True Confessions, True Friends
By Naomi Cramer Overton
I watched my blonde daughter toddle into her daddy’s arms. I had just returned home, and every cell in my body ached to hold her, especially the ones dedicated to the “family dairy.”
“Hey baby,” I said, as I held out my arms to snuggle Delaney. But she wriggled away to Daddy again. As my heart tore just a shred, my son, Tyler, softened the “ouch,” bounding toward me. “Mommy!” he said, as he hugged my leg.
As the night wore on, I noticed how Tyler seemed so much more, well, like me. He rode his bike around the indoor track of our already-scratched-so-who-cares linoleum, stopping to check in as I cooked dinner. He even looked like me – brown eyes, wavy brown hair, olive skin. But blue eyed Delaney? She kept inching away from where I could see her – causing me to leave the stove and turn down the burner more than once, to keep her away from the door to the downstairs. In spite of its safety lock, she – the determined climber – had once scaled the door and flipped over the shuttered opening, tumbling down the stairs. I felt not just sad, but increasingly edgy, as the evening wore on.
After I got Tyler to sleep – sweetly reminding him as I often did that his initials T.J. stand for “Terrific Joy,” (OK, it’s Tyler Jason) – I returned to Delaney, expecting she’d be snoozing. But no! Feet up in the air, talking and singing loudly, she had gotten up and turned on the dreaded light. Aaarggh! I thought. I guess to my credit, I calmly tucked her back in, trying to be boring like the parenting books say to be when your child is up during the night, and dimmed the light.
And then I collapsed – exhausted, frustrated – and called a friend. “I just don’t get her,” I said. “It seems Delaney wants other things, other people. Why can one child be so hard and the other one so easy?” I felt exposed, admitting what seemed like a parenting failure. “This is really hard.”
My friend, reassuringly said, “I know, it’s hard.” She could have said something a lot different like, “What do you mean?” She could have, but she didn’t.
And having found she heard me, I felt safer. Safe enough to ask her the really hard question: “Have you ever felt that you liked one of your kids more than another?” Wow, had I really said that? I felt embarrassed.
“Oh my gosh,” she said. “Yes! You remember when our Tyler …” and she continued to tell me about when she and her son went through the wringer. And how one day she’d said, “I love you, but I don’t like you right now.” Her Tyler replied, “Wait a minute! You can’t say that! You’re my mom … you have to like me.” “Well, at the moment, I don’t,” my friend replied. “But I still love you.”
Now, as I lay on the plaid couch outside the kids’ bedrooms, my friend assured me “Some day, at some stage, Delaney may be your easy one, not Tyler.”
“Oh, I can’t imagine that,” I said. And, I couldn’t then. But I could eventually. And I did. It’s called middle school.
Some of my first months with Delaney were hard – not understanding someone who seemed so different than me. I “get” her now, and even think in some ways she’s the most like me of our three kids. But that’s not the point. The point is that I learned something through that risky-feeling phone call: When I told someone else how I struggled, I found there was no pit so deep that a trusted friend couldn’t meet me there. And show me a way out.
“A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.” (Proverbs 17:17)
Naomi Cramer Overton is the president of MOPS International.