Johnny

The day my oldest son was born was the day I was forever changed, I went from “Kelly” to “mommy” in a split second, and my heart would never be the same. I’m not one of those women that cried tears of joy when their first child was born, nor did I fall “instantly” in love with him. Maybe it was the fog of the lack of sleep, combined with the exhaustion of intense labor and drugs from the c-section, but I felt like I didn’t know what hit me. All of a sudden there was this baby in the room and I knew I loved him, but I didn’t know how deep that love was, yet… it wasn’t until later that night when it was just the two of us in my hospital room and the nurses were wheeling him back to the nursery that I felt it, that feeling of my heart aching to be near him. Our eyes locked as they wheeled him away, and that was my moment. My moment of knowing that the love I have for my son was the deepest love I would ever know…

Throughout the next few years, my younger two sons, Nicky and Mikey were born, making Johnny the big brother he was meant to be. He is my “mini-adult”, he speaks as if he knows the ways of the world, with his polite demeanor and his quirky sense of humor. He is a caring, sweet little boy that will always ask for a kiss good night. Johnny has always marched to the beat of his own drum, which my husband and I chalked up to him being “just Johnny”. However, once he started preschool, little things that we over-looked came to light more and more, like how he can be socially awkward at times, and how sensitive and anxious he is. I take my boys to the park all the time, but when there are children playing that he doesn’t know, he will avoid them like the plague. As a mom, I get frustrated when this happens because as a 4 1/2 year old, he doesn’t understand the effort it took to get all three of them dressed and out of the house. (Anyone who has multiple children, especially potty-training toddlers and nursing infants will sympathize with me on this). I get frustrated and almost angry, because I feel like I’m being a “good” mom taking them to the park and I feel like it doesn’t matter because he just stands there, waiting for the smoke to clear…

A few months ago his teacher approached me with concerns about Johnny having social anxiety. He’s that kid that needs a “buddy” to make him feel safe and comfortable. She recommended that we speak to the school psychologist for help, and I felt like someone punched me in the gut. Since Johnny was born, I have been a stay-at-home-mom, so of course I felt like this was my fault… and so ensued the mom guilt. That mom guilt… she is a real bitch. She sneaks up on you when it’s the last thing you need, as if I didn’t feel bad enough for not always being able to give Johnny my full attention now with my younger two sons needing more of it. So after speaking with the school, I enrolled him in a social skills class to help break him out of his shell.

The night of his first class things were crazy because as a mother of 3 small children, (and 3 dogs), that’s just the norm, but when you have to be somewhere at a specific time, it gets intense very quickly. Trying to make sure that everyone is fed, has empty bladders (we hope) and generally presentably clean, is a full time job in itself when your doing it solo. Then of course, the yelling and nagging comes in because god forbid we put our shoes on the right foot instead of fighting over a hot wheels car… I was annoyed driving to the class because of the shit show that it was getting out the door, combined with traffic, and just generally being an exhausted parent. When we got there we went inside and I took a step back, the look on my son’s face was a look that I recognized, he was anxious and it immediately humbled me. He was stuck to me like glue as the teacher showed him around while waiting for the others to arrive. When it was time to start, we were separated and I crumbled. That bitch mom guilt showed up and she came in fierce. I had to leave the room and go into the parking lot because I couldn’t keep the tears from streaming down my face (I’m sure the other parents thought the new mom was nuts). All I could think is how it was my fault that my son was having this issue. He was home with me up until he started nursery school, so of course anything social would be my fault. I have failed him as his mother. If I only did more play dates or more mommy and me classes, we wouldn’t be here. Guilty, guilty, guilty…

When the class was over, the teacher pulled me aside. She told me that Johnny was not what she was expecting. He surprised her with how mature he was for his age, my “mini-adult”. She told me that he was extremely polite and “a doll” of a little boy… that conversation made the shame of the mom guilt a little easier. The tears retreated back and I felt more at ease… I guess maybe I’m doing something right? I may not be the best mom in the world, but I’m the only one he’s got, and I live and breathe for my boys. If there’s one thing I’m trying to do this year, it’s be more positive. I know that I am a good mother, I may yell and lose my shit sometimes, and my kids may consider donuts a food group, but hearing a compliment about my son from a total stranger has to count for something.

So for all my moms, (and dads), first-timers and old-pros… parenting is hard no matter which way you slice it. There will be times when you feel like a “bad” parent because you yelled over something small, and you will have those days when you need a good cry in the shower to let the frustrations out. Just try not to be too hard on yourself, it does get better…

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