This photo was taken at my brother's wedding, 10 years ago this summer. In it, I'm marching away from what turned into a nightmarish wedding photo session with my screaming son Isaac clutched under my arm.
While this picture makes me laugh now, when I first saw it I cringed and packed it away. I felt like it represented everything that was wrong about me as a mother.
I was 25 and pregnant with my third in what has to rank up there as one of the world's most poorly-timed pregnancies. My life was pretty much a mess, and it showed in my mothering.
I was the mum who always got the kids to preschool after circle time had started. I was the mum who forgot the lunches. I was the mum who forgot the school excursion permission form… and the fact that I was supposed to be chaperoning.
I was also the mum of Isaac, who was chubby, adorable, intelligent… and hell on wheels. Take him to a store, and Isaac would bolt down the aisle, gone before I could even shout his name. Seat him at a desk, and Isaac would try to climb on top of it. Ask him to do something, and Isaac would do the opposite. Once I spanked him in sheer desperation, and he laughed in my face.
Teachers told me that Isaac was smart, but disruptive. A handful. Couldn't sit still. None of this came as a surprise to me. I spent my days in anxiety over what Isaac would do next. If I took him to a friend's house, would he break something, pull the cat's tail? If I took him to the park, would he bowl over a smaller child or refuse to leave when it was time? If I asked him to clean up his toys, would he throw them instead?
I spent my days carefully navigating the world through his lens, proactively anticipating every tantrum, disappearance or act of rebellion.
And it was exhausting.
But somewhere along the lines, things changed. Isaac slowly learned how to control himself in school and at home. Where I had once dreaded conferences and the teacher's attempts to put a positive spin on the kid who had been solely responsible for raising their blood pressure ten points, I began to look forward to them.
Somewhere along the line my rambunctious, wiggly, often ill-behaved son went from spaz to total sweetheart. It happened so slowly that I barely noticed it until one day, when a teacher shared that Isaac was one of his favorite students and I realized in a moment just how very far we had come.