missing pieces

 Joey has been gone for 13 years, and there are already details about him and his life and death that I cannot remember. 

I couldn't remember what we buried him in. Not a suit. A green shirt? Khaki pants? Hubby says sweatpants and no shoes due his bloated body. Remember, no one would see the bottom half of him anyway. 

For his recent crapiversary, I couldn't remember what his favorite desert was. I wanted to serve his favorite and I couldn't think of what it was. I knew that he had a strawberry milkshake the day before he died. In fact, I distinctly remember holding him and seeing a crusted line of milkshake down the front of his shirt. 

But I can't remember what that shirt looked like. The shirt he died in. Because I've never seen it again.

My mom reminded me that Joey loved orange sherbet ice cream -oh yes - and Hubby reminded me that he loved deserts in general. 

Maybe that's why I couldn't pick just one. 

I do remember how he loved fruit - especially peaches and pineapples - and how his Papa used to call him "Pineapple Joey."

I feel like my memory of Joey and his short life is like this garden rock he once made:

It's full of missing pieces where memories should be. Gone are the shiny gems that once punctuated his brief life. Lost in a sea that perpetually drifts by. A life that infinitely continues without him. 

Sometimes I'm struck by the fact that I haven't thought of him lately. I haven't thought about him enough. Aren't I still supposed to be thinking of him all time? 

Or am I supposed to "be over it" by now? 

That's what some people think. It's been over a decade! Get over it!

How can you ever be over someone you once carried inside you, nursed at your breast, held in your arms, giggled with, hoped for, dreamt about, made memories with?

Even if you can't remember some of those memories. 

When I tell myself that I haven't been thinking about him enough, I realize that I don't have to be actively thinking about him and concentrating on memories to be thinking of him. 

I do, in fact, think about him every day. 

But thinking about him has become like breathing - I hardly notice that I'm doing it. At this point, it is an involuntary reflex. 

Passing his photo hanging on the wall. Breathe in . . .

Seeing an interesting rock on the ground. Breathe out . . .

Noticing the time on the clock is 4:44. Breathe in . . .

Something mischievous and unexplained happens. Catch my breath, laugh, breathe out . . .

Some of those missing pieces are lost, gone forever to my peri-menopausal mind. But so are some memories of his brothers when they were little and of our family during the crazy, chaotic times. 

Found only when written about and reread, documented on Facebook, or snapped in a picture that shows up in memories "On this Day."

It's okay that I don't remember every little detail about his life. I remember the important things. 

Like how his laugh sounded and his eyes squinted when he smiled. 

How he loved his brothers fiercely and always wanted to be included with and include them. 

His tight hugs that made you never want to let go. 

How he would stick his tongue out to the side if he was really concentrating on something - an art project, a block tower, a Christmas list. 

And so many other details I hold in my heart. 

I keep them there so they can be like air to me. Breathing them in and out to sustain me. 


Go Ahead and Be "That" Mom

 Anyone who knows me knows that I hate conflict. Like I get sweaty, heart palpitations, a sick tummy, tears in my eyes, totally stressed at having to argue my point or stand up for myself at all.

I would rather avoid conflict than plow through any uncomfortable discussion. 

But, unfortunately, as an adult - and especially as a parent - there are situations in which I simply have to bite the bullet and woman up, so to speak, and do just that - speak up and speak my mind because I know that I am right and it's the right thing to do. 

stock images

I still don't always know the right way to go about it though. 

I tend to wear my emotions on my sleeve. So, when I am already upset about a certain situation and stressed about having to confront it, an unfortunate combination sometimes occurs. 

I remember once when I thought one of my son's teachers was ignoring a project he worked really hard on. I thought she was dismissing him because of his autism. After crying to one of my friends, I sent a scathing email. The result was that I didn't get the apology I was expecting, I offended the teacher, possibly put a target on my kid's back, and branded myself, for a short time at least, as one of "those" moms. 

You know the type. They run straight to the teacher or principal or coach and complain about everything when something does not go their child's way. You can call her a helicopter mom, a lawnmower mom, a tiger mom, a smother mother, a Karen or whatever the current term is. There is a negative stigma attached to her type of parenting, and other moms and teachers alike talk about her. 

Honestly, it stems from the negative stereotype of being seen as a strong, outspoken woman, one which we women have been fighting for centuries. 

No one really wants to be "that" mom. I cannot believe that any mother says to herself, "I'm going to bitch and complain until I can get my child exactly what I want for him and what I know my child deserves."


Or maybe this is the only way they know how to parent. I know we sometimes like to live vicariously through our children, but we are not doing them any favors by scripting their personal narrative all the time. 

But, what about some of the time? Is there ever a time to be "that" mom? 


When our children are young, it is our job to be their first advocate and their first teacher. We know them best, and when they have a hard time speaking up for themselves, we can model for them how to do just that. 

When our children have challenges that make advocating for themselves more difficult, we should be there to support them.

And when it's time, and if it's possible, we should slowly back off and let them begin to advocate for themselves. 

Until it gets hard again, and they need their mama. Because ultimately, mama-bearing is in our nature, and it comes easily when needed. 

So, I am here to tell you that sometimes it's okay to be 'that" mom. 

When you need to speak up for a child who cannot speak up for himself. 

When you need to hear the other side of the story or learn more about a situation. 

When you have information about how your child learns best or what strategies are the most effective to try when he's struggling. 

When your child is being overlooked because he's uncomplicated, or quiet, or well-behaved. 

When your child's emotional, mental, or physical health could be at risk. 

When your child is truly trying his hardest and feels like he keeps hitting a brick wall.

Go ahead and be "that" mom. That's your job. 

I'm here to tell you that it's hard - if not darn-near impossible - to keep emotions out of it. Our children are our beating hearts walking outside of our bodies. 

It's painful to see them struggle and gut-wrenching to watch them fail; but that's our job, too. To make sure they learn resilience and tenacity, faith and fortitude, courage and commitment that they can carry through life when we are not there.  

They don't come out of the womb this way. They need a guide and a teacher. 

They need us. 

So yes mamas, sometimes it's okay to be "that" mom. Do not fear that label. If you are loving and teaching and advocating for your child when he needs help and letting him figure the world out on his own when he doesn't, and you know the difference between the two, you're really not being "that" mom. 

You are being "THE" mom that he needs. 💕

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