Recently, I discovered singer/song writer Nicole Nordeman. I may be the last mother on the planet to know about her song Slow Down. In case you have been under the same rock as I have, the video is down at the bottom of this post. Don’t watch it unless you are in a place where you can do the ugly cry.
I heard this song for the first time a few weeks ago. I had just dropped my middle schooler off and it was a rough morning. Not the worst we’ve ever had but not the best either. We have been struggling this year. I won’t go into specifics but just know it is school related. Sixth grade was a challenge but we went in knowing it would be an adjustment year. I had hoped that by seventh grade things would start to smooth out and he would begin to get the swing of things. Begin to learn what teachers expect and how to stay on top of it.
That hasn’t happened.
This past nine weeks of school my emotions and reactions have swung between white-hot rage to extreme sadness to apathy and resignation and then back to manic rage. All of these conflicting emotions make me not a very fun parent or person to be around.
Two nights ago I sat on his bed in the dark, after a long battle and discussion of what needs to happen to get back on track, and tried to make sense of how intense my feelings are. I realized that I feel like I’m watching him drown in two feet of water. All he has to do is sit up and take a breath but he won’t and I’m not allowed to reach down and pull him up. All I can do is watch and offer suggestions.
Back to the morning drop off and Nicole Nordeman. As I was driving home I decide to pull her up on Spotify because Jen Hatmaker had interviewed her on her podcast and if it’s good enough for Jen, it’s good enough for me. I listened to Slow Down and started to cry so hard I almost couldn’t see to make it into my neighborhood. I sat in my garage and sobbed. I cried not just because it is a sweet song, it is, but because it hit me right in the gut. I knew I was in a place with my middle school child that I was not ready to be. I not only want it all to slow down but I want it to freeze and fast forward all at the same time.
I realized that I’m deeply grieving the loss of the little boy. Growing up and away is inevitable, I know, but I’m watching him slip away from my fingers, turn his back and find his own path. Right now that path is so rocky and filled with twists and turns. I want to help him, hold his hand, show him the way but leading him won’t do him any good. He has to do part of it on his own so that when he really his out of my grasp he will be able to firmly stand on his own two feet.
I want it to freeze because I know in my gut that this is only going to get harder. I’m not ready for the challenge. I’m so worn out and I don’t know if I’m ready for the years ahead. I just want to hold him right here while I still have a boy. His hugs are reluctant but they are still hugs.
I want it to fast forward because I want to get past the hard part. I know in my gut that his current struggles are not due to apathy or bad attitude. They are a part of who he is and he has to find a way to live with them. He has to learn how to work through the challenges even though it would be easier to give up. I want to fast forward and get past that struggle. I want the tools to be in place without the pain of learning to use them. The knowledge that I can’t do it for him or protect him from the harshness of the world and challenges of school is heartbreaking.
Add all of that up and throw a seven year old into the mix that could not be more loving and I am wrecked.
Because I could easily drown in my angst for a child that can’t seem to figure it out I have come up with a new mantra.
It could always be worse.
I started to think about the challenges we are facing in school and know that it could be so much worse. In the grand scheme of things, there is always something to be thankful for. When I want to scream in frustration, I remind myself that it could be worse. I’m good at imagining the worst of situations and that dark little talent has finally come in handy. Those worst case scenarios are not happening and reality is so much better.
I don’t know what lies around the bend. I don’t know what scars we will have when we make it out of middle school. I don’t know what his future looks like or hold and I can’t slow down or freeze or fast forward these teen years. But whatever is keeping me up at night…it could always be worse and I thank God for what I have right here, right now.