My oldest son turns 10 today. I started blogging when I was pregnant with him. I’m glad I did, because I have a record of my thoughts and feelings as I made the transition to motherhood, memories that otherwise would have been blurred, misremembered, and even lost entirely to sleep-deprivation and aging brain cells.
You know how some people claim their baby slept through the night at 6 mos. old, or that they loved every second of their child’s infancy? I have cold, hard proof that isn’t true. But I also have proof of the small, fleeting memories I would have forgotten: the unblinking, dark-eyed gaze of my solemn newborn, the clean-laundry smell of the sunny nursery, the impossible softness of the soles of tiny, bendy feet that have never touched the ground.
I also might have forgotten how funny parenthood can be. Like how no one warns you that the baby might pee in his own face, or that your toddler will have long, dramatic tantrums over the shape of his grilled cheese, or that your almost-10yo will randomly ask you, “Mom, do you think when birds burp it tastes like worms?”
I would not have forgotten how hard parenthood can be, but I may not have remembered the specific rage you can feel when a nosy stranger makes a critical comment at exactly the wrong time—say, as you’re wrestling your toddler into the car seat for the fifth time that day and are grasping at the end of your dangerously frayed rope. I may not have remembered how hopeless you can feel when your child begins to understand death and has LOTS of questions about it late at night.
I can trace my journey over the past 10 years from those universal new-mom fears about whether the baby is sleeping and eating enough and being irreversibly damaged by the background noise of the “Today Show” to the more specific and personal worries that older children bring. Is he making friends? Is he struggling in school? What do I tell him about Santa, the Tooth Fairy, where babies come from, and when? And what about THE INTERNET?!
I went from over-preparing for a birth I couldn’t control to feeling constantly underprepared for navigating my child’s dental care, schooling, emotional wellbeing, and screen time. I have now settled into another, different state. Acceptance? Surrender? Wisdom? It depends on the day.
Some days I feel like I am woefully under-qualified for this motherhood gig. I can no more diffuse a 7yo’s tantrum over having to go to piano lessons than I can set parental controls on a Kindle. (That is: not at all.) Other days, I think that raising humans is what I was meant to do. My children are healthy, intelligent, loving, (mostly) joyful people who eat vegetables, don’t litter, and are kind to babies and animals. I’m rocking this!
At one point, I feared I wasn’t “ready” to have kids. Ha! Are you ever? I thought, “How can I teach someone All Of The Life Lessons if I haven’t even figured them out myself?” Well, I’m glad I didn’t wait, because here it is a decade later and I still don’t have life figured out. But I was wrong about the life lessons, and who would be teaching whom. Mostly it’s my kids teaching me, but I have realized I know some stuff too. Like how to make a paper pinwheel and a face out of fruit. And that everyone gets sad sometimes, friends do move away, and dogs and people die and everything will still be OK.
They teach me that you can be really, really mad at someone and even scream and stomp and say horrible things, but that you still love them. And you can apologize with a hug or a misspelled note. They teach me it’s OK to be yourself, and it’s OK to have fun, and it’s OK to put on your pajamas and cuddle up on the couch at 4pm if you feel like it.
I do not mourn the loss of their babyhood or wish I’d cherished it more or that time would slow down. We can’t control time or our children or the rest of the world. But we can choose when we want to slow down, what we want to notice and remember, and what we want to share with the world.
Happy Birthday, Miles. You’ve made me a better person and our little corner of the world so much brighter. I love you.