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On Being Mom

I know that this is kind of long, but I just read it and loved what she was saying. I know that somedays I'm wishing for my kids to be a little older - but I realize that this will come all too soon, so I'm really trying to be better at enjoying the short phase that we're in right now. I hope that you enjoy this too!

On Being Mom
by Anna Quindlen, Newsweek Columnist and Author

All my babies are gone now. I say this not in sorrow but in disbelief.
I take great satisfaction in what I have today: three almost-adults,two taller than I am, one closing in fast. Three people who read thesame books I do and have learned not to be afraid of disagreeing with me intheir opinion of them, who sometimes tell vulgar jokes that make melaugh until I choke and cry, who need razor blades and shower gel andprivacy, who want to keep their doors closed more than I like. Who,miraculously, go to the bathroom, zip up their jackets and move foodfrom plate to mouth all by themselves. Like the trick soap I bought for the bathroom with a rubber ducky at its center, the baby is buried deep within each, barely discernible except through the unreliable haze of the past.
Everything in all the books I once poured over is finished for me now.Penelope Leach., T. Berry Brazelton., Dr. Spock. The ones on siblingrivalry and sleeping through the night and early-childhood education,all grown obsolete. Along with Goodnight Moon and Where the Wild ThingsAre, they are battered, spotted, well used. But I suspect that if youflipped the pages dust would rise like memories. What those books taught me,finally, and what the women on the playground taught me, and thewell-meaning relations --what they taught me, was that they couldn'treally teach me very much at all.
Raising children is presented at first as a true-false test, thenbecomes multiple choice, until finally, far along, you realize that itis an endless essay. No one knows anything.
One child responds well to positive reinforcement, another can bemanaged only with a stern voice and a timeout.
One child is toilet trained at 3, his sibling at 2.
When my first child was born, parents were told to put baby to bed onhis belly so that he would not choke on his own spit-up. By the time mylast arrived, babies were put down on their backs because of researchon sudden infant death syndrome.
To a new parent this ever-shifting certainty is terrifying, and thensoothing. Eventually you must learn to trust yourself. Eventually theresearch will follow. I remember 15 years ago poring over one of Dr.Brazelton's wonderful books on child development, in which he describesthree different sorts of infants: average, quiet, and active. I waslooking for a sub-quiet codicil for an 18-month old who did not walk.Was there something wrong with his fat little legs? Was there somethingwrong with his tiny little mind? Was he developmentally delayed,physically challenged? Was I insane? Last year he went to China. Next year hegoes to college. He can talk just fine. He can walk, too.
Every part of raising children is humbling, too.Believe me, mistakes were made.They have all been enshrined in the "Remember-When-Mom-Did " Hall ofFame.The outbursts, the temper tantrums, the bad language, mine, not theirs.The times the baby fell off the bed.The times I arrived late for preschool pickup.The nightmare sleepover. The horrible summer camp.The day when the youngest came barreling out of the classroom with a 98on her geography test, and I responded, "What did you get wrong?". (She insisted I includethat.)The time I ordered food at the McDonald's drive-through speaker andthen drove away without picking it up from the window. (They all insisted I include that.)I did not allow them to watch the Simpsons for the first two seasons.What was I thinking?
But the biggest mistake I made is the one that most of us make whiledoing this. I did not live in the moment enough. This is particularlyclear now that the moment is gone, captured only in photographs. There is onepicture of the three of them, sitting in the grass on a quilt inthe shadow of the swing set on a summer day, ages 6, 4 and 1. And I wish Icould remember what we ate, and what we talked about, and how theysounded, and how they looked when they slept that night.
I wish I had not been in such a hurry to get on to the next thing:dinner, bath, book, bed. I wish I had treasured the doing a little moreand the getting it done a little less.
Even today I'm not sure what worked and what didn't, what was me andwhat was simply life. When they were very small, I suppose I thoughtsomeday they would become who they were because of what I'd done. Now I suspect they simply grew into their true selves because they demanded in a thousand ways that I back off and let them be. The books said to be relaxed and I was often tense, matter-of-fact and I was sometimes over the top.
And look how it all turned out. I wound up with the three people I like best in the world who have done more than anyone to excavate my essential humanity. That's what the books never told me. I was bound and determined to learn from the experts.
It just took me a while to figure out who the experts were.

1 comment:

The Mortensens said...

This is awesome, I think I need to hang it on the fridge and look at it everyday! I'm passing it along, hope you don't mind!