I hugged my son, long and hard, as his shoulders heaved and he let out the emotions that had roiled just below the surface all day. His sobs brought tears to my eyes and I held him so tightly, willing the pain to go away.
And yet, I know, pain has a purpose. But, that doesn’t keep me from getting angry about it when it visits my son again and again.
It’s almost Christmas in the snowy Midwest, which usually conjures Currier & Ives visions–Rockwellian scenes of family around the hearth, rosy-cheeked children sledding, cookies baking in the oven. In my house, we have some of that. Stockings hung over the fire. Presents wrapped under the tree.
We also have some rather chronic situations.
The detail on those situations is unimportant. They are just tough family issues that we deal with, as I am sure many families do. But if I struggle with them as an adult, I can only imagine how difficult my 12-year-old finds the same.
I do what I can do tonight. I make hot chocolate, put on the Christmas music and pull out the presents he needs to wrap for his aunts. Within the hour, he is smiling and even choosing Christmas carols from my playlist.
I don’t want to make light of it. I’m no miracle worker. I am Mom, though—and while I cried tonight because I feel inadequate to help him with this pain, there is a reason Mom starts with a capital letter. At times, my hug, my presence, my unconditional love, is enough to keep troubles at bay—at least for an evening.
I cried tonight because I was angry. In the same way that my son does not understand why he seems to get thrown curveballs other kids don’t have to field, I grapple with the seeming unfairness of it also. And I look at the tiny arsenal I have at my disposal. My rather limited tools to fight back—against life, fate, whatever this is—seem laughable at times. How do I make chronic tough bits better?
I don’t. I’ve realized, now that the cry is over and the calm has set in, that I don’t make the chronic tough bits better. I alleviate pain temporarily. But really, what I do, is help my son to cope with challenges, with pain. To dive into them. To feel his anger, his disappointment. And then, to feel what lies underneath those—a deep sadness for what might have been, what never will be, what is. I cook dinner. I run baths. I play the Christmas carols. I pay bills. I am, if nothing else, a solid, unwavering presence. He knows who I am. Hell, everyone knows who I am. I make no secret of it. Love me or not—here I am. I have to believe that unflappable solidity helps him somehow.
I help him realize these feelings will not be the death of him. That there will be good days and bad days. That sometimes hot chocolate will have to be enough to bring joy. And other times, we will be elated at an unexpected smile the Universe throws our way. Life is carving out space in him—he will hold multitudes, like it or not. Perhaps more multitudes than many of his peers will be asked to hold. So be it.
Holding space for someone is a sacred endeavor. Here’s wishing you the space a loved one has carved out for you this holiday season. May you see it, feel it, breathe it in and relax into that unconditional love. When it comes down to it, this is what this Christmas season is about anyway.
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Mom does = miracle worker. And love, just love + a solid, unwavering presence = more than enough.
Thank you! My mother, while a good person, was less than extremely interested in mothering :-). So I may not have a frame of reference for how this feels.
I was referring to You, Amazing Mother and Miracle Worker… look at what you are creating. You can’t put that in a frame, it’s more. I could/can feel it from here. And you’ve probably read some of my past posts… oh healing the mother wound. Your son is so lucky! In being there for him… then it spreads, in each person he encounters. Love x111
Thank you. Words that are balm for my soul, as usual. You have a knack for that:).
Many times warm arms around me, a sugar cookie, an understanding glance consoled me; but I never had children, never had the opportunity to offer those same comforts to them. So I enjoy reading about mothers who continue to console, knowing they can’t solve. And holding spaces is wonderful, healing idea. This is a strong, beautiful post, Kay.
I love that you remember those bits! I’m hoping they will stick with my son also. Wishing you a wonderful new year!
Kristine, Sounds like you’re a great Mom and your son is lucky to have you. Take it from me, I know how painful it is to watch a child suffering, even for a little bit. For me, its the true test of parenthood. You find strength you never knew you had.
So very true. It is a gritty strength. Ugh:).
Great post! We all need a safe retreat.
Thank you! Ain’t it the truth:).
My parents were highly inconsistent sources of comfort and reassurance when I was a kid, and I often had to tough out whatever came my way without confiding in them. Your steadfastness will mean all the world to your son when he becomes a man. He’ll have the knowledge that someone truly loved him and stuck by him, and that’s priceless.
I certainly hope so! It means the world to hear from someone who is beyond that curve. Thank you so much for giving me a bit more inspiration.
As a man, we forget sometimes how tough it is growing up. Moms always remember and help the process. Great job. Merry Christmas!
Thank you:). And a very Merry Christmas to you also!
