When I think about relationships, I imagine all these invisible threads that tie me to the people I love.
Time well spent
Talking and sharing our thoughts
Apologizing and forgiving each other
Accomplishing goals together
Growing and learning and being
These lines of love bind us to our friends and family and the more lines we throw out, the stronger the relationship gets.
In theory, when we cast out a line, it will catch and hold, twisting together with other threads of the relationship, making the connection stronger, tighter, unbreakable.
But what happens when you cast out lines of relationship and they don’t catch? When you want connection more than anything but your efforts fall short?
It was a few days after Celebrate Benji Day. The day had been a huge success but it had taken a lot of effort. The meals he chose for breakfast, lunch, and dinner were so time consuming that I cooked for several hours the day before so that they would be ready in the morning before we went to the lake, and after our day of swimming and boating when we came home.
Benji and Micah were discussing what each family member would do on his or her Special Day.
What would Micah want to eat for dinner?
What would Silas want to do?
Then Benji said, “I know what Mom would want to do on her Special Day.”
I was curious and pleased. “What?”
“Nothing. Mom wouldn’t want to do anything fun because she is no fun and never does anything fun.”
Just like that, all the threads of relationship that I had cast out in the past few weeks broke.
His words hurt me deeply. I was actually surprised that they did because, let’s face it, kids say hurtful things to their parents all the time (at least mine do). I have a pretty tough skin, and their little nasty-ism usually roll right off.
But I was tired. It had been a long day and we were eating a late dinner.
What’s more, I was exhausted in my efforts in trying to love him:
Learning how to hug him (and getting pushed away 80-90% of the time)
The lack of meaningful connection through communication
The emotional toll of the Child Study
My efforts to shower him with attention and love on his Special DayIt all came to a head at that moment, with the simple phrase that “Mom never does anything fun.”
My face crumpled and I started to cry.
“Do you know what?! I do so much for you–I do so much and you don’t even know! I try, and I try to love you but it’s not enough. It’s never enough!”
I slammed my hands down on the kitchen table, pushed myself to my feet, and walked away.
And I was ashamed. I was so deeply ashamed of my outburst, of my anger, of my own wretched selfishness.
But the threads, those precious few threads that held us together in tenuous relationship, were completely snapped.
I had nothing left inside of me to pull me back to my son in that moment.
But Aaron did. He called me back to come sit down and I did.
…because more than I wanted to be right, or yell, or slam doors, or lick my own throbbing wounds, I wanted, craved connection with Benji.
And I tried.
I tried so hard that evening to talk to him. I told him I was sorry and asked for his forgiveness. I told him that Mommy is a person too and that he hurt my feelings and I wanted him to be kind.
I cast line after line of love towards him.
But they didn’t catch.
My efforts failed that night and when he went to bed, we were still disconnected.
And I wept many, many hurt and angry tears while my husband listened to me and comforted me.
But when the tears passed, a quiet strength filled the void of the dissipated pain.
I wanted to walk away.
In fact, I did.
It was the first time I had ever done that. And honestly, it will probably not be the last time I will feel that way or even act that way.
But I came back.
Because I am a mother.
I am his mother and he is my son.
And in my deepest heart of hearts, I want connection. I want to return again and again to the root of our love: our mother and son relationship.
Because being a mother means seeking the heart of your child, committing to connection in the middle of pain, and casting lines of love
and over again.
And, do you know what? After a good night’s rest and a belly full of breakfast, he threw his arms around my middle in his wild, unpredictable way and said, “Mom? I love you!”
A single thread of love.
It was enough.