I Love You When You Are Mad

A picture of an 8 month old yellow lab dog, laughing for the camera
No such thing as a bad puppy. Picture by Tessa.

The other day, I overheard my son Aaron saying to our puppy Abby, "I love you no matter what." I do believe that Abby was being a turd at the time, as puppies are apt to do.

This was a relief to hear him say that after this terrible year of guilt-ridden parenting. Maybe I've done something right.

Aaron and I were recently interviewed for a documentary about mental health by the folks at the Down Syndrome Resource Foundation. It will be released in the fall. A perk of being interviewed is that it gives me the opportunity to think deeply about a topic. I had to ponder mental health and I realized that I do not like being asked questions about my own mental health. Not one bit. I was pacing around like a caged animal before the crew arrived, despite having the questions beforehand and feeling supported and prepped.

I often say that I'm an open book, but I'm really not. I can talk about my mental health if I'm holding the pen or the microphone and am in control of the conversation. I get anxious when my hands aren't on the steering wheel. There is a lot I don't want to talk about. I'm not sure it is just stigma. I feel a lot of pressure to be strong all the time. It has to do with not quite understanding myself fully too.

I won't give spoilers about the video, but I will say that it helped me reflect on the most useful thing I've realized as Aaron's mom.

I have learned that one must be overt about unconditional love. Aaron has had angry spells since the pandemic began - for good reason - how many losses has he experienced? So many. As he advised our dog, I also say to Aaron when he's feeling big emotions:

I love you when you are mad.

I love you when you are sad.

I love you when you are upset.

I love you when you are happy.

I want him to feel deeply that I love him no matter what.

My mistake with my