Sunday, May 19, 2013

Motherhood

Once upon a time, you read Cheaper by the Dozen and you thought you'd like to have a dozen kids. How different that would be from your childhood, much of which was spent alone. Everyone would always have a playmate. It would be insta-party, all the time.

Then you had one child.

And a second.

But you didn't make it to a third, or a fourth, let alone a twelfth.

Two are party enough.

It's hard to remember the Before, the sans children, the time when you could sit on a sofa and read a book if you wanted to. Or you could go out if you wanted to. You could have whatever you wanted for supper, and not have to accommodate a picky palate. There were few tears, and no fights, and the quiet was immense.

But so was the emptiness.

Motherhood is such a complicated thing. It should be as easy as delivery: take a deep breath and push. But delivery is painful--not easy--and the pain doesn't stop once a child is born. The pain continues, though it moves upward from belly and bottom to head and heart.

You love and you ache and you hope and you plead. And your expectations of what motherhood "should" be are never met, but what you have is somehow better than what you expected, even if it's not perfect.

Especially if it's not perfect.

You look at your infant and his smooth soft cheeks, his tufts of hair, the curve of his lip.

You see your toddler, with his graham-cracker-dusted hands and his will and his want. You're toppled by his exuberance.

You send your baby off to kindergarten, and he seems so big...and yet so little.

You watch your school-age boy master Legos and multiplication tables and bikes.

Before you know it, you send him off to a social. A dance.

The days are long, and the years are quick.

What could bring more joy?

And yet, what could bring more sorrow?

You know you should savor each day, and you try to, but the days really are long and sometimes you just want to be alone. There are big personalities in these children of yours, and they clash frequently. They have great gifts, but great gifts come with great challenges. It takes everything inside of you to calm and to quiet and to teach. Somedays, it takes more than what you have to give.

Tonight, you ache to be by yourself. You love, yes, you love, but sometimes you need to remember who you are and who you were and how it feels to breath all by yourself and what you looked like as a little girl, back when you thought a dozen children was a good idea.

And so you hide away, squirreled in a dark corner somewhere and look at pictures your mom just sent you, pictures of you as a baby, at four, at six, at eight. You hardly remember your childhood, perhaps because your mind is full of the details of Life Now. But you look and you look--backgrounds and expressions and people and clothing and furniture--and there out of the blue, you're looking at the round face of the oldest gingerbread boy. But it's not him, it's you. You cup your fingers around the long hair. Yup. It's his face. You flip to a different picture. There's the expression of the youngest gingerbread boy. They are now what you were then.

Did your own mother feel such complicated feelings about motherhood? Does motherhood still feel complicated to her now? A great big soup of love and fear and worry and exhaustion that will never go away?

You put the pictures down. Motherhood is immense and long and weighty. But it is also sweet and full and surprising.

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