“It’s okay to cry. You’re still a good mom.”

I’ve heard that the best way to support a child through rough feelings is to name and make space for those feelings, but I admit it always felt a little hokey to me. “Aw, you feel sad. You wanted [blank], and you are super disappointed. It’s okay to feel bad. You are still a good kid. Just let the bad feelings out.” I say these things, sure, but I was skeptical of how much good I was doing.

A nurse in a drive-through COVID testing center showed me just how effective it is.

It was a busy work day for me. A busier week. I had a rush project, the house was a wreck, the kids had done precious little homeschooling, and Anya had been feeling bad for a few days. Most likely allergies, because we don’t go anywhere and no one else was sick — the family that cosleeps shares allll the germs — but she’d been complaining of ear pain and yellow sinus drainage, so I had to rule out an infection. For added fun: When her sinuses drain into her stomach, it causes GI distress; i.e., vomiting and diarrhea. The only bright side in all of this: She’s now old enough to barf in the toilet.

It took two days to get her in to the doctor because COVID is burning through our schools. We can usually get in within a couple of hours.

The doctor was concerned about the GI issues and sent us for a COVID test. Just as a precaution, she said. She assured Anya that even if she did have COVID, she’d almost certainly be okay. She’s a healthy girl. She’d just feel a little sick.

Yeah, but there’s a little girl in our area who had no symptoms at all, and she’s in the ICU on life support. Also, we saw Mom the previous weekend, two days before Anya got sick. Mom absolutely would not survive COVID. My mind started racing, trying to figure out what we did wrong, how she could possibly have been exposed. Speech therapy? They keep their masks on the whole time, but it’s the only place we ever go inside. Could R have brought it home from work? Was it on the pizza boxes? The groceries?

After I struck out several places trying to find a drive-up testing center that would administer a rapid test that day, my parents hooked me up with a local drive-through center. I called and made the arrangements while driving home from the doctor. (It’s an hour drive. I was on hold with them for 20 minutes of that, listening to a couple warbly snatches of Enya mixed with plugs for their services. Which didn’t help my fraying nerves.) By now I was several hours behind on my work day, and taking the afternoon off was not an option, so I snagged my tablet in case we were there for a while. Plus the cord and the AC adapter because of course it wasn’t charged.

Forgot to grab the insurance cards, though. Starving (we missed lunch), sweating (half stress, half being dressed for a cool morning on a hot afternoon), and with a throbbing finger (I mashed it between the AC adapter and the gear shift), I found the place and got in line, mowing down some orange cones to do so; the entrance was not clearly marked, and my patience was at that point completely gone. That’s when I saw the signs asking for insurance info. By this point it was mid afternoon. I didn’t have time to go home and get them. I’ll just pay cash, I told myself.

I had that much cash on me, but good lord! When R had the test, it was free. I started crumbling around the edges.

The nurse saw this.

“It’s okay to cry,” she said. “This is so hard. Just let it all out. You are doing so well.”

My eyes overflowed, as if they were waiting on permission to do so. “I…I have done everything right!” I blurted out. “I am just so tired!” I then proceeded to blubber all over myself.

“You are such a good mom,” she said. “This is so scary and so hard, but you are doing a great job. We will find her info. We’ll get this taken care of. Don’t you worry. I will do anything I can to help. Do you need to cry for a little bit? I can always come back to you. Take all the time you need.”

“No, thank you” I said, sobbing. “Just give me the forms.”

I thought about that nurse all evening. How just that little bit of compassion helped me deal with one of the scariest days I’ve had in a while. How much it helped hearing from someone else that it was okay to feel whatever I was feeling. How much better I felt letting some of it out. How much I needed someone to tell me I am a good mom, that I am doing a good job.

Anya’s test was negative. You don’t want to know how long I had to sit on hold to find that out. I can’t be mad about it, though. I got the assurance I needed, both in the test results and in the emotional support I received from the testing center nurse.

Now that I know the power of naming and making space for feelings, I’m going to work harder at doing so with the kids. With everyone. We all need a little empathy. Especially these days.

3 thoughts on ““It’s okay to cry. You’re still a good mom.”

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