this time, because he refused to poop in the potty and did it in his pull-up and you are sobbing while changing him—he will say, Stop crying, Mama, I’m right here. And you have never heard him say this, nor have you ever said those words to him in English. And his tenderness just makes you cry harder. And you can’t see where to wipe through your tears, as he reaches out to you with sticky hands, saying, Stop crying, no crying Mama, I’m here.
And you cry because he is here. You cry because you chose to keep him home from school today and maybe he was better off there. You cry because you feel guilty for not being enough. Always not enough, when you are with him, you feel like you are not enough and when you are without him, you feel like you are even less. You cry harder because you feel guilty for crying.
You cry because anything he does—that is “bad” or “wrong” or just not what you “wanted” or “needed” him to do—is your fault. Anytime he hurts someone else or himself or even you, you feel you are to blame. You say it, think it, write it, repeated it, it’s all my fault it’s all my fault it’s all my fault.
And you are crying harder still as you write this, while upstairs, he is singing the incomprehensible opening to Lion King’s “The Circle of Life” and kicking the sides of his bed as hard as you are crying. And again, you blame yourself, for letting him have too much sugar or for stopping for the coffee that maybe kept him up too long to go back down. You cry and blame yourself for everything, except the times when he is “good” or “right” or “listening” or just doing what you “wanted” or “needed” him to do. You forget to give yourself credit for those moments and instead praise him, as though the “good” behavior comes solely from him while the “bad” from you. As though you are only responsible for the times that make you cry and not the ones that make you smile and laugh and glow at the sight of the son you are raising.
And just hours earlier, when wound on that same sugar and sunlight, he grabbed a book and calmly sat on a lounge chair to read, you took no credit for this and placed no blame on anyone. You just watched him turn the pages and stare intently at pictures of baby animals. You listened as he repeated their names, the way a baby lion is called a cub and baby giraffe a calf and baby seal a pup and baby monkey a baby and your two-and-a-half year-old, a baby too, always your baby.
So say it, write it, repeated it: Stop crying, Mama. You are enough you are enough you are enough you are everything. I’m right here.