I am not a great mom, I have great kids. I have learned that this is a powerful distinction these last years as my babies pull more and more away from me. I can’t stop them from discovering the world, all its ugliness and all its beauty, and I don’t really want to. Life doesn’t give us those beautiful, small babies whose only accomplishment in those first days was pooping for very long. Is it longer than most species? Sure, but not in the course of a mother’s love.
Life in its cruelty makes sure that not only are our children programmed to prepare to leave the nest almost immediately but that us as mothers have to watch in great sadness as this happens. Despite the almost certain knowledge that we performed this same act on our own mothers, its not a comparable hurt despite all logic telling us otherwise. This pain is a solo act meant to give children a chance to be better than we are and while most mothers wish for nothing less, the pain is still amazing.
I don’t handle pain very well. I don’t handle things that are out of my control very well. And I don’t handle change very well. Most people would say that all of these things are precisely what motherhood is all about and my inability to handle the rather normal aspects of a mother-child relationship means that I seriously erred in ever bringing those children into this world.
Most mothers would acknowledge that the world that we have brought these precious and innocent souls into is one that destroys a soul swiftly and with pinpoint accuracy. It destroys innocence with the first realization that Grandpa is not allowed to come to the house. It destroys innocence the first time a commercial about another world, a world that is incomprehensible, exists in the pictures that are shown on the daily news. We destroy a part of our children every time we have to leave them in the hands of strangers and pray that those strangers will show the same love only we can give them. This is motherhood; a small snapshot that can not represent the true destruction that even the smallest of children will feel. It is a part of the journey and a part of our children’s world.
Even knowing that I did this to my child I wouldn’t give them up for all the peace in the world. That is the selfishness of a mother’s love, the truth that blinds us often to the full extent of life that this world can offer. A mother’s love doesn’t follow patterns or easily discernible events that can be written in a paper by some self-proclaimed expert. A mother’s love isn’t a simple thing that defines a complex relationship that neither the child nor the mother can ever leave. It isn’t easy. It isn’t controllable. It isn’t all together sane. But it is tough. Tough enough to stand the greatest threat and tough enough to survive when all instances should be exactly contrary.
The love I have for my children unfortunately does not protect them from the relationships they are building with others. For example, there is a bully in my son’s life that I can’t shoot, I can’t maim, I can’t even keep him completely from my child. My child being eight, his focus is completely on fitting in and being accepted in the same ways he is accepted in his own home. And despite the fact that we all know life doesn’t work this way I am not allowed to hunt down this kid’s parent and punch them in the face (and hopefully break their nose). The bully in question is worth watching, and I watch him like a hawk, but his words while rude are part of the process my son must be able to accept from others. I don’t have to like it, and trust me if it happens in my presence I will probably react in ways I will regret, but it is part of a whole. In the meantime all I can do is limit the contact my child has with this kid and daydream about that punch I really want to deliver.
I never dealt with bullies in my own life; mostly because I was so far away in my books that even standing next to those bullies I probably wouldn’t have heard them. I wasn’t prepared for many aspects of having children and specifically two highly intelligent and highly functional children as mine are. I did not get an athlete, I have gotten braininess. I didn’t get children capable of the immediate response required in tough situations, instead I got children who run home for verification that their hurt feelings are justified in this instance. I got the nerds and I am so proud that I get to say that.
But this means that I have to stand by in certain situations. This means I have to take each situation that my child is involved in and look at it in a case-by-case basis and determine the best course of action. Because my children would rather be alone, I am going to be spending money I don’t have to enroll them in programs that hopefully will not only give them confidence but the ability to react to these bullies and find reasons to spend time outside their own rooms. Because my children are strange, mannerly, and altogether brag worthy, their goodness makes them stand out. And sometimes the ones standing out aren’t the ones that others revere.
It is a strange wake-up call when you are a mother of children that other mothers complement and love. The number of times I have heard questions about my parenting and how I got two children who will not eat at their friend’s homes because it is not their snack time, has always alarmed me. The number of times that I have had questions about why my children don’t act out often alarms me.
I am not a great mother. I have great kids. But like every mother out there I am constantly wondering what I am doing right and what I am doing wrong. I often wonder if the compliments my children get are a symptom that I am being too strict with them. I often wonder if their inability to find a desire to be out of their rooms is because I have caused the world to be too scary; is it possible that I shaped their personalities to not be adaptable to real life? They live in real life; they will have to find success in real life. But is it possible that in my desire to not allow so much childlike behavior that is simply a part of being a child, that their ability to find a way out of my arms and into this contrary and destructive world is hampered?
There really are no answers today. Probably the only answers I will ever know will come fifty years from now when my children began the journey closer to where they started. In the meantime, I will help to grow the best children I know how and spend hours on my knees praying that their tears are few and far between. And that there are no noses needing rearranging by my fist.