Tuesday, April 20, 2010
Yesterday morning, I sat my five-year-old on the counter so he could watch me make his egg. He said, "Mommy, I wish you weren't already married to Daddy, because I want to marry you." I said, "Oh, trust me. As much as you love me, you'll love your wife someday even more."
Ugh. I hated admitting that to him.
He gave me a hug and said, "I'm in love with you."
Now, of course, five minutes later he was in love with his shirt, his shoes, Curious George, his scooter . . . whatever could hold his attention. But if I rank up there with a monkey and his favorite mode of transportation, I'd say I'm doing okay.
I'm watching him now as he colors for the few minutes of free time he has before heading off to preschool. And I have to say I'm in love with him, too--even more than monkeys, scooters, applesauce, and diet pepsi. That's our common game: "I love you more than . . ."
And "anything" is always the shortest and most honest answer, but it's cheating as far as the kids are concerned. You have to really think about what you'd be willing to give up forever for the other person; otherwise, there's always the retort: "Really? What about this or that?"
Years ago, I sat in a book group with some of my closest friends, and one of them posed the question: "Are you where you thought ten years ago you'd be today?" Most of them said no.
But I said yes. I knew I wanted to be a freelance editor and a wife and a stay-at-home mother. I'm all of those things, even if the proportions vary over the years. I don't feel like I sacrificed anything to be a mom--except perhaps a little muscle tone I'll never get back. But I never wanted a high-profile career, only a little work to call my own. And I never wanted fame and fortune, only a bit of sometimes-appreciation and comfort. I'm lucky and have never claimed I wasn't, never even felt I wasn't. I know a lot of people don't have the freedom to make the choices I have. I know a lot of women don't want to work full time but have to. I know a lot of women feel stifled at home and would love nothing more than to be outside of it now and then but can't. Life is good, and I'm in love with it and with all the little (growing) creatures that inhabit my portion of it.
Yet even if becoming a mother didn't require sacrifice, being one does. And it's those moments of being that I struggle with. It's the difference between loving and being in love. The "being" is a constant effort, a conscientious and daily decision, a measuring of what you can and can't do, what you are and aren't able to do.
Being a mother requires me to sacrifice my time, my pride, my tendency toward selfishness and inertia and impatience. Do I hurry the kids to bed so I can clean the kitchen in peace? Or do I let them stay up fifteen more minutes so I can hear them laughing with each other? Do I drive my youngest to school so I can have those ten extra minutes to get things done while he's at school? Or do we walk together so I can hear him tell me about the bird he saw eating a worm the other morning? Do I let them correct me now and then instead of the reverse? Do I take them to the park or send them to the backyard? Do I look at them when they talk to me or do I urge them to get to the point already?
The miracle of being in love is how it grounds you in the present, and how when you're in the present, you don't have the means to look at what you've given up in the past or what you might not have time for in the future.
I'm in love with all of my children, and I love being exactly where I am. And when they someday love someone else more than they love me, I'll be immensely grateful that they'll get to feel what I do now.