Ruth Ayres hosts a weekly celebration on her blog. I appreciate this invitation to reflect on the positives of my week.
And it’s been a challenging one. My son broke his finger last weekend and had surgery on Thursday. It’s been a week of doctor’s visits, endless reminders that he is adopted (“Now what is your relationship to the patient?”–asked of me so many times this week that I’m thinking of having a t-shirt made up that says Yes, I’m His Mother. Kudos to the nurse who saved the moment with, “I thought you must be his mom, but you look too young to have a twelve-year-old son.” The twelve-year-old son in question thought this was hilarious. “Her? She’s not young! She’s OLD!”), physical pain, grief over all of the summer sports he can’t participate in, and unexpected side effects of medication (let’s just say that Percocet makes him VERY chatty at one a.m. And two a.m. And three a.m.).
His system can’t handle so much stress, and the result is predictable. “You are not my mother.” That’s where we always end up when things get hard.
And just at a time when he’d like to pull away, he has needed a lot of extra mothering since he’s down to just one hand and sometimes woozy from medication. The push-pull-I-love-you-I-hate-you-I-need-you-get-away-from-me is so extreme this week that we’re both getting whiplash.
But we work through it. We keep working through it.
Every day I have to do it again. That’s how it felt this morning. Have to.
But by afternoon, I’d shifted my perspective. Every day I get to do it again.
The difference between have to and get to is worth celebrating.
Showing up. Staying quiet. Being present. Staying in the room. Saying yes. Saying yes to this child who has heard no in so many ways. I celebrate that every day I find a way to say yes to him. Every day he shows me how.
On one particularly rough afternoon this week, he turned to me with blazing eyes and demanded, “Are you going to quit? Are you going to give up? Because I need to know if you’re a quitter.”
I try never to laugh when he’s upset because he always misinterprets the laugh. But this time I laughed and he knew why.
I am never going to quit. I am never going to give up. Persistence is my superpower.
In In the Middle, Nancie Atwell shares a story I love about a compliment Donald Graves paid her. It goes something like this. Graves asks her if she knows what makes her a great teacher. She waits for the compliment, imagining he’s about to praise her deep knowledge or brilliant techniques. Instead, Graves tells her she’s just so darned organized.
It’s a lesson in humility but even more, in accepting and embracing your strengths even if they aren’t the strengths you wish you had.
Organization might not be very exciting, but it’s what makes her classroom work.
Persistence isn’t very exciting either, but it’s what makes me the right mother for my son.
There are a lot of other qualities I wish I could get gold stars for. Patience. Understanding. Good humor. Creativity. Self-restraint. Kindness. But persistence is what keeps us going.
In the midst of his Percocet-induced logorrhea after surgery, my son shared said, “You know what’s really helped me? You never give up. No matter what, you just never give up.”
I never will.
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