18 months of being a Mother
In a lot of ways, it’s hard now to imagine a time when I wasn’t a mother. Was it really only a year and a half ago that I held a tiny, brand new baby in my arms for the first time? It feels like forever. Since that day when we suddenly transformed into parents and child, our family has changed in so many different ways. I look around some days and I don’t recognise this life I live today at all. It’s utterly alien to what my younger self could have expected, or might have chosen. Yet I wouldn’t change it. Perhaps I was only just waiting all those years to start being a mother and completely alter my goals in life?
I scroll through the multitude of photographs on my computer (I take far too many, but can’t bring myself to delete them!). These snapshot glimpses of life speed past, like watching a jerky film reel in an old-school projector. Only these images are fresh and clear, not grainy and faded with age. In them I can more easily see the slow changes that my son has undergone so far. The skinny newborn blinking in confusion at this strange world stretches and fills out oh so quickly. He becomes more alert and aware of his surroundings as he steadily morphs into a chubby Buddha baby, clumsily attempting to move about and manipulate his immediate environment. There are the initial frustrating attempts to reach for objects just beyond his grasp, before he takes off crawling across the screen. Food of all shapes and colours start to decorate him, his chair, the floors, and me. His motor skills progress. Fruit is no longer squelched until it slips through his hands, he carefully picks up grains of rice, then confidently spoons porridge into his mouth. As the first steps are mastered, the baby fat melts away and his body grows leaner, stronger, more sturdy. Before my eyes he transforms into the beaming little boy of today, eyes dancing with laughter and mischief.
This trip down memory lane is one of the best reminders of how much love and joy he has brought to our lives. But of course this movie trailer of life with a baby only shows the highs, not the lows. Who takes photos of a screaming baby who hasn’t slept all night, or a toddler deep in the throes of the hundredth tantrum of the morning? Nothing so precious comes without some kind of cost or trade-off. In this case mostly sleep and quite a bit of sanity. Such a small little helpless baby that can easily become the tyrant of the house on occasion, desperate parents just begging for a bit of sleep, please! Marriages stretch towards breaking point some days. It’s quite the endurance test both physically and mentally. For every kiss and cuddle during the day, there are floods of angry tears and the never-ending cleanup of every kind of bodily fluid. Pieces of food beaten and pummelled beyond recognition and then smeared on anything in reach. Not quite the scenes of parental bliss that we like to imagine.
As the Rascal has physically grown and matured, so too have I grown as a mother. For the novice mother stumbling through the first couple of years, there’s a constant stream of often unwanted advice available, and a dizzying array of parenting books promising well-behaved children that won’t interrupt your days and love to sleep through the long nights. The one-size-fits-all approach can’t possibly work for all those individual babies out there. Although we never ever stop questioning the choices we make for our children, at some point experience has to tell us that we can only make the best choices available to us at the time, and modify course along the way if we find we’re headed in the totally the wrong direction. All the worry and second-guessing only results in unnecessary anxiety at already stressful times.
In today’s world we talk about sacrificing so much ‘for our children’, ironically they aren’t really going to remember these early years at all. They won’t keep tally of all the things you gave up, or value the wonderful activities for which you stole time to share with them. From that point of view, how you live these early years is all about you. YOU want to see those first steps, hear the first garbled words, see a sunny smile, snuggle close to a small body. They may have a general sense of love and well-being as an infant, but are far too young to bear testament to whether you were there, chose well, did enough. Of course they will judge you later, and probably harshly. We all tend to look to our relationship (or lack of) with our parents. We are then determined to emulate some things, and not repeat the mistakes we perceive them as having made. We expect to have a better relationship with our own children. Ultimately all the time, money and love we invest in our children is a gamble though. It’s doubtful that many parents see themselves as being estranged from their children in the future, but it happens. All you can be sure of as a parent is the past, and the present.
I’ll spend a couple of hours getting an exhausted, but hyper toddler to bed after a long, long day of fun and tantrums. Hard as it can be to focus on the positive each day, I try to remember that this is what I will miss dearly in future years when my little baby boy is a grown man with his own life, his own priorities. I hope that his parents will still be a big part of his life, but I don’t know that for sure. I’ve figured out what it means for me to be a mother right now, and find it strange that once I was not. But it’s even harder to picture what being a mother will mean to me in the distant future. I need to hang on to these cute, cuddly, sleepless, tantrum-filled days while I can. Accept the sticky finger-prints and chaotic mess surrounding me. I get the camera out again, and add a little more magic moments to that mountain of photographic memories.
And you may ask yourself
What is that beautiful house?
And you may ask yourself
Where does that highway go to?
And you may ask yourself
Am I right?…Am I wrong?
And you may say to yourself yourself
My God!…What have I done?!