Friday, April 9, 2010
When I found out I was pregnant with my first child, I cried. Not immediately, perhaps, but within 30 seconds. "I don't know how to be a mother," I sobbed. "I'm not ready for this." Ron comforted me as best he could, when I'm sure somewhere deep--or not so deep--inside, he was thinking, "Holy crap. If she cries over this, we're gonners once the baby comes."
I was 27 and had no clue what I was in for. I was right to cry. Ron should have been doing the same thing if he'd had more foresight.
I still don't know how to be a mother, and I think that's why we've been able to make it thus far as a family. I bend my own rules because I was never that attached to them in the first place. I'm malleable (which happens when you've been bent and broken so many times that you've forgotten how to hold your original shape). I never claim to know exactly what I'm doing. I never give parenting advice unless someone asks for it, and even then, I'm quick to say, "This is just my opinion" and not "Do what I say or you're an idiot."
Most importantly, I've learned humility.
It's an odd kind of humility, really. In some ways I've become more confident. I know I can make dinner starting at 5:00 when I have no idea what to make--only a handful of ingredients that might be edible when thrown together (with butter). I know I can stand up for my kids when they need it, be it at school or the doctor's office or in the neighborhood. I know I can make a good birthday cake. I know I can cheer my kids up when they're sad (that I can sometimes do the reverse isn't such a great talent).
The humility comes not in what I can do, of course, but in what I know I can't. I can't follow them throughout the day to make sure people are nice to them--or vice versa. I can't make all of their decisions for them. I can't add hours onto the day to spend with them when it's 8 p.m. and they're upset about what they wanted to do but now it's too late to do. I can't add years for the same purpose.
I was recently named 2010 Young Mother of the Year for Illinois. It's something I haven't told many people because I feel more than a little self-conscious about it. Should I have more answers now? Should my back be straighter? Should I appear more capable? More assured? Should I make fewer mistakes--at least in public?
My kids aren't terribly impressed by my "title." They know I still give them popcorn for dinner some nights. They know I still hate cleaning bathrooms. They know I still expect them to pack their own lunches and to not ask for a band-aid unless there's blood involved.
My five-year-old got angry at me the other night and muttered, "You're as big as a rhinoceros." I said, "Excuse me?" He said, "I didn't say you were a rhinoceros. I said you're as big as one."
Yesterday at lunch, I asked my seven-year-old if I had any seeds in my teeth from the salad I'd just eaten. She said, "No, but the back ones are a little yellow." She also pointed out that I had on too much eyeshadow.
My 10-year-old, following me down the steps a few weeks ago, said, "Mom? Your hair is gray on top."
And my 13-year-old--the one I cried about when expecting him--told me two nights ago that I make myself laugh more than I make other people laugh.
It's called insanity, my dear, and all four of you hand delivered it to me, slowly but surely, over the years.
Insanity and plenty of humility.
I've always wondered at the phrase, "I am humbled by this nomination/award/experience/acknowledgment." I've always thought, "How could something meant to reward you humble you?"
My children--the greatest award I've ever received--humble me because they remind me daily that I did nothing to deserve them, and that after 13 years of doing this, I still have so much to learn. But I'm willing to learn. I'm willing to keep trying and to keep working at it and going gray in the process because they're worth it, and because I'm confident that even when I'm doing a lot of things wrong, I might yet do a thing or two right. I have confidence in them.