By Emily Nelms
Dear Future Therapist to my Son(s):
My name is Emily Nelms, and I am (insert either or worst case scenario, both children’s names here) mother. I understand that my son(s) has requested your therapeutic services, and feel it’s important that we get to know each other. Truthfully, I don’t expect our paths to cross for at least another 15 years. After all, my children are only eight and five years old, which means I have years of mistakes ahead before I screw them up badly enough to need your aid. So why take the time to write this letter now, long before its expected delivery? Well, as a mother with an additional full-time job outside the home, I am sure you can appreciate the need to scratch this inevitable task off of my “to do” list.
First, I want to thank you for counseling my child(ren) on what I am sure is a multitude of issues easily blamed on me. For what it’s worth Doctor, I readily admit that I was far from perfect. I wish I had been the type of mother who had it all together. The type that never let her children go to bed without brushing their teeth, took the time to create chore charts or remembered to hide the vegetables in the brownie mix. But sadly, that was not who I was. Instead, I was the mom who had a tidal wave of Sippy Cups fall to the ground every time she opened her car door. There was a lingering aroma of grape jelly that followed me, and I was surrounded, inexplicably, by the constant presence of cheese puff powder. So obviously, there was some room for improvement.
You see Doctor, despite having a supportive husband and years to plan, I just wasn’t prepared for how difficult this would be. What can I say? Exhaustion took over. Maybe it was all the time spent watching the same Disney movie over and over until I could recite every line. Or maybe it was the constant cleaning up of poop (and not necessarily in diapers). Whatever it was, motherhood took its toll. Do you have any idea how agonizing work heels are after having your feet impaled with the Legos scattered across previously scratch-free hardwood floors? Those unnaturally tiny torture devices are particularly painful when they take their aim in the middle of the night as you navigate your way through a dark house to comfort a crying child. And to be clear, all of this excitement was typical of a single evening.
Often, the evening before an important meeting at work was planned, or a big presentation was due, cementing my struggle to maintain the proper energy levels to get through either the next day. Although, if I’m honest, the searing foot pain did help to counteract the lack of sleep, creating an illusion of alertness in front of my coworkers. But my perpetual tiredness ultimately hit levels that not even my addiction to Red Bull could overcome. My work and home life became completely intertwined, with no relief from either. There was just too much to do, and there was not enough time to do any of it very well. My business suits always bore the stains of the goodbye morning hug ritual that I shared with my children before rushing out the door. I’m not entirely sure what caused these stains, but I choose to believe that it was remnants of soap left behind from when my kids washed their hands. It’s important to hold on to positive thoughts such as these. It was not an uncommon occurrence to reach for my Blackberry in a meeting, and pull out my kids Leapfrog instead. And then there was the time inclement weather caused the roads and schools to close, forcing the week long physical coexistence of my work and home lives, a disaster in the making. My fears were realized around midweek when my youngest son picked up the other end of a work dedicated phone line that I mistakenly thought I had put on mute. He loudly introduced himself to a meeting full of senior level executives, being sure to use both his first and last names so that no one could mistake whose child had hijacked the call. He was able to get his age out too before I ripped the phone cord out of the wall and rejoined the meeting via my cell phone.
So you see Doctor, there are two sides to every story. I mean, can you really blame me if, on occasion, I took the easier path in rearing my children? There were times when all I could do was plead with my boys, tearing up behind my already red-lined eyes to just sit quietly and watch TV, when I probably should have been reading to them instead. And yes, there was probably a time or two that I sent them to school with a dose of Tylenol to mask a low-grade fever. Although, even I must concede that the peanut butter cracker and popcorn was a poor dinner choice, even with the supplemental Flintstone vitamins. But how can I convince you how necessary it all was? I needed one, just one moment of calm and silence. Just a few seconds where someone wasn’t asking me to do something, fix something, or be somewhere. One glorious, beautiful minute of serenity before the next chaotic wave of life crashed down around me.
Now, I realize how all of this must sound to you. It’s not difficult for me to picture the disapproving look on your face as you read these words. How can it be, you wonder, that an educated, gainfully employed adult allowed her life to become so disordered? How could she lose control of her well-being, and at times her sanity just because there was a lot to do? Why wasn’t she more prepared? And I don’t know what to say except, I tried. Truly I did, and I hope I haven’t messed them up too badly. But, of course, you’ll be the judge of that.
All that said Doctor, I am sure you will agree that I should be allowed to present a defense for my actions or inactions surrounding any childhood grievances my son(s) may choose to bemoan. And it is to that end that I expect that this is only the first of many letters I will need to write through the coming years to ensure you have all the relevant facts. All I ask is that you keep an open mind. And if it’s not too much trouble, could you remind my child(ren) how much I love him/them and that I never stopped trying to be a better parent. Oh, and please discourage any ideas to write a tell-all book.
Emily Nelms lives with her husband and two sons in Mooresville, NC. The stress of her career in the Financial Services industry contributes to her insomnia, which allows her the time to write. Follow her on Twitter @esnelms.
Photo by Scott Boruchov