I adore my children--so much that I sometimes ache just thinking about them. I volunteered in my son's kindergarten class yesterday and was tempted to take him home with me after my hour there. I'm the one with separation anxiety, not him.
There are moments of mothering, however, when you feel like you don't like your own children. They're not pretty moments or proud ones. They're not ones I advertise regularly or admit to very often. But they're there.
Yesterday afternoon, my daughter's Brownie troop needed carpool drivers. I volunteered. And that was a mistake. It's not the three hours of my day it used up that was the issue; it was seeing a side of my daughter that made me wonder how I could have raised a child who could act like that. Is she like this more often than not, and I only see the sweet and loving side of her because I'm blinded by my love for her? How much is fair to expect of her? Is she a typical eight-year-old? If so, heaven help all of us mothers of eight-year-olds. If not, have I screwed up? Do I have time to fix her?
I recently gave up demanding thank yous from my children. It wasn't helping any of us, and I read somewhere that kids need to learn real gratitude, not just when polite society requires a show of gratitude. So I didn't expect a thank you from her. I did, however, expect more kindness from her than I received.
I've been thinking about this a lot, obviously. I even had a hard time sleeping last night because I couldn't let it go, this notion of my children being unaware of what my husband and I do for them. I don't expect, as I said, constant thank yous and "Mom, you're the greatest" and "Wow, I'm so lucky you simply gave birth to me!" But shouldn't kids be at least somewhat cognizant of the fact that they're parents do a thing or two for them in the course of the day?
But here's the realization that is going to help me get some work done today and then sleep better tonight: I don't want my children to be aware of everything I do for them. I don't want them to have to bear that kind of burden. And I mean that completely seriously.
When people do something nice for me, whether it's a family member or a friend or even simply an acquaintance, I'm often overwhelmed by the selflessness of their actions. When my father died, I was blown away by the food that filled up my mother's house. I still get choked up thinking about it. When my now-eleven-year-old son had surgery over a year ago to correct a medical problem he'd had since he was three, a new friend I had hardly even gotten to know yet brought me a care package of chocolate. I had another friend recently offer to help drive my kids around if there are times I can't manage everyone's schedule this fall. If I had to stop and be fully aware of everyone doing me a kindness in the course of a day, I would be an emotional wreck.
And young kids need those kindnesses more than anyone. They can't drive themselves. They can't provide their own food and clothing and shelter. They can't pay for their piano lessons or acting or dance classes. They depend on their parents for 100 different things every single day. By 9:30 this morning, I had made 5 lunches, dropped off one, taken two kids to school at two different times, cleaned their breakfast dishes, emailed one of their teachers, filled my car up with gas so I'll be able to take them to their activities after school, and then ordered a couple of gifts. Their dependency lessens as they get older, but it never really goes away. At least I hope it doesn't.
I want my kids to need me, and I don't want them to feel guilty and beholden to me for all of those needs. I don't want them to feel they're taking out loans they can never pay back, because they're not.
So I'll probably be a carpool driver again. And I'll probably (definitely) be disappointed at some point again in how one of my children treats me. But I won't remind them of all I do for them. That's not one of the things they need.