“Owning our story can be hard but not nearly as difficult as spending our lives running from it.” - Berne Brown
Here’s some of my story.
So, last week Damien brings this blowed up blue balloon home from school.
And the other day I’m sitting up in my room watching Bridezillas and I hear him start weeping, downstairs. Not like a stomping his little kid feet throwing a fit kind of crying. But devastated heartbroken crestfallen little boy sobs. I go see what’s wrong and he tells me it’s this week-old blue balloon he got from school.
And [he] really really loved that balloon!
Anyway, I’m comforting him and indulging his feelings. I mean, he is really crying. And I’m kissing his tear streaked cheeks. And I’m doing my best to calm him down.
It’s quite an emotional ordeal.
There’s some sputtering crying, that gives way to full on break down.
I want to laugh because, I guess I’m heartless
and you know it’s a just balloon, right?
Anyway I tell him it’s OK to be sad and cry, but this was bound to happen and isn’t it really pretty great that the balloon lasted a whole week?
I say all this sensible mom stuff to him and he nods and agrees but, he doesn’t snap out of it right away.
And I’m feeling so bad for him and I can’t believe he’s this upset over a friggin balloon.
I suggest he call his Daddy and ask him to bring home a bag of balloons from Rite Aid and maybe some Haribo Happy Cola Gummies (our favorite!) on his way home and then we can spend the rest of the afternoon playing with balloons and stuffing our faces with candy.
This works and he right cheers up.
End of drama.
I pretty much went right back to watching Bridezilla’s and he went back to playing. And that was the end of balloon-gate.
Of course, Jess brings home balloons and candy and Damien is happy and Daddy is great.
But the whole thing kind of eats at me. It’s nagging at me for a couple of days later.
Why do I have such weird conflicted feelings about the crazy sad balloon freak out?
I mull the whole thing over in my mind, later.
And you know what?
I’m not sad for the kid. I have this sort of knee jerk reaction, where I want to be sad when I think back about how sad he was.
But I’m not.
I’m not sad I think because that’s exactly how childhood is supposed to go. It occurred to me that the fact my kid weeps over popped balloons and cheers up over hugs and candy is a good thing. I think it means his childhood is good and wholesome and it’s kind of supposed to happen this way for kids.
The fact that my kid’s world is built around balloons and candy and phone calls to daddy means he isn’t worried about that other shit.
You know, that other shit.
Like he doesn’t have to deal with living in a house where his mom gets beat up by his dad, sometimes. And the lights get cut off because there isn’t any money to pay the bill. He doesn’t have to hide in his room when there’s yelling and stuff is breaking and his parents are fighting. He’s not confused or afraid because his parents smoke pot in front of him, and he’s pretty sure that’s bad. He isn’t told by adults he trusts that he’s just imagining things and they aren’t as bad as they seem.
I’m so glad my kid isn’t worrying about that stuff.
I did, though.
And I’m only just now figuring out how it’s affected me.
I connect these dots in my mind and I compare my own childhood with the one I’m giving my son.
And I do feel sad, deeply sad, but mostly for little girl me.
I stop and ruminate about his honest mundane kid moment that sort of ended the way its supposed to, with a secure and happy kid getting the love he needs, when he needs it and then going back to play.
When I tuck Damien in later, I lay down with him. I hold his head on my chest. And I tell him I’m sad about the balloon popping, but I tell him that I’m happy, too. Happy that his only worries are popped balloons.
I tell him his daddy will always bring him treats home, if he’s sad.
I tell him how lucky he is. And that I hope he always remembers to be grateful.
And then on impulse I tell him that sometimes I saw my daddy hit my mommy, when I was little and that it scared me.
I tell him that I didn’t always feel safe at home. Sometimes my parents lied to me and I felt like I couldn’t trust them. I tell him how I often worried about adult problems as a kid, because of things that went on in my home.
I don’t tell him everything.
There are so many things.
And I can’t be sure I said the right stuff or if I explained it all in best way. But I wanted him to know that we are so lucky. And not everyone has it so good.
I want to protect my kid, from all the things out there, but in that moment for that second I want him to know that some people are damaged.
And I want him to know that it’s OK to be vulnerable.
I can’t explain this impulse to reveal my childhood traumas except to say I often grapple with how to make sense of the way my parents chose to do things when I compare them to the way I’ve chosen to do things.
I used to worry so much about parenting.
I worried a lot.
I used to think that it mattered what kind of stroller I had or if I fed my kid a bottle. I worried that he didn’t play outside enough or that we didn’t read enough or that my house is too messy and that all these things were somehow going screw up my kid.
Lately I’ve begun to really examine the things that have happened to me and how they have made me into this person that I am. I have given myself permission to unearth long buried things. It’s OK to talk about mental illness and abuse now, and I’m not sure it always was. In doing so I’ve gained tremendous perspective on parenting.
And I’ve kind of just arrived at this place where I really feel like all kids need is someone to love them and bring home candy. Kids just need a safe secure place to freak out and be vulnerable when they’re convinced their world is ending over a popped balloon.
That makes sense, doesn’t it? .