The Heartaches of Motherhood

The Heartaches of Motherhood

There is nothing more gut-wrenching then seeing your child – your sweet, lovely child – hurting. Whether it is a physical pain or an emotional pain, it tears a mother’s heart to shreds.

With physical pain, there are remedies that can swiftly heal and temper the wound, but with emotional pain, all you can do is hold your child close, and, in the loss of your own words, desperately try to formulate cohesive explanations as to the why and the how. Yet inside, you are are hurting just as your child is, because you cannot always heal and temper the emotional pain. You cannot always resolve the problem. This is one of the hardest moments of motherhood. Which brings me to the now.

My son is struggling with making friends this year. It doesn’t help that, as an only child, he was isolated from classmates, friends, and social gatherings for a better part of a year and a half because of restrictions and lockdowns. He spent a lot of time alone, away from children his own age. Now, back in school, he is thrown into the mix and finding it to be a challenge. This year, he is in a split-class, and he is gravitating to the children who are a grade above his own. He feels somewhat equal to them – in interests and in play. He finds their conversations compelling and engaging, and he wants to share his own ideas and stories with them. But, from what we have been able to gather [from his teacher] the feelings are not always mutual. He often isn’t welcomed into their play or into the friendships formulated. He is kept on the cusp. It greatly injures my not-so-little one. He assumes he has formed bonds of friendship, therefore he cannot understand their dismissiveness. He is such a sensitive soul; a creative, dynamic, and quirky individual. He doesn’t see age as a limitation and has always played well with those who are older or even younger than he. He gravitates to a child not because of their age or grade level, but because of the person they are. I am in awe of his depth. But my heart aches for him, because this is not how ‘schoolyard play’ often works. Kids usually stick with kids in their own grade level, and there often is no socializing in-between grades.

As a parent, you remember. You remember recess, the challenges, the fair-whether friendships, the bonds formed with others, and the conflicts with classmates. You remember those lonely kids on the cusp of group play, perhaps too shy to get involved or lacking the confidence to ask, afraid to be turned away. You remember being one of those kids – having big ideas with creative stories to share … struggling to find like-minded souls to form bonds with. I see myself in my son, and it pains me all the more. I did not have answers back then when I was a child, and I do not have answers now. Just as my child feels helpless, I do as well. What kind of incompetent mother am I?

Learning to fit in – to feel as though you belong – can be challenging. Learning to make new friends can be intimidating. Learning conflict resolution can be overwhelming. These are all important aspects of social development that are imperative for growth. These social skills, which children learn through social interactions at school and at recreational institutions, are delayed as a result of the pandemic. Thousands of children are struggling. Mine is struggling. It’s like he is having to relearn how to socialize with classmates all over again.

And so, my son goes to school everyday with the hopes of having fun, being engaged, and forming friendships; but often he comes home feeling sad. Why don’t they want to play with me is a question I often hear. What can I say to that? I hold him close. I talk with him about various classmates – their interests and their attitudes. I inquire as to whether he asked his classmates if he may join them in play or if he invited them to play, because I know that this is where he struggles. Is it shyness? Is it a lack of confidence? I am not sure. He tells me that he tries to engage, but that the other kids run away, or they tell him to go play with someone else, or some include him in play, but in a way that is hurtful, which causes my child to leave the action because he realizes they are not playing nicely. And when I hear that, I give him more hugs and more reassurances, and I feel even more brokenhearted.

These are the moments that are the hardest. These are the heartaches of motherhood. I cannot be there to fix the problem on the playground. I cannot observe my child during recess to learn how his own interactions are impacting play; and I cannot be there to remind other children to play nicely or to be inclusive. This is the point in time where they have to figure it out on their own – where they must relearn how to socialize. All I can do is be here to welcome my not-so-little one into my arms and envelop him with comforting hugs. All I can do is remind him of just how important he is to me and how special a person I believe him to be. And, all I can do is partner with his teacher – bring these social concerns to her in hopes that she may provide insight. I am grateful my son has an exceptional teacher this year. She has proven herself to be kind, compassionate, accepting, and encouraging. She believes in open communication with families, and in working together for the well-being of child. I feel that, with her support, my child will get through this present struggle .

I know these are challenging moments within challenging times, and that my son is not the only child experiencing some form of social anxiety and/or struggle. But, knowing this does not make this moment any easier. What I am grateful for, however, is that I am the one here to lift him up when he is down. Me. This was why I fought – six years ago when diagnosed. I fought not only for the heartwarming moments, but also the heartbreaking moments. And I will gladly suffer the heartaches for him. However, I know that isn’t possible. I know that my job is not to shoulder his burden, but to help him navigate through these challenging moments so that one day, he may learn to successfully navigate them on his own.

Such are the poignant heartaches of motherhood.

The Heartaches of Motherhood. Published by Crystal Joy Hall

Featured Image by Marina Shatskih

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