I lay on the grassy hill, my legs bent up behind me, my chin resting on my hands. The voice of my friend on the phone is so young. Much younger than her years. We are chatting about current events that trigger young places in her lovely yet trauma-filled life. I’m listening carefully. I want to hear the subtlety. The slight change of tone or tenor of her voice. I can’t see her face, so her voice, her pace of speaking, and her audible breathing are my only data.
It feels kind of holy, this place I have stumbled in to with my friend. And I say stumbled because I can see the ways I have missed her in the conversation but somehow the misses haven’t overrun the clarity. And there is something about being trusted with young spaces that makes me feel like I am in the hospital, being privileged to hold a loved ones’ newborn baby. So much innocence and frailty and potential wrapped up in soft skin and downy hair.
As I hang out with my friend in long ago yet present events, I also notice my own heart. I see how as I call her to give her younger self all the time and permission and care that is needed, that my soul is standing up, waiting to see if I will notice.
My son is graduating in a week. I am so proud of him. High school is a tricky time in life. He is finishing in a way I couldn’t have imagined as a young mom. I love who this kid has become.
And it brings up a lot of loss and grief in me. Not current loss. Old loss. Loss of community. I think about people I wish I could invite to the graduation party. The complexity of relationship and old hurts not tended keep me from doing so.
And grief. The grief of raising 4 kids with ADHD while having it myself and NOT KNOWING. Every day was hard. I looked around at the lives of others and they seemed to fare so much easier. Of course, everyone struggles. But because as a young mom, I didn’t know what we were dealing with, it was just the heavy space where I felt like a failure every day and at the same time did not know how to try harder.
Of course, there were beautiful days and moments and it wasn’t all like getting straight pins shoved in your arm. But those moments are not the ones that need tending or care.
The young part of me that is standing up to be seen and cared for is 35 years old. It’s not that long ago and it is. That younger mom has 4 kids. 10, 8, 5 and a baby. I was so overwhelmed. I was not giving my oldest (who is this year’s graduate) the support he needed. We were 3 years from finding out about his ADHD. Middle school was not a pleasant experience. I felt powerless to help. I felt powerless in many ways. I ran about my days trying to contain chaos, kissing skinned knees, breastfeeding, helping with homework, cleaning, cooking and trying to be a loving partner. That doesn’t sound hard. But it was hard. Every day. I love my kids. I wouldn’t change them for anything. Like all those we love most, they can trigger me like a Coke left in the freezer. Slow freeze then large explosion. Especially before the ADHD was understood (in them and me). We were a hot mess. We still can be. But much less often.
I am choosing to remember myself at 35. And to be curious about what is stored in my body from those years. I am not sitting in a retreat center doing yoga all day and getting massages to do this. But I am mindful of that powerless mama place while I fold laundry, work on the computer, drive my kids to school, and talk to friends. This sounds funny, but I am speaking out loud to that 35-year-old mama. I am telling her she would be so proud of this graduating young man that she worried about. I am letting her know that help has come along the way.
I am telling her I am deeply sorry for not knowing how to help her then and how sad it is that no one else did either.
I’m sitting in the sad as long as I can. Sometimes it’s only for 30 seconds. But that is more company than she has had, so it is a start.
I might not have noticed this place in me if it wasn’t for the vulnerability of my friend to be in her own young years and let me be with her there. As I offered care, I think the younger part of me recognized I might be safe enough to ask for help.
And this time, I responded.
I hope I learn to respond more. Because all parts of me deserve to join this party that is life. May we hold out our hands toward young spaces so they can be welcomed home.
Jill Dyer reigns as queen among her family, scribbles truth, and loves red wine. She hopes to sling healing words wherever her flip flops, trail runners, or pen should fall. Along with one of her dearest friends, she recently founded Darling Mom: A Place to Discover Where You are Still Growing Up. Find out more at www.darlingmom.com, @thisisdarlingmom on Instagram or our Darling Mom on Facebook. You can also find her writer’s page at www.jillinked.com.