My son, Mark, has a multitude of special needs, but today he acted much like most typically-developing children do from time to time. He lashed out at me, yelling and screaming that I didn’t love him and that I, in fact, even hated him. There was sobbing, hyperventilating and arms crossed indignantly. And all this happened before 8am, right before he was to leave for school.
I knew why he was mad. I also know he wasn’t really mad at me. I just happened to be the safest person to lash out at. (And that’s kind of a compliment really.) He’s been spending quite a bit of time in time-out lately. He’s struggling to understand new things at school. Even at 8 years old, it’s still a struggle for him to speak. To put it bluntly, everything is a struggle for him and that’s left him understandably weary, wondering if he was good at anything.
I thought I had adequately explained to him how very wrong he was before we left the house, but apparently it wasn’t enough. As soon as we got to the bus stop, the spitting, the screaming, the loud and emphatic “You no love me’s” started up all over again. Only this time, we had a not-so-small peanut gallery of other parents and children watching.
I quickly took him aside, creating as much privacy for us as I could. I got down on his level, grabbed his chin and made sure I had his eyes before I started.
“Look, Mark, it’s hard. Everything’s hard. I get it,” I began softly. “And it’s okay for you to be sad and even mad. You can lash out, yell at and even hate me, but I’m always going to love you.”
With that, the tears and huffing and puffing stopped. And, as if on cue, I saw the bus turn the corner.
“Now, can you go to school and do your best because there’s a lot you can do!” Mark nodded.
After a quick but much needed hug, Mark boarded the bus, buckled himself in and made an “I love you” sign with his tiny hand. I returned the same and waved as the bus drove away. Then I stood there for a few minutes, giving myself some of the same extra “think time” that I often give Mark.
There, in the cold, crisp morning air at the now empty bus stop, I realized something very important: Purpose is important. We all need to have a reason to keep trying, keep reaching, something to strive for. I think my little Mark was feeling a little purpose-less and that’s an awful way for anyone to feel. Sometimes our most important job as moms is to simply remind our kids that—no matter how hard things get, no matter how hard they struggle—they are always beautifully unique, built and created by God for a purpose. And sometimes our purpose as moms who love them is simply to be a safe place for them to fall.