When the Text Flashes Across My Screen, “Mom, I Got Some Bad News”

“Mom, I got bad news totally out of the blue.”

The text flashes across my screen.

“You free?”

My heart starts to pound. My hands get sweaty.

“Yes.” I respond, gathering my bundle-of-nerves mom self as together as possible.

Cell phone with son's name
A call from your teen saying he wants to talk can be worrisome.

Waiting for my son to let me know his “bad” news was agonizing

I feel the eternity of the next 30 seconds even in my hair follicles and gall bladder (you know what I’m talking about).

Is he on the side of the road in a ditch with ambulances swirling around? Did one of his friends die?

[Wait, how could he be texting if the first one’s true? Which one of his friends? Those poor parents.]

Did his adorable girlfriend who we love so much break up with him?

[I sure hope not. Why would she do that? He’s been so good to her. He’ll find someone else. She would be totally missing out. Nah. That’s not it. I hope.]

What about his job?

[I don’t like that company anyway. They’ve jerked him around. But OMG, he needs the money.]

Has he been arrested?

[Stop it right now. That would be your PTSD talking from that other time the police showed up at your door when he was 14 because he drew a picture of his friend burning at the stake during study hall. It’s probably NOT that. Is it? Is he in the back of a police car right now?]

All those crazy, but somehow totally normal and happen-all-the-time mom thoughts fly at me from all directions, the “I-WANT-HIM-TO-BE- OKAY” mom thoughts.

Finally, he calls

After the 30-second eternity, my phone finally buzzes.

“Hey honey, what’s up?” I ask, hoping I sound calm and not like I’m gripping the side of the chair primed to hear the worst news ever in the history of my very long parenting career.

He tells me the bad news.

I freak out a little inside, but don’t let him in on that dirty little mom secret we all collectively share: mom = worry.

I try to just listen

I try to just listen. Like listen for real and true. Like listen and make it about him and not about me.

After the initial telling of what’s happening on the outside (the bad news part), he starts to share what’s going on inside of him, how he really feels about it.

Now, I stop dead in my worry tracks. I lean in quieter and harder, because this is a newer thing he’s doing. He’s always been about making sure he puts a good spin on everything, not to alarm me, if that’s even possible.

He’s always been about giving me only the good news, since he’s probably been met with some over-the-top-responses in the past (cough, cough). I continue to lean in, keeping my mom mouth shut tight, my lips zipped.

As we get to the end of the call, he thanks me for my support and says, as he always does, “I love you, Mom.”

“I love you, too, honey.” I answer. “It’s all going to be okay. You will be okay.”

I press the little red, magic circle hang-up button.

Tears well and come tumbling out, hot on my cheeks. I wipe them away, only for more to flow freely. After all, I’ve been holding it together for like 15 minutes now.

I check in with myself. Why all the tears?

The answer surprises me. The salty drops are not for the reasons I would expect.

My tears are not for my son’s sadness

They are not because of the sad and hard that my son is experiencing, even though I feel all those same feels. Those might come later.

They actually spill out because of the the overwhelming gratitude that seeps into my soul, realizing this heart-wrecking, beautiful gift to me: I am his very first call.

His very first call. The way I want it to be. His very first call.

My tired mom heart heads to bed and (believe it or not) rests peacefully.

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About Esther Goetz

Esther Goetz is the mom of four "grown-and-flown" kids with a passion for football, books on becoming her best self, crime shows, eating potato chips with milk and bringing hope to moms who are exhausted, hurting, and having a hard time seeing the glimmers of goodness around them. You can find her at Moms of Bigs and the Dolly Mama on Facebook, @dollymamanj on Instagram, and on her website, estherjoygoetz.com.

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