Sunday, May 13, 2012

What a mother

I used to fend off Alison's requests for a sibling with silliness and diversion but a while ago, I told her the truth. That my body just wasn't good at manufacturing babies. That we'd actually suffered a loss before she was born. And that we got incredibly lucky when she came out with all the right parts in all the right places. I didn't get into the details. It's not something I talk about very often to anyone, and I was relieved when she seemed satisfied with my answer. But on the way home from school last week, she brought it up again. I told her that it was pretty horrible and that it made me really afraid to try again. "Is that why you love me so much?" she asked. I smiled and looked back at her. "Well. Partly. But you're kind of easy to love just as yourself." She liked that. I think. I work really hard to make sure she knows I love her. Sometimes she's roll her eyes and say, "I KNOW, Mom." Other times she'll snuggle up, and it's not uncommon for her to be the one reminding me of her affection. It's Mothers Day, of course, so it's hard to escape discussions of motherhood. How about that Time magazine cover, for starters? The tanorexic mom from Jersey, or my favorite talk show host, Andy Cohen, and his mom on the cover of Parade? Moms sure come in different kinds of packages. Which is lucky for all of us. I was creeped out by the Time thing, nearly as much as I was by my own tenure as a breast feeding mom. I did it because of the healthy boost it gave Alison. I didn't have that Hallmark experience. Despite my agrarian roots, my body wasn't much better at baby food production than it is at reproduction. I know women who cherished that time in their lives and I'm happy for them. It just wasn't my prime time. This Mothers Day I'm making a concerted effort to truly embrace the idea that every woman who tries her best -- whether that's breast feeding until the school bus comes or using formula from Day 1 -- is a great mom. God knows I've made crazy mistakes, done things no one else understands, spilled the truth too soon or lied too long. Who am I to say that what one mom chooses to do is right or wrong? Why do we do that to each other? Sadly, I'm judgmental by nature and far too verbal about my opinions too often. But I hope I can stick to this resolution. Because it's hard to be a good mom day in and day out. I was terrified every day I carried Alison that it wouldn't work and that that this creature and I wouldn't like each other when we finally met. I had nightmares that she'd be born with my short legs and Jeff's long arms and be cursed to walk like chimpanzee with her knuckles dragging the ground. Seriously. I still live in fear that I won't get to keep her. So I love her as best I can every day, and I make sure she knows it. But I'm still grouchy sometimes. Or not giddy about her latest artwork or iPad game. Or short with her when she doesn't do what I want, when I want and how I wanted it. And then there are the times I don't follow through. Or I give in. Or I forget that it's a 1/2 day with no aftercare. Or I give her extra dessert instead of making her eat a balanced diet every day. Oh, and I let her skip bath night way too much. And her hair. Oh. Her hair. I default to the ponytail way too often. But today I pledge that the only way I will consider myself failed as a parent is if there's a moment in her life that she truly doubts that I loved her fiercely and unconditionally every day of her life. That young mom on the cover of Time is being assailed other moms (including me before my epiphany) who don't understand why she would put her child out there like that or breast feed that long. But I don't doubt that she's doing what she thinks is the best thing for him. I don't doubt for a minute that she loves him. And in my parent playbook, that makes him one lucky little boy. Children deserve so much. But love is the first thing. Give them that. The rest will follow. Trust me. I'm a mom. I know these things...

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