“Alright, Mandy. You’re up next on the ‘Dr. Patty Show’. How can I help you today?”
“Oh, Dr. Patty? I’m so nervous; I’m just not even sure where to start. I love your show and listen it to it every day.”
“Thank you. That’s very kind. What’s your question for me today?”
“Well, I’ve never called a show like this before, so I….” A pause. “Um. I think there might be something wrong with my little boy.” The voice began to quiver. “Or maybe something’s wrong with me.” A sob broke through.
“Start at the beginning, dear. How old is your son?”
“He’ll be three in about a month. But I’m not sure—“
“Let’s take it one question at a time. Three-year-olds are notorious for trying even Job’s patience. It’s in the manual. Trust me, I went through it five times myself and have the scars to prove it. Now what do you think is extraordinary about your situation?”
“He’s really a bright boy. And I’m not just saying that because I’m his mom. I’ve had lots of other people tell me the same thing. And he’s such a beautiful boy. I’ve had people say that too—“
“I’m sure he is, Mandy, but we won’t get anywhere unless you tell me what’s really bothering you.”
The caller took a deep breath and with one exhale blurted out, “I only love my little boy when he’s being good.”
“Why do you think that is?”
“Because I’m a bad mom.”
“How old are you, Mandy?”
“Is your mom around to help you? Do you have a good relationship with her?”
“My mom? Sure, my mom’s great. She always loved me, even when I told her I was pregnant with Ian. Everybody else wanted me to get rid of him, but I just couldn’t. He was part of me and I just couldn’t, you know? But my mom hugged me a lot and kept saying, ‘We can do this, sugar. We’ll make it.’ Why can’t I be that kind of mom? I love Ian so much when he’s happy and laughing with me and looking adorable in his little outfits, and I love telling people that ‘Yep, he’s mine,’ but sometimes he makes a mess, or starts to cry or have a tantrum, and I feel like I can’t take it anymore. I could never hate him and I’ve never felt like hurting him, but I don’t always love him, you know?” Mandy’s voice became a whisper. “Am I the worst mother who’s ever called you?”
Dr. Patty couldn’t help but grin. “No, dear, you’re not. You are an overwhelmed, teenage mother. Sounds like you’ve had great guidance, through all the choices you’ve made—good and bad. But in your childish, teenage-ness you assumed that because you had a fantastic mother, then you’d be a fantastic mother. The part you forgot was that your mom has had years of experience to gain her wisdom. The difficult moments, like the day you told her you were pregnant, are the ones that forge the strength of good parents. Go ahead and ask your mom. I’ll bet that night she held you and loved you was just as scary for her as it was for you. She may not have even liked you that much right then. But she loved you anyway.
“So my advice to you is this: hold your little one tightly tonight before bed and tell him you love him. Say it as many times as it takes for you to begin to feel it. Then pray that God will give you patience and strength for the task at hand. Next time you feel like you don’t like him very much, ask your mother to take him for awhile. Never feel guilty for needing a break to regroup. Especially if you think you might hurt him. I can’t stress that enough. But remind yourself that these days won’t last forever and someday you’ll miss the peanut butter fingerprints on the dog and the dried-up bananas left in your shoes. And you’ll be a better person because you went through the fire, rather than around it.”
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