Bookworm

Happy New Year

Jan. 1, 2006 isn't just New Year's Day. It's also the tenth anniversary of the day I became a mom. Yes, that's right. My firstborn child is ten years old today. As a result I'm feeling just a bit maudlin introspective.

Martha tagged me with the "ten weird, random facts about yourself" meme. I think instead I'm going to list ten things I've learned in the last ten years. Martha, I hope you don't mind.

1. My parents love me more than I love them. I realized this instantly in the very first second that I gazed upon my newborn child's face. There is no way this child could possibly love me as much as I love him. The nature of the mother's love for her child is very different from the love the child feels for its mother. It's a biological fact that the child's job is to grow away from the mother, whereas it's the mother's job to make sure that child grows up safely.

2. It's hard to become a mother, even when you want nothing more. Joey was a wanted child, a planned pregnancy. I was 29 years old when he was born, and I and my husband were very ready to start a family. Conception was effortless. Pregnancy was nine months of dreamy delight. Even so, I remember throughout that first year of motherhood, and after, I would frequently give myself mental "pinches," trying to make myself comprehend that this was not a dream, not a babysitting job, but something forever and ever. The word "irrevocable" kept popping into my mind. Eventually I did get used to the idea, and it's been a long time since I last thought "I can't believe this is me!" as I push the stroller or go to the PTO meeting. But it took a good long while.

3. Don't be judgmental about other parents. I mean the other parents you see at the playground or the grocery store, the impatient, ineffective parents with the rude, whiny, obnoxious kids. Before I had kids of my own I was all eye-rolling and sheesh! I knew my kids would never . . . !

4. If you must have expectations at all, keep them low. I learned this by accident. Although I always knew I wanted kids, I never particularly wanted babies or toddlers. I wanted school-aged kids. I expected those early years to be dismal. I planned to just grit my teeth and get through them somehow while waiting for the real fun to start once they got to be five or so. And you know what? My expectations were so low that I could only be pleasantly surprised. The pleasure of the cute and happy baby times was magnified tenfold because I honestly didn't expect them.

5. Keeping expectations low is easier said than done. This is one I really struggle over. I try not to be ego-involved with my children, not to gloat over their successes or dwell on their failures as a reflection of myself. I try to avoid power struggles, use "logical consequences," and teach my kids to be responsible for their own behavior not only because it's good for them, but also because those strategies remind me not to take things so personally.

6. Dress for success. This is a parenting strategy I made up all by myself. On those really really bad days, when the toddler is sick and cranky, and you're premenstrual and sleep-deprived, and you've been indoors all week because of the pouring rain? Dress up your kids in their VERY CUTEST clothes. That way you'll be able to stand the sight of them.

7. This might just be a rationalization, but I'm pretty sure it's okay to be a little selfish. I believe that Mommy has to be as sane as possible in order to do a good job. In my case, that means spending as much time doing my own thing -- away from my kids -- as possible. And I go to great lengths to get away from my kids, even if it's just disappearing to the bathroom with a book. I can NOT give all of myself to my kids, which is why I do not consider myself an attachment parent. I could not be with my kids all day long and then sleep with them at night, for example. I need a little separation. And I believe that's best for my kids. Not that separation per se is best, but a sane mommy surely is.

8. Perfect communication between two human beings is possible. Joey's mind works just like mine. It's really uncanny. I always know what he's thinking. I interrupt him all the time because I know what he's going to say. This can be frustrating. We are so much alike that we push each others' buttons in ways that no one else can. But it's also reassuring. In some ways, I will never have to worry about him. And at times, during some conversations, it's simply amazing. I do believe there are times when we achieve perfect communication.

9. Having a child changed my perspective on everything. It also turned me into a sentimental fool. I never used to cry. Ever. Now anything having remotely to do with parents, children, life, death, sickness, health, infancy, old age, you name it . . . turns me into a puddle of tears.

10. I'm the luckiest woman in the world.

17 Comments:

  • You've learned a lot!

    Happy Birthday to Joey!

    posted by Blogger Heather on 8:17 PM  

  • I love this post. Wise words, there. I'm going to go read it again. And happy birthday Joey!

    posted by Anonymous Laura on 9:00 PM  

  • Happy Birthday to your son who is a most interesting person and a librarian's dream!

    posted by Blogger GuusjeM on 9:36 PM  

  • I've just been reading your blog for the first time (linked across from Heather) - I love your writing, particularly the sentiments you just expressed.

