I see what you see.

He barrels through life at 90mph intent on finding the hilarity and excitement in everything.

He’s loud—so loud that we sometimes wonder if he has hearing problems, but no. He’s just a loud person with a loud voice and an even louder trill of riotous laughter.

He acts quickly, never thinking before he runs or speaks or pinches or repeatedly jams a stuffed animal in your face while yelling “KISSES!”

He takes nothing at face value, always negotiating, always wanting more, More, MORE.

He combusts in a heartbeat, all the biggest feeling consuming him in a fiery tempest, only to pop up moments later with a sniffle and a grin and a high-five.

He’s a whirlwind, a confusion, a perpetually spinning tornado of raw emotional energy.

In the words of so many people at the grocery store who stare at us with arched eyebrows, he’s a handful.

I see what you see. I really do.

But here’s what you don’t see.

You don’t see how he’ll ask me three hours after I stub my toe how it’s feeling and tell me he’s sorry I hurt myself.

You don’t see how his natural ability to find the humor in everything makes me laugh at least once an hour. His timing is impeccable and when he senses my sadness he ratchets up his funniest jokes and antics just to make me smile.

You don’t see how quickly his meltdowns dissolve into hugs and snuggles.

You don’t see his morning routine of giving me as many kisses as he possibly can as if being apart for even the short hours of sleep has left him desperate to reconnect.

You don’t see the way he pats his sister on the back and gives her his toys when she’s upset or the way he always wants mama to have the last bite, “Just because you’re Mama.”

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And most of all you don’t see me.

You don’t see the mom behind him repeating and reminding him to say please and thank you and to use a napkin or a fork.

You don’t see me celebrating because he’s gotten so much better at using his walking feet at church.

You don’t see me sifting through his emotions to determine the root cause when he acts up; he’s only four, and just barely that, but he already knows he doesn’t always act the way the world wants him to act and sometimes he gives up. He gets discouraged. At four it’s too hard to be all the things for all the people. Heck, at 34 it’s hard to be all the things for all the people. I constantly have to determine when to push and when to just let him rest.

You don’t see the mounds of parenting books I’ve read and re-read, the Pinterest articles I’ve saved, the charts and systems and limits and boundaries and all the things I’m actively doing to help him be the best kid he can be while still preserving all those wonderful, quirky things that make him who he is.

You don’t see the tears I’ve cried while questioning my every parenting choice while lamenting every judgmental stare, sneer, or sarcastic comment. 

You don’t see me. But I see you.

And I get it.

He is a handful. But we’re doing our best. We’re trying. We’re trying so hard.

You just don’t see it.

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Emily Stelter

I am a relatively new blogger, though not a new writer, and a mom to two deliciously strange kids. This fall I quit my full time 9-5 to pursue full time momming and writing. I blog about parenting, authenticity and vulnerability at An Awkwardly Magnificent Life. You can also find me on Facebook and Instagram.