Beautiful. Thank you for the Christmas cry, I was due. And for the warm smile of hope. Merry Merry Christmas to you and your family.
Nice to have that cry over with, right?:) And hope springs eternal. Wishing you a wonderful Christmas.
I’ve always thought it easier to be the one suffering, than be the one having to watch. But you did all that could be done — showing that there is love and understanding. With those things we can pretty much get through life.
I agree! As a mother, hurts more to watch them hurt.
Beautifully written. A a parent we will always ache when our kids are doing it tough. But just being there to hug, listen and be on their side, does make a difference.
I know that intellectually but it is always so reassuring to hear from moms who are further around the curve that it really does matter :-).
Thank you for this beautiful reminder of holding space. One of my hardest lessons involves letting my son find his way through life, with everything it throws at him. Knowing that one way or another, he is just fine, and will always be so.
Oh, ain’t it the truth?! It’s like walking on nails.
There’s so much strength in tenderness; lessons in bravery woven into the texture of struggle. I hope someone is holding a space for you, too.
The beauty of it is, I have learned how to hold space for myself. But I also have some wonderful souls who help me do the same :-). Wishing you and your family a wonderful Christmas, Marie
LOVE this response. There may be no greater lesson for our children than to hold space for ourselves with the same generosity and empathy we offer those we love. Merry Christmas, Kay.
A few weeks back I was watching a series called “Man-up” it is the tragic reality of our suicide rate here in Australia and how many boys and men around the world have been taught to tough it out and to suppress their vulnerability. You Kristine are helping change that culture, and the more we nurture and love the next generation of boys, the more they will have permission to do that for themselves. I wish you and your beautiful family a peaceful holiday and Christmas Thankyou for your inspiring honest posts through the year, Thankyou for being you. 🎄🎄
I certainly hope the next gen is more evolved. Thanks for putting it into perspective:). And for the kind words. Wishing you and yours a very happy, healthy, and peaceful Christmas!
This is a wise, lovely post that captures the soul of mothering. I’m reading with tears in my eyes as I think of my own son’s struggles and how inadequate I felt (and still feel) to help him. But where there is love there is hope. Merry Christmas.
And hope abounds here :-). At least today. Wishing you and yours a very merry Christmas!
I think one of the best gifts you can give is to help someone experience that pain and support them through it, rather than suppressing it for it to re-surface as something much worse later on – and that’s exactly what you’re doing.
I agree, Andrea. I just wish it weren’t so hard to watch them go through it.
Well written Kristine. Most often, the best any of us can do is just to be there for someone. We haven’t got a magic wand (and that wouldn’t be good either) but respite from life’s travails is valuable indeed.
I agree, Roy. The times I miss my parents most are when I wish for them puttering around the kitchen as I sat at the table and we chatted. There was a safety and comfort we get nowhere else . . .
Probably the perfect Christmas essay. Thank you and Merry Christmas to you.
And probably the nicest thing you could have said to me:). Thank you, Jan! Wishing you and yours a blessed Christmas!
Most certainly Kristine, it is the season to try to let go and enjoy what is there.
But more importantly, your giving him one thing that will help him all through life…your showing him YOU. Your sharing your coping, and your ability to ‘see’ in another way. Yes, it still hurts, but the love of a mother is a healing all its own. Sharing that is a blessing on its own 😀
Merry Christmas, may that love hold all your hearts, and share its freedom ❤
Thank you, Mark. A mother’s love is healing, isn’t it?:) I have to remember that now that I’m on the mothering end of things!
A mothers love is a love all its own Kristine. It comes from a very deep place, and is felt and a healing because of that, even with the blockages of life. A male energy ‘tends’ to come from another place…but…they are the balance that we need in life. As much as your sons pain is felt from that direction, you are showing him what it is to be loved from the other end of the scale. You are the teacher, parent etc, just by being you.
And much empathy I feel from you…just be you, and he will know that love 😀 ❤
Praying for you guys. May you each find comfort and strength. You are a warrior, in every sense of the word.
May we all choose to let pain soften us rather than harden us. Love. While it can bring pain, it also heals. ❤️
Wise words from an old soul:). Thank you for the good thoughts–wishing you a holiday filled with family!
Ah, my dear. It’s part of a mother’s job, for sure. To comfort, to understand, to empathize, to reassure. Wishing the strength and stamina the job requires. You’ve certainly got the love.
It’s a marathon, not a sprint, right? I’m so much better at sprints. Thank you for the kind wishes. Wishing you a wonderful, peaceful, healthy holiday!
You’re so right. A marathon, not a sprint.