08 May, 2011

Mothering: It's Never as Easy as It Looks

I actually never thought mothering would be easy. I thought I would have a hard time getting pregnant (I didn't), and when I was pregnant, I worried a lot about having a child with special needs (I did).

I knew, from having been a precocious child (that's precocious, not precious!) that children could have smart-mouths and not sleep well. And from my teenage years, I recognized that children turn into young adults sooner than you think and might even sneak out of their parents' home, spend their 17th birthday across the border, and they might even water-down the creme de menthe in the liquor cabinet without their parents even knowing.

But I did think, for example, that my children would listen to me, and actually do something very, very close to what I asked, within a time frame that looked like they were following my directions. As much as I talked back and asked why, I am fairly certain that I did follow instructions, or at least I went to my room to be grounded. I thought there would be a lot more museums and going to the opera, and learning needlepoint, more library visits, trips to the beach and fishing, and I find myself pausing, in the face of things I don't like, or are hard, or not fun, and I ponder if I am being a good enough mom.
"If you are wondering if you are a good mom, you are, because bad moms never wonder." 
That's my line to other moms. To my sister, to my friends, to strangers. I can say that to lots of other women, and comfort them when they feel like they are faltering, I know what good parenting looks like, and even when we make mistakes, it's mostly the trying hard that counts in parenting.

But it's harder than I thought it would be; much harder, and I can't always be settled with my own advice. I feel like I have not met their needs on most days, that I have been selfish. I lie awake thinking I didn't try hard enough, or that I used an unkind voice when I could have taken a breath.  And I worry that my chances to "make up" are slipping away; Lucy will be five in a month and Jake is ten and half.

What I did not expect, what you can't see from the outside, is the gnawing inside that I would never, ever feel like I had done enough for my children. Is that what being a mother is? To have those thoughts of each child's temperature and stomach content and to constantly be discerning the cleanliness level of both their teeth and clothing. I am concerned about the radio, television, books and words that are on display in my home and in my car. I worry about how they are treating their friends, and which children are they befriending? And how are they communicating with others when I am not around to intuit their every need? Every choice I make considers their very existence.

It seems so much easier for other moms. They naturally make plans for spring break that include the science museum and a trip to the beach. They stop by the library on their way home from dance class. They enroll their children in violin lessons, piano lessons, and drum circles, and plan sleepover parties for six.  Maybe I make it harder on myself because I have such amazing friends, and every thing each of them do, seems so fantastic that I want to do all of those things, even if those activities are coming from three or four or five moms, and not just one. It may be unrealistic, but not undesirable.

I would love to have a day when I knew that I had done my best, and that was the best that could be done.

*****

There are some other things that are so much easier than I imagined, so much better, warmer, brighter, meaningful and important. I hesitate to call them out because I don't want to mock them, or make light of their gravity, but they are mostly the things I never knew about at all before I became their mother.

Missing my first-born when an emergency surgery kept me from him when he was only 30 days old. The ache I felt in that hospital room without him was the most unbearable pain I could ever imagine, no wound or slice, or broken bone can compare to that hollow that could only be filled by that tiny boy. And the wholeness and lightness I felt when I held him again was like no other joy I had ever had.

My daughter asks me to sing her to sleep so she can 'hear me in her dreams' and holds my hand in the car while I am driving so we can be close before she leaves me for the day. My son has friends at school, and has developed meaningful relationships all on his own using his great sense of humor and his joi de vivre.

I never could have guessed how wonderful it would be to sleep next to my babies, or how watching them sleep could make me weep

...and I didn't know how easy it would be to fall in love, so deeply, so permanently, and so completely.

Thank you to my husband and my children for helping to shape so much of who I am. And to all of the women who support me, pave the way, comfort me and praise me, I am forever grateful.

****
This post was an editor's pick today at OpenSalon.com
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