    And can I just say that I, too, am a 'non-attachment mother'- not that I have a problem with that parenting style, just that I know I'd be terrible at it. As you say, a fulfilled mother generally makes a better parent. So I won't be taking any guilt trips either (well, not for today, but I may well come up with something tomorrow!)

    posted by Blogger jellyhead on 10:33 PM  

  • Happy Belated BD to your child!

    posted by Blogger Green-Eyed Lady(GEL) on 2:39 AM  

  • Your first observation is so true. It keeps me up at night, thinking about how each moment my kids love me less than the day before and more than the next day, whereas my love for them won't change. It seems so unfair, that something so precious to me is supposed to love someone else more.

    But what about this corollary: your spouse/partner is also someone's child. That someone has lost her seat as the child's deepest love and you have replaced her. Return that honor with the love and kindness toward your spouse that you hope someone will one day show to your child(ren) as her/his/their significant other.

    That really doesn't make me feel any better about my own sons.

    A wise woman once told me about a dream in which her daughter died. And what she missed in the dream was not her daughter as she was, but all the future and older versions of her daughter she'd never get to know. Her lesson to me? Don't be so wrapped up in losing the two-, five-, ten-year-old in front of you that you fail to appreciate the older, more interesting person they become.

    That wise woman was your MIL, by the way!

    I liked your other nine realizations, too. Happy mother anniversary to you.

    posted by Blogger doulicia on 2:25 PM  

  • I love this post. It is a beautiful way of summing up motherhood.

    You surprised me with one thing: dress for success. I never figured a tantrum would look better in cute clothes. Note to self: try this one!

    posted by Blogger Running2Ks on 2:53 PM  

  • Do you want me to link to this under Monday Memories?

    posted by Blogger Running2Ks on 2:55 PM  

  • What a wonderful and wise post. It's amazing the things we learn as we parent our babies.

    Happy 10th birthday to your son!

    posted by Blogger Adrienne on 6:25 PM  

  • I try not to be ego-involved with my children, not to gloat over their successes or dwell on their failures as a reflection of myself.

    A good way to parent. I'm not always successful with this one, but it's one of my goals.

    I enjoyed this post. Happy Birthday to your son!

    posted by Blogger mrsd on 12:08 PM  

  • Happy New Year! and Happy Birthday, Joey!

    Number 9 happened to me too. This list, Julie, reduced me to a puddle of tears. Maybe mostly because hiding in the bathroom doesn't work in this household. I lock the door, but I can't stop the kid from wailing on the other side.

    posted by Blogger Isabella on 12:09 PM  

  • I love this list, Julie. The first observation is also something that makes me really sad if I think about it too much.

    There's a lot of wisdom here. Thanks so much for sharing!

    posted by Blogger Suzanne on 1:37 PM  

  • Thank you for this Julie - I never thought there was other parent out there who put their cranky baby in cute clothes. My boy just outgrew a bunny sleeper with a hood that had long furry ears. I reached for that sucker whenever I felt he had a tantrum coming on; for some reason he was easier to deal with when he had bunny ears and MY FIRST EASTER! written across his chest.

    posted by Anonymous Ella on 6:39 PM  

  • What a brilliant ten, Julie. And I really, really hope that you're right about #7. Then I could stop feeling guilty about it, right?

    posted by Blogger Phantom Scribbler on 5:22 PM  

  • Brilliant decalogue.

    posted by Anonymous Father Worm on 10:50 PM  

  • My 'baby' turned twenty on 30/12, twice joey's age, but forever my baby. As kids become adults in their own right, the whole parent thing changes, they start looking out for me! Making sure I get home safe when drunk! ( not that often, honest! Loved the list I agree with all on it. One thing I did tell them is that they will never disappoint me, that they can do anything they set their mind to, and as long as they try, it doesn't matter they don't succeed, oh and evry day at least, that I love them! Enjoy!

    posted by Blogger temppixie on 2:51 PM  

  • Doulicia's comment about your first insight reminded me of what the Austrian writer Arthur Schnitzler once wrote: "The love for one's children is always unhappy." He must have had that same asymmetry in mind. Or else he was just unlucky.

    posted by Anonymous Father Worm on 11:26 PM