Just Showing Up

Me with my gang on my own shortly after my release from the hospital

I rode down the elevator and shuffled into the main lobby all the while policed by the nurse walking at my side. I was excited and terrified at the same time. I hadn’t seen my children in over a week. What were they thinking? Why had mom been gone so long in the hospital? Why did they have to come to the hospital to visit me on Mother’s Day? “Just show up” I kept telling myself, “Just show up”.

As I entered the lobby, my eyes had to adjust to the daylight. I was not used to this natural light. I had been spending my days on the second floor with bars on the windows and not many windows at that. I wasn’t used to this.

I think I was mostly like a deer in headlights. I spent 15-20 minutes with my children with three other adults present. It was a sweet reunion laced with the undertones of fear and uncertainty. I felt like the six adult eyes in the room were on me, constantly evaluating for signs of anything that would require them to step in. I don’t know what they were looking for, but I know they were looking. They had no clue what to expect from a mom in a mental hospital visiting with her kids on Mother’s Day.

I was still mostly dead inside, but did my best to reflect life to my children. I did my best to answer their questions:

“Why are you in the hospital mom?”

“When are you coming home mom?”

“How come we have to visit you here mom?”

I held them on my lap and admired their homemade gifts. There wasn’t a whole lot to say, but it was really about just showing up, just being there together. I wasn’t sure I was doing the right thing by having the kids come and visit me that day. My mind tried to tell me that a mental hospital was no place for my children even if it was just the lobby. But deep in my heart, I knew that they needed me and I needed them regardless of the situation. The day wasn’t anything “spectacular” but it was exactly what we all needed.

In some ways, those days were so much simpler despite my circumstance. The lives of 7, 5 and 3.5 year olds are less complex than that of my current 13, 11 and 9.5 year olds. As my mom has always said…..

“Little kids, little problems. Big kids, big problems.”

Boy is she right!

Today, 6 years later we are celebrating Mother’s Day in another unique circumstance – under COVID-19 quarantine. Currently most of my family is sprawled out on couches and chairs in our family room writing, sleeping, YouTubing, school working and Facebooking. It is nothing “spectacular”, but we all showed up and we’re together, it’s what we all need.

When the kids were little the days felt long and the years felt short. Today the days feel short and the years fly by. I will time to slow down, for the kids not to grow up while relishing in the young people they are becoming. Tantrums have been traded for tween and teen opinions and expression, early morning wake-ups are a thing of the past and I am no longer one of the coolest people in their circle.

Today I received a response from Cal about not being able to control his life and that I just need to let him experience the natural consequences of his actions. WHAT? Where in the world did he learn that? School. Well at least he is listening to something and absorbing some good stuff. I think he secretly listens to me sometimes and remembers a bit too because I recall uttering these words a time or two 🙂

This mothering gig has brought me to the absolute end of myself more times than I can count and has required more energy than I ever thought possible. The constant wondering if I am doing right by them. The questioning and worry. How could I be making an impact when I feel like attitudes and correction are more prominent than kindness? Are we really making progress? Am I permeating the surface? Are they catching anything that I’m trying to throw down?

I feel like I’m fumbling through and constantly missing the mark and then I get Mother’s Day cards like these. Not a better gift in the world. And then I remember we just need to keep showing up and being together because that’s exactly what we all need!