There have been heavy tears growing inside of me, maybe for a few days or a few weeks or even a few months. On Friday night they came out.
The day had not started particularly well. My son woke up at six am, emotional and fragile. It was a public holiday. I did not have work and he did not have school and a part of me hoped that today would be the day he broke his three-week long habit of rising before six. But it wasn’t the day for it.
At six am his tears started. And they continued for the next three hours to come. What triggered his tears was beyond madness and comprehension. Anything from a small crease in the paper he was drawing on to me mishearing something he said would send him into fits of tears and rage to the point where I had to ask him to go in his room and scream it out because I could not bear it any longer.
And the more he screamed, the more I could feel my own negative emotions rising in my guts, burning like acid right up to my throat. This was the tail end of two weeks of high emotions and I could feel the small tear in my patience fast-becoming a giant rip. And I watched him, screaming and kicking and unable to cope with his own emotions. And I listened to him, speaking like he had the weight of the world on his shoulders. I tried to understand, to rationalise, to negotiate and to calm, but the truth was I was none of those things. I did not understand, at least not in that moment.
I was tired and emotional too, heavy with the weight of trying to forever be understanding and calm.
And if I were being truthful, I would say that the only place I wanted to be was as far away from the screaming as possible. I wanted to drop the bundle and run. I wanted someone else to be the responsible one or the one to wear all the hats. I was even sick of hearing my own voice, the repetition of it and the dull, monotonous tones that threaded it. But I had no escape. And that only made his tears feel more unbearable.
And we suffered through the day, the grave of emotions stripping us of any spark.
Later in the day, I dropped him to his father. He was a giddy ball of pent up things. He had not seen his father in over six weeks. I watched them walk down the street, kid wonder trying to be a nonchalant little man. And any relief I thought I would feel at having some space was replaced with sadness and guilt that I had sent him off for the weekend being misunderstood.
I filled the next hour with mindless jobs that did not demand me to think about anything, but coming back to the empty house strewn with toys and mess, that sadness pinched me again. I gathered his toys, made his bed, washed the dishes and mopped the floors while questions and guilt stripped me of my certainty as a mother.
What was I doing wrong for him to be behaving in such a way? What was I missing? Why couldn’t I comfort him in those fits of rage and tears this morning? Why couldn’t I just get it? Why did I let my tiredness and exasperation get to me? Maybe I am being too hard on him or maybe I am not being hard enough?
The questions and lack of answers gnawed at me.
While I emptied the car, I found he had forgotten his replacement Mr T that was looking as worn and loved as the original. It was the toy he slept with every night, the one he called for when he was feeling tired or exasperated or misunderstood. I held Mr T and wished that he had made the journey with kid wonder. And it was only there, holding the frayed tiger, in that empty space, without kid wonder that I understood how he was feeling.
All I wanted to do now was hug him and tell him that everything was going to be okay.
And all the emotions and guilt flooded outward. All the space I had wanted over the past few weeks, all the times I cursed him waking up at 5:45am and not allowing me that hour and a half to myself that I had grown accustomed to and harvested in the mornings and all the times over the past few weeks that I craved my morning coffee and cigarettes alone on the back porch, I wanted to take it all back and replace it with a hug.
I wanted to tell him that I got it, that I understood how he was feeling and that I felt the same. I wanted to substitute all the misunderstandings and lack of patience with a simple: it’ll be okay.
Had my father not messaged me I am sure I would have sat in a state all evening. Sensing my mood in the tone of my messages, he reminded me that I am doing the job of two, that I am both the one who gives the love and the tough love and that my son will grow to appreciate that. And he reminded me that I am doing a great job.
His message made me cry more, but what came with it was a lightness I hadn’t felt in weeks.
That night I slept deeply. The morning after I exercised hard and spent the day meandering. In the evening I had dinner with friends and filled up on fresh seafood and a spiced whiskey. My head wanted to dance, my heart wanted to sleep. I listened to my heart, waking up today, this Sunday, fresh and calm. And while I wait for tonight to come around, I write and fill the day with a little tending to myself.
And then when tonight finally comes, when kid wonder is back home, I’ll make a mends with the weeks that have been and I’ll hug him and tell him: I love you. It’ll be okay. We’ll be okay.
Because we will.