I looked at my watch. 10:23pm. My daughter was calling out hauntingly from her bedroom.
“Mommy, please come here. I need to talk to you."
"What are you still doing up?"
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"You know how I used to love school and get straight A’s? Well, I don’t like it anymore and I feel like I’m failing in several subjects. What’s happening to me?” she sobbed, eyebrows furrowed from exasperation.
Her stress was palpable. It reflected in her swollen, tearful eyes and quivering voice. Overcome by anxiety, this poor kid was unable to sleep.
And I had no idea how much this child, one that lives under my own roof and with whom I interact daily, was actually crying out for help. Until now. Her fear and aversion to school stemmed from feeling overwhelmed and alone, in her demanding high-achieving 5th grade classroom.
I felt like crap.
How could a parent who claims to be so devoted and in-tune with her children have blatantly neglected to recognize the signs? For months she had been protesting about being stuck with the wrong edition of the science text and complaining not to understand certain social studies lessons. How could I have not intervened sooner or advocated on her behalf to help her avoid falling behind? Where was I?
My former honors student was indeed losing a grip on her scholastic life. And I had been so caught up in my quest to conquer my own personal, non-mothering endeavors that I hadn’t even noticed. And granted there’s been a lot going on. Major life changes on the horizon. Exciting stuff. Big stuff. And lots of it.
But that’s no excuse. Aren’t the tectonic plates always shifting? And shouldn’t we strive to keep life's basics consistent and stable despite the impending climactic change? Isn't that what children need and what ultimately keeps them focused and healthy and resilient?
Shame on me.
I’ve seen it before in other people---never in myself. How folks sleepwalk through days, months and even years of life, disengaged from the reality that surrounds them. Their heads stuck in a cloud, in another world. And as a result of inadequate nurturing, their worlds begin to spiral out of control, mirroring that very neglect, as marriages, relationships and careers come apart at the seams.
So after bawling my eyes out, I decided to reevaluate my priorities.
Time to slow down. Time to spend less time cleaning the stupid house. Time to downshift my normally intense approach to tackling my to-do list----a list fraught with career objectives, summer goals, moving plans and every other thing I want to accomplish before I die. Time to demote such matters to an inferior status of importance.
Because, at this very moment, my eldest daughter, the one I typically enlist to assist me with the younger ones and all their corresponding needs, needs me desperately.
I cannot let her down.
Time to wake up this absentee mother. And pay attention to what matters most.
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