the ICU.
But the next morning, less than 24 hours post-op, eyes still nearly swollen shut from all the head swelling, you were your usual smiling self again. Incredible, I thought. How can a baby be so tough? How could you be smiling at a time like that? I was in awe of you again.
I intended to write something like this at the end of your first year. I had this grand plan of creating an email address for you and sending messages each year, or whenever I felt like it, and eventually when you were old enough to appreciate it, I’d give you the password. I think I’ll still do that but, obviously, I haven’t gotten around to it yet.
I’d like to say I haven’t because I’ve been absorbed and present in motherhood and with you every day for the last nearly four years but that wouldn’t be the truth. Many days, yes, I was completely infatuated with your sweet little face and the way you looked at me like no one else on Earth mattered (you cared little about your dad back then as he wasn’t the milk machine).
When you got mobile, I had no choice but to spend every minute of every day supervising you and curbing you from certain injury every 27 seconds. The last year or so, though, you’ve needed me less and less. Combine that with your toddler attitude and there are many days where I can’t wait to tuck you in, close your door, breathe, and bask in silence (until your dad starts making just as much noise as you approximately 4 minutes later).
This last year has been hard and made harder considering a pandemic has shrouded it, too. I’m writing you this now because I realized over the last year how much of myself I lost for a while. I dedicated every fiber of my being to motherhood in these early years to set you up with the best possible start to life that I could give you. (There’s a lot of privilege in that, I know.)
From the day you were born, I have always wanted you to be better than me in every way. I wanted you to grow up with the kind of confidence and self-assurance that I didn’t have, and most days still don’t. I wanted you to learn so much happiness and joy that you never had to look anywhere outside yourself to find it because those two things have always been hard for me to cling to for long.
I was not taught happiness and contentment and joy so it has been my mission to make sure that you know those things and know them well.
Sadly, I developed some resentment toward motherhood this year. This has nothing to do with you and everything to do with myself. I was trying so hard to be a great mom that I forgot how to be great at anything else. I forgot who I am outside of ‘mommy’ and most days, by the time I have some time to myself, I’m too tired to think about it.
Your dad has made many career moves over the last four years and I found myself resentful of his successes at times, too. Why does he get to be a dad AND a boss? Why does he get to have twice the fulfillment I do?
Again, I know this is my issue and not his but you’ll learn when you grow up that rightfully placing blame on yourself is a hard pill to swallow, though I hope you’ll swallow it much faster than me so that you never stay stuck in a rut for long.
The truth is, I’ve felt a spark again in the last week or two. Like a power that’s laid dormant for a while is rising within me… I remember that power now. I’ve felt it for half my life, though it ebbed and flowed over the years as things do.
You’re heading to preschool next week and I am vowing now to explore that power on those days that I can.
I’m vowing now to find renewed purpose and fulfillment within myself so that I can better teach you how to harness your own. Right this minute, I can confidently tell you that you’ve been gifted one tough and powerful mother who can do anything she sets her mind to. I may cringe at the fact that I said that tomorrow or feel gross a week from now for having the audacity, but in this moment, I want you to know that (and I’d like you to remember that when you get to high school and kindly advise you to think twice before you try me then).
I worry often about the way the world and people are changing and what the world you grow up in will look like. I notice myself frequently thinking and rethinking what I’m teaching you or how I’m teaching things. I think a lot about the kind of human being I am and what behaviors I model for you.
To be honest, in a world where people are becoming increasingly unkind, confrontational, and antisocial, it can be hard to avoid the urge to shelter myself and you.
Years of various lockdowns and restrictive living certainly didn’t help that but these things have never changed you. Not once. You’re the one often leading me by example.
You’re known at every place we frequent for the light and kindness that shine from you even on the darkest days. You never meet a stranger, say hi to everyone that passes us (especially old people, as they’re your favorite and vice versa), console crying children, won’t stand for your dad and I to raise our voices at one another even a single decibel (which honestly drives me crazy sometimes though it’s improved the way we do conflict), and you never miss an opportunity to show love to your family.
You have a knack for recognizing when someone needs your spirit. A few weeks ago a complete stranger approached your dad to tell him that angels surround you and it might have been strange to me when he told me that, except it wasn’t the first time a random person, feeling drawn to you, said something of that nature.
You were only two the last time it happened. A man at a brewery got choked up when he said, ‘I just need to tell you that your son is very special. I saw his bright aura when you two walked in before I ever saw either of you.’ I was in awe of you then, just as I’m in awe of you still.
You, my son, are a powerhouse all your own. A force to be reckoned with already; I can only imagine the things you’ll do as you grow. So, you see, you leave me no choice.
How can I expect you to reach your fullest potential without first showing you how that’s done? How can I tell you every day that ‘can’t’ is a bad word when it’s still alive and well in my own vocabulary? How can I teach you about the power you have within you if I let my own stay buried?
I’ll never accept poor excuses from you, so I must first never offer them to you.
In life we often stop and start. We take one step forward and two steps back. Our priorities change and evolve, we get lost sometimes and have to find ourselves again, we make mistakes (sometimes the same one repeatedly,) we put ourselves in bad situations and have to dig our way back out; that is all part of living.
As long as you’re learning when you’re in those places, then it’s okay to be there sometimes.
For more years of my life than I’d like to admit, I let other people make me small. It was beat into my head that I wasn’t good enough, wasn’t pretty enough, wasn’t enough of anything. All those years, and many days still, I believed that.
I didn’t try for fear of failure. I didn’t put myself out there for fear of rejection. I let my inner sense of greatness and higher purpose be diminished by people who either never recognized it or felt threatened by it.
You, my sweet boy, have challenged me to grow above all these things. Being your mother is the greatest gift I have ever been given because I’m growing nearly as fast as you are, which is actually astronomically so. (One day I’ll show you the pediatric growth chart you soared off of.)
I promise to help you reach your fullest potential by reaching my own in the process. I am in awe of you, and an awe-worthy son deserves an awe-worthy mother.”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Lindsey Roller. You can follow her journey on Instagram . Subscribe to our free email newsletter, Living Better—your ultimate guide for actionable insights, evidence backed advice, and captivating personal stories, propelling you forward to living a more fulfilling life.
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