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I Never Knew How Much My Kids’ Struggles Would Collapse My Heart

Making the decision to have a child — it’s momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body.” — Ellen Cantarow.

This quote is like a punch in the gut on days like today, when I feel its overwhelming and absolute truth so keenly it almost makes me sick.

This morning, I put my heart on the school bus, crying, sending it off with my son who suffers from anxiety and was having a rough start to the day. He had begged me not to make him go to school … again.

I felt each tear that fell from his soulful brown eyes in my own soul, every drop like a knife slash.

I wanted nothing more than to brush off all obligations, both his and mine, and just snuggle him until he was soothed. But that isn’t a feasible option, and I can’t let him take a mental health day every time he struggles in the morning. Because I’m a mom, and it’s what we do, I masked my own anguish and gave him hugs and cheerful encouragement: he would see his friends, he would have gym class today (his favorite), he would be able to take a collapse from class and speak to the counselor if he needed to.

“Your day will get better, I promise,” I whispered, my voice convincingly steady and reassuring. I shuttled him out the door and onto the waiting bus as he wiped tears away with the back of his hand. As the bus pulled away, I took off the mask and let my own floodgates open.

I wasn’t crying because my son’s problems ruined my morning. I was crying because my son was having problems. Because this is one of the things nobody prepares you for when you become a parent: whatever happens to your child, you feel. Deeply.

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