Being a Mom was something I always knew I wanted in my life, although I never thought of myself as maternal before having kids. I was the one when playing house that wanted to play teenagers on dates with guys in convertibles, not mommies holding their crying babies. When my first was born, anxious to show him off to one of my sisters when she came to the hospital, it took me three tries of pointing through the nursery window before I located the baby who I had actually birthed. I was devastated. Maternal, in what I thought maternal was, hadn’t magically appeared with childbirth for me. I didn’t even know which baby in the rows of pink and blue swaddles was even mine. I was post C-section, pumped up on morphine, so will blame the drugs. But still….
It didn’t take me long, once home, to begin to understand what maternal instincts were and feel their presence in everything I did. A couple became a family and a me became a we and it felt like it had been like that forever. During the first few nights at home, I woke up far more than the baby did, simply to check to see if he was still breathing. I know I’m not the only Mom who has stood over a bassinet in the middle of the night with her hand hovering a few inches over her baby’s mouth for the reassurance of the small warm puffs of life.
I wanted to be the best mom I could and between reading books about my child’s emotions, self-esteem, health, creativity and happiness, I sanitized, scrutinized, organized and sterilized every morsel of our 6 pound bundle of joy. I wasn’t ready to believe that a dropped pacifier doesn’t have to be sterilized every time it hits the ground or that schedules don’t necessarily have to be adhered to. I relied on the educated advice of others to get me through infancy (Dr. Spock included), as I didn’t yet have the confidence to veer off the path and do what felt right to me.
A short 18 months after my first was brought home from the hospital, we had a second son. With two you get reality. Parenting books, sanitized pacifiers (or sanitized anything for that matter) and rigid schedules all went out the window, along with expectations and sadly, a few elements of my own personal hygiene. Getting though the day with babies fed, no blood and some semblance of a dinner on the table at night was enough of a goal for me. Thankfully, I had sisters who weren’t afraid to question me on my personal hygiene, reminding me that showering, shaving, and getting out of my jamies by dinner time would serve me well in the long run. Still, in all the chaos of the non-perfection, non-scheduled, non-sterilized and very tired life, I felt gloriously maternal and totally in my element.
My oldest son, Thomas, in his brilliant curiosity, reminded me to slow down and simply look at things. He questioned everything and when really pensive about something, he’d say:
“Let’s think about this till Saturday night, OK, Mom?”
We spent a lot of time stretched out on a blanket watching clouds drift by. He called it our afternoon television. I called it wonderful.
Slow down. Look at things. What’s the rush?
This child, who was not even 2, during a frustrated moment I was feeling with his baby brother who had been crying nonstop for days it seemed, tapped me on the shoulder and with the innocence that can only come from a child, said:
“Just love him, Mama… just love him….”
Out of the mouths of babes…
Our second son, Grant, was my free-spirited, creative child from the get go. He taught me how to play again and through him, I tapped into my own magical and creative spirit. Grant lived his life at full tilt and as a little boy, it shows in most of the photographs as he was usually sporting some sort of wound on his face from something that he never could exactly remember the how’s or the where’s behind it.
Grant was my kid who needed to be free… and as a toddler, hated wearing diapers in the summer while playing outside. After a few rounds of trying to fix the situation with duct tape, I gave up and let him be free – of diapers and tan lines.
I let go of the “supposed tos” and “shoulds” with Grant and when he decided that he wanted to wear plaid pants that were too little, swim shoes and a navy blue blazer to his preschool graduation, when all the other kids would be in shorts and tee shirts, how could I say no?
He took things apart, put things together, created from nothing and imagined everything. He was observant to a tee and would comment on a new outfit, new recipe or if I had changed something in the house and with his observations came honesty….
“This doesn’t taste very good, Mom…”
Or the one that really caught me off guard was this, spoken at age 4:
“You’re pretty, Mom, but not a babe.”
“What do you mean by that, Grant?”
“Babes wear fancy dresses made of leopard.”
Was this from the Flintstones or a Victoria Secret catalog? I opted on the former.
Have fun. Make stuff and make stuff up. Quit worrying about what anyone thinks.
When Emery was born, I wanted to ride the brakes for as long as I could as I knew she was the last. I dismissed the rules, threw out what little was left of the schedule and simply enjoyed being a mom. For 5 years, short of taking her brothers to where they needed to be and keeping the family fed, I accomplished nothing while achieving everything. I acted on whims and my gut and flew by the seat of my pants with her, which more than once had me calling her in sick to her mother’s day out/preschool program because we wanted to have an adventure instead, which always started with buying cinnamon rolls as big as our heads (we measured… kind of….)
Emery reminded me of the beauty of spontaneity and impulse decisions and that every once and a while cake for dinner and pizza for breakfast is A-OK and if you need to call popcorn a vegetable, then so be it. I broke all rules with her, including letting her sleep with me as an infant, but if that’s how I was going to get a good night’s sleep, then that’s how we were going to do it.
I slowed down to an almost stop with Emery… and it was deliciously wonderful to live life at the pace and the viewpoint of a little girl who twirled her way through life with a smile on her face and a song in her heart. Her deep routed compassion for others, both of the 2-legged and 4-legged variety, touched me deeply… still does.
When we first took our new puppy to the veterinarian and he made an initial examination then left the room, she asked me why the vet was a man and I started to explain that it might have been the “woman vet’s” day off when she interrupted me with this:
“Why isn’t the Dr. a dog? Wouldn’t a dog be able to understand our puppy better than we people could?”
I couldn’t do anything but smile.
Compassion. Spontaneity. Wear twirly skirts and dance.
Thank you, Emery.
|Slowing down, having fun, finding our spontaneity… March, 1991|
A mom once told me years ago that she wanted to be the kind of happy with her two boys that I was with my kids. When I questioned her on it, she told me that she always watched me walking with my kids from the door of Thomas’ school to the car. She said we looked so happy – a holding hands kind of happy. I’ve thought about that a lot over the years. Even though the hands were held tightly with an under my breath threat if they let go due to traffic, she was right. I felt very happy all linked together with my kids. I still do (although I’ve let go of my need to hold their hands in traffic, but still will stretch my arm out a la seat belt mode in a sudden car stop to protect my passenger, which more than likely is my purse or a bag of groceries these days…)
To all three of my kids, who as a new mom, I rubbed my hands in anticipation of being your teacher, your guide, your mentor, your inspiration – you were the ones in the teacher role. I’ve learned far more from the three of you than my maternal self ever thought possible. Thank you from the bottom of my very full heart.
It’s been a banner year for this mom as I also got to claim the role of Mom in Law times two this year, a role that I hold dear to my heart, Brooke and Miles. I get to gloss right over the sit up straight and eat your vegetables part and go straight to the simply enjoying part. I love you both like my very own.
I once read that the decision to have a child is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body (Elizabeth Stone). To all of the moms out there who have hearts walking around outside of them, this is your day. Wishing you all a very happy Mother’s Day.
|Mother’s Day, 1992|