The moment a child is born, the mother is also born. She never existed before. The woman existed, but the mother, never. A mother is something absolutely new.
I know I’ve told it over and over again, but on the day Devereaux was born, after fidgeting my way through recovery and chasing the loving devotees away from my bedside, I sat with my beautiful infant son in my lap staring long and hard into his beautiful chocolate brown eyes and wondering how on earth anything so perfect ever could have come from me. These first awe struck moments are the stuff that makes magic in ordinary lives, that give us meaning. These moments are the holiest of holy, because we are connected with the sheer tenacity of life and staring into the depths of true beauty. There is no more perfect moment.
But we must leave Eden, and start our lives outside the garden. There is spit up, and teething, first shots, and eventually temper tantrums, eating dirt, throwing up in the middle of the night, homework battles, undesirable friends…mountains of obstacles. And that is not all…
Nobody tells you about all of them. You start to get an idea, but just the slightest hint in about the sixth month of pregnancy, when people start telling you horror stories about their deliveries, or about why you MUST breastfeed, or why you simply MUST let your child cry it out, or why a certain kind of sheet is as good as putting your child to sleep on gasoline soaked rag. But even then, you have no idea how vicious the judgment of the parenting community will be.
I’m not really sure when it went into overdrive for me. It may have been when I noticed how the other mothers looked at me at playgroup when Devereaux was the only child who had to be chased all over the playground because he was rather like a balloon the air had just been let out of, whizzing around bumping into things and making obnoxious noises on the way. It might have been when I read on a birth board that other children just my son’s age were counting to 20, when we hadn’t even started working on it. Maybe it was just before his second birthday when a certain person informed me with haughty superiority that her son (I’m sorry, I can’t resist, who happened to be my husband) was potty trained at 13 months old! Maybe it was the first time I realized that other mothers actually had complexes about having had caesarian sections. Maybe it was the first time we were recommended to therapy, or for ADHD evaluations, or maybe it was just a culmination of all of the above and a little bit more. But there undoubtedly came a time that I began to worry, seriously, that I was not much of a mother. And more pointedly, that all of my imperfections were being passed on to my beautiful soft cheeked, brown eyed boys.
And this all sucks.
Now add to this anxiety a divorce, that really makes you question yourself and how good a person you really are, and all the nasty things that can be said in a divorce that makes you worry even more about your parenting skills, and some serious anxiety and temperament in a very sensitive child, and you have the recipe for a big bad case of Bad Mother Blues. And I’ve been suffering it for awhile, constantly second guessing my own choices, in fear of screwing them up and making them hate me, terrified of hearing the words that will always come in situations like this but make you bleed nevertheless “I don’t love you anymore, I only love my daddy!” Even writing that sucks the air out of my lungs, and it has been months since I’ve actually heard it.
So earlier today I found myself writing an email to my son’s therapist in essence asking for validation for going against the parenting peanut gallery out there telling me that the family bed is a horrible no-no. And then a few hours later I found myself discussing whether or not supporting a child’s choice of Halloween costume, even a costume that society at large might find strange, is good for a kid or not. A few hours after that I found myself reading a blog at Daddy Daze about how he worries constantly about passing his own baggage on to his kids. And it was at this point I stopped and said “WHOAH!”
And for one crystal clear moment I was back in that hospital room holding that perfect baby in my arms, and I knew…that day, a mother, just as perfect as that baby was born. And I need to trust her, because the best thing she ever did was to honor that child’s perfection.
In the middle of all this discussion and thought I spent some time with my eldest. I’d gotten off work early for an appointment with my lawyer then I picked him up from school and we came home for a decadent few hours of Lays potato chips, chocolate milk, and Shark Boy and Lava Girl. And while Max dreamed a better dream, Dev and I did too. He dug out a box of pipe cleaners that he had mangles in a bad transaction at day camp this summer and we quietly untangled and straightened them while watching the movie, and we each began to make little creations of our own. In the end, Dev carefully wound them all together in a creation he aptly dubbed “Love Man”
And also…”Love Man Gets a Great Idea”
And what have I learned from all of this? That Love Man will always have the best ideas and perhaps the ideas of the peanut gallery, pun entirely intended, be taken with a grain of salt. I know it because if you look at their faces, and into their hearts, they will lead you. Maybe the Ten Commandments didn’t get it wrong when “honor thy father and mother” was written but I think it was also only half right. Because honoring your children is to honor all that is holy in you.