You know what feels harder than parenting?
You become the invisible parent. The one who is largely unrecognized until something goes wrong. The meds are missing. An appointment needed tending. Here’s another medical bill you knew nothing about.
Becoming a bonus mom is one of the most fulfilling things I have ever experienced. Having my son choose to let me be a part of his heart and family was a unique and special “birthing” of sorts. It feels somewhat profound to have them choose you, you know? To have them carve out a space that you fit in when they already have all they need in the mother God gave them.
It’s rewarding; it’s full of joy; and, my gosh— the light of my son has literally carried me through the darkest moments of my life. But, y’all. This is HARD. With that capital H.
I am lucky; I have been a part of my son’s life since he was about 6 months old. We’ve grown up together, love each other easily, and have yet to have a truly tumultuous relationship (other than my nagging to clean up after himself. Preteens are gross, guys. They’re just gross. There’s always socks laying around that look like they could walk themselves and the snack trash. My God, I’ll never lose him; just follow the trail of food the rest of the family was supposed to consume in a week’s time. I digress, I digress...) But I have sensed a shift the last year or so. It’s not bad. It’s just different, and I guess I don’t know exactly what to do with it. He is getting older and more aware that he has a mother and a father, and I seem to now hang in the mix.
Or, so I thought.
About a month ago, my son asked me as I was washing the post dinner dishes (because apparently Alexa still can’t do that), “Hey Britt? When you’re done...could we...maybe go talk?” Honestly, my gut wrenched. What did he want to talk about? Was everything okay? Had something happened? I kept my reply to a simple, “Of course, Bub! Let me just finish these and we can go find a place to sit together.”
I’ve never washed dishes so efficiently. I found my way to him and suggested we excuse ourselves to the living room where we could avoid his toddling (and volume insensitive) sister who was shrieking with glee at a Baby Shark toy that I swear was programmed at decibels for the hearing impaired—no disrespect. Just, BLESS! Sit down, Baby Shark—Mama is not caffeinated or wined enough for you. Again, I digress.
We excused ourselves to a quiet space and I could tell I needed to start the conversation. I started with, “What’s on your mind, bud?” And y’all...he poured his sweet, sensitive, caring heart out to me. He laid it all out on the table.
He recently experienced the passing of a grandparent on his mother’s side. This hit his little heart hard and triggered some reflection. He expressed a desire to spend even more time with grandparents on our side. He also had a lot of questions: “Are they taking care of themselves?” he asked. “How old are they? Are they being healthy? What about Gramma?” He worries about a grandmother who smokes and speaks of fears that she will go to heaven faster. He discloses that he understands people get older and can pass away and is very nervous for that to happen to anyone else. He is very worried that making unhealthy choices could expedite this process. He burst into tears and had no idea what to do with all of these big worries and fears and the evident mourning he was attempting to process.
And then it hit me.
He chose me. He decided I was worthy of taking care of these intimate inner thoughts and trusted that I would know what to do with them.
We had a great conversation (which I’ll exclude here), sorted through some things, and set some goals. At the conclusion of it all, he wrapped his arms around me and squeezed me like he hoped my soul would feel it (and it did). And, my gosh, did I hug him like I hoped it would help gel the fragments of his worried heart back together (and I hope it did).
Just as we let each other go, he said, “I’m really glad I talked to you, Britt. I feel a lot better.”
That’s when I realized my hat may continue to change as he and I navigate this path together. But I am NOT just hanging in the mix. I’m not.
I’m still the one he can come to when his heart feels troubled. We graduated from middle-of-the-night bottles and nightmares to fears of the unknown and death, but he knows he can unapologetically lean into me—and there’s nothing that delights me more.
I’m still the ‘Mama Britt’ I’ve always been, my name has just been shortened to Britt. It’s not because he’s dethroned me at some point but because ‘Britt’ is natural and easy and it’s what everyone who is close to me calls me. No matter the title, I’m still every bit of what he needs me to be, as well as the bonus parent I’ve found pride in for more than a decade.
So, if you’re like me and your headspace sometimes plays tricks on you, I would like to be your reminder: You are not hanging in the mix. Some days this will be easy and others it will be pillow-screaming HARD. That’s how it works.
Just remember—you are right where you are supposed to be. Full stop. This path is yours for a reason. Own your “bonus” role, and know that you were divinely chosen.
You were never EVER ‘hanging in the mix’.