Together, we are better

by Alicia on December 29, 2016

Life is…tough, right now.

I keep saying I’m overwhelmed, stressed, unsure- when anyone dares ask how I’m doing, right now.

And it’s all the truth. I’m all of those things, almost all of the time.

Tecumseh Vista Academy logoWe suddenly and tragically lost the Principal of my daughters’ school, Paul Bisson, on Christmas Eve. I say that from a personal perspective because he well and truly was the kind of Principal that made you feel like he was yours. To 1000 kids, he made each of them feel that way. He was instrumental in making me feel like a whole actively able person with an army of help at my immediate disposal when dealing with how to help Bella feel comfortable in and at school. He was empathetic and shared his own personal parenting experience, and shared his laughter, and made me certain this was a team effort. For a set of parents at the edge of what feels like a steep cliff? That hand to pull you back, with authority and kindness and depth? It means everything.

And then I read this article on how lonely being the Mom to a middle schooler is and I cried. Because dammit it IS lonely. And there ARE no blogs to read, no circles of parents sharing their ups and downs. We’re supposed to know it by now, right? But the truth is the truth gets less and less clear the more our kids age. And there aren’t absolute definitions of success. If I got my toddler to eat a celery stick, I had a community to brag to and a defined way I could share for others to replicate. Got my kid to sleep in her big girl bed? Share away! Look at my tangible accomplishment! And most of the time, persistence at those steps yielded similar results when repeated. It was the best feedback loop.

There’s almost none of that left in parenting my tween. Rarely can I try a thing twice and have her feed back the same response. That’s if I even get a second chance. No one talks about this stage, or the parts they talk about are the parts that worked out. It is incredibly lonely. And I want to say that I stopped talking about Bella because I wanted to protect her privacy, but some of the reason is I wanted to protect my own vulnerability. I wanted to not have to say: I’m trying everything and very little is working. I wanted to avoid having to admit: everything I worked for feels like it’s meant very little. I know the truth is not that simple and that many things I’ve done in our 11 year relationship has produced an incredibly close and bonded mother-daughter partnership.

But sometimes Bella is an utter stranger to me. And sometimes I don’t like the mother I’ve become.

Sometimes I barely like the person I’ve tried so hard to be.

Not all the time. But yes, sometimes I blame myself and the choices I decided to make.

I have told a few friends an absolute truth about myself, discovered painfully and recently: I encourage vulnerability in others, and loathe it in myself.

Paul Bisson had a motto: together we are better. It never meant much to me, I mean it sounded lovely for some baby kiddos he had to herd at his elementary school, but it really didn’t touch me. It’s funny how the universe shows you a mirror, because I have been broken down so far, so fast, so deeply and right to the very core of the person I thought I was. Of the mother I thought I was. And out of that depth I gained little lifelines from people, from all the corners of my life who came down to my darkness to leave me a flashlight. And they waited until I found my way to them. Those people waited in the dark and made a place for me, the place they could help.

And I let them.

It took a crash so hard that I cannot describe it, but dammit I let them help me. They poured into my cup so I can pour into my family’s cup. Without them, we would all be empty and wanting and struggling and in pain. And we are all still in pain. But we are feeding off the courage of others. Off the good will of our village. Off the kindness and small acts of big justice that people who see us are willing to do on our behalf when we just cannot.

Together we really are better.

And I will forget that time and time again. But I’m going to try and be here for this experience. For all the depths it drags me through and all the joys we reach, all the successes and challenges…I’m going to try not to leave someone else lonely, if I can help it. I’m going to try to be honest about the struggle, and plain about the worry. And maybe if I can leave some of it here I won’t carry it all on my fragile shoulders, and you can know that there’s a place here for you to leave your junk too.

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