I see you peel your child off your leg at the classroom door, attempting to maintain your composure while quietly pleading through a forced smile, to pleeeaase keep it together and join the calm, well-adjusted peers who’ve all skipped happily into class without looking back.
I see you at the grocery store, trying to keep your kiddo from knocking over the gorgeous tower of apples while haphazardly jumping up to reach the perfect banana that, “Mommy, you just haaaavve to buy!”
I see you delay responses and change the subject when your child asks a question that requires you to give a disappointing answer in front of people – anything to distract and avoid a public meltdown, again.
I see you at playdates. Other moms catch up on life, swapping recipes and favorite book titles, discussing adult topics you’re starving for with an ache that will never be satiated, but instead of joining in, you stay within arm’s length of your child – who needs you every second, for one thing, or another.
I see you hide your tears as kid after kid tells your baby to “Go away!” as soon as he asks to play because he requires extra patience, and at four years old that’s asking too much of his peers. You know this because most days it’s asking too much of you, and you’re a long way from preschool. Still, it’s a fresh wound every time you watch your own flesh and blood wear someone thin, and then out, with all the too much of everything that he is.
I see you at the “family-friendly” gatherings where adults sip cocktails and make easy conversation, unconcerned about the dangers of the second-story balcony, or the breaking of family heirlooms on shelves – because their kids are able to stay safe and intact for hours at a time without an adult eye on them. But yours is not.
You live in constant fear that your child is about to fall from something very high, or have an emotional outburst that rivals Veruca Salt, which is why there’s no room left in your brain for much-needed adult conversation, and also why you decline invitations that involve taking your cherub to anyone else’s house.
I see you sitting in the car with your child buckled in their car seat instead of walking onto campus to collect your older one at pick-up. He doesn’t like you to talk to anyone, so just considering the emotional landmines you might hit if anyone dares say, “Hello,” is exhausting. Also, five minutes being still in one spot is a special kind of Heaven you can’t explain to anyone who’s kid plays independently, or lets them shower, or pee, or walk into another room – alone. (You’ve heard these kids exist, but to you, they are the stuff of legends, like unicorns and Sasquatch.)
Your days are full of curveballs, injuries, and BIG feelings. Everyday tasks require elaborate advanced planning, a bag full of carefully chosen snacks, and multiple must-have items thrown in the trunk of the car, just in case.
I see you because I’d recognize you anywhere. We are kindred spirits who, when we pass at the park, share a knowing, weary look. I see you because I’m just like you.
We’re the moms apologizing to other parents after our kids barrel theirs over – physically or emotionally. We’re the ones holding our crying Littles because the social structure of the local playground is just too much for them. We sit on the sidelines while other kids play free of conflict, anxiety, or adult supervision, building sandcastles and racing down slides while our kids burrow into us, unable to make a move without our hand in theirs.
When you’re raising a child who feels everything at a 10, emotions fill up their heart, and yours, with palpable intensity.
Intense kids come with incessant curiosity, a desire to engage with the world around them, and an inherent need to touch absolutely everything and everyone. It’s wearing. But their passion for living in the moment is contagious – always finding the remarkable in the ordinary.
They notice the exact day the first bud opened on the camellia in the backyard, or that the black ear of the dog is softer than the white one, or how a thousand drops of water on the window drip into each other, making pictures on the glass, if you run your fingers through them on a rain-filled morning. With intensity that is unmatched, we know how it feels to have a small, adoring human press their nose into ours, hold our cheeks in tiny, perfect hands, look us in the eye and say, “I love you, Mommy, you’re the best-est mommy in the whole universe,” with a pure form of devotion that is harder to find than Sasquatch or unicorns.
To the mom of the kid who wears their feelings on the outside: I’m raising an extra-large, fully caffeinated cup of coffee in a virtual “Cheers!” to you. While we’re unlikely to meet at one of those well-planned mommy groups or exercise classes we never attend, and for sure not a social gathering, I see you – and if we could ever be distraction-free long enough to hold a conversation – I bet we would be friends.