Musings of a Mum: 18 months
Hey Lady Munchkin. Dear Chicken. Hi Baby,
Pour yourself some hot tea, this is going to be a long one.
My favorite little scientist, what have you done with my baby? You've replaced her chubby cheeks with curiosity and spunk. You've taken her small cry and morphed it into a loud decree of self. You've honed some sort of sixth sense of immediately noticing items you aren't supposed to touch. You've become less reserved on the playground, though you still seem to prefer your own company. However, you are fully at the interaction phase, so you can play independently less and less at home. Your toys and parents easily bore you.
Today I woke with a longing. My being is moved, pushed into a deeper understanding and affection for life. I missed my mother as I sat and wrote and watched you play...watched you shove books into my lap, demanding a read. I've been struck again lately with the dual nature of life. Recently, your Aunt Kelly received the news that her cancer had returned and our entire community spiraled into a panic. As we endured the longest week of our lives to date, a week waiting to learn if the cancer was treatable (it is!), I began to notice how resentful I was of this suffering while simultaneously noticing how I feel entitled to pleasure and run from pain.
Later that week, I read the following from Pema Chodron:
"Pain is not punishment. Pleasure is not a reward. Inspiration and wretchedness are inseparable. We always want to get rid of misery rather than see how it works together with joy. Inspiration and wretchedness complement each other. With only inspiration, we become arrogant. With only wretchedness, we lose our vision. Feeling inspired cheers us up, makes us realize how vast and wonderful our world is. Feeling wretched humbles us. The gloriousness of our inspiration connects us with the sacredness of the world. But when the tables are turned and we feel wretched, that softens us up. It ripens our hearts. It becomes the ground for understanding others. Both the inspiration and the wretchedness can be celebrated. We can be big and small at the same time." When Things Fall Apart, page 61-62.
This hit home so dramatically. In the wake of the inability to breath for the worry I had, I also noticed a deep softening toward others, my family, and all living things. I was full of life.
I've also been thinking about motherhood a lot. About honesty. About the hardships. About saying them aloud. Wondering if you will be hurt that I was honest in talking candidly about motherhood.
I have to tell you that one of the factors imperative to enjoyment of motherhood is space. It is very easy to fail into the habit of being your caregiver and only that. Those times have their joy and pains - exhausting to say the least. It is when I step back, go for a walk alone, take time to write in a coffeehouse with other amazing women, go to brunch with your Aunties, or even sit to write you this letter that I find the clearest, most accessible picture of my love for you, a love too often hidden in the midst of cheerio-covered floors and one million "Not for you, Bowie!" phrases. In the space of necessary reflection is the deepest satisfaction with my life. Many avoid reflection for this same reason, something inside of them knows they are unhappy. But my dear, we must be brave. We must face the honest selves inside of us.
What if me telling the truth of how hard it is to raise a child would never have to hurt you personally? What if me speaking out and destroying the stigma means other women do the same...so much so that you never equate the nuances of your personality with my ability to find happiness in raising you. What if everyone was saying that it's hard, no matter the child? And then imagine the power that could have if those children's children entered into parenthood without the societal pressure to love the job, therefore freeing themselves up to do it as only they would instead of trying to conform to some sort of bull shit standard. You don't have to love the work to love the child.
We must be brave and speak.
The other piece of advice I have is this. Make sure to invest in your life as well as into the life of your children. I've noticed how much easier it would be on my daily angst if I didn't try to do anything else but take care of you all day. I began to wonder if that's how so many mother's loose themselves, loosing the confusing battle of who to chose in any given moment. "Am I being selfish?" "Am I spoiling her" Back and forth, each day and task producing a different answer. I hear myself scream along with you, "What about meee!!!??" and a shame ensconced deeply in that voice. A voice that says this is your formative years, it's time to be selfless, it's your time. All these thoughts are true, but they are not all the truth. I am still here, and I am forming you. I want you see a mother fighting to preserve herself as a woman too. I want you to know I can't be a good mother if I give you everything I have.
I tell you this to fill in the gaps of your childhood as you look back and perhaps have memories of me sitting, reading, writing, crying. These were my thoughts this particular day as you played at my side.
And now to you. I have pages recorded of your new developments, loves, and milestones:
- You love to be scared and laugh easily when Daddy chases you.
- You obsess about books. It's your first word when you wake and your last before bed. You definitely have your favorites, requiring a read of 6-12x per day. I will sometimes find you quietly sitting on the rocking chair in your bedroom, surrounded by piles of books you've pulled down, leafing through the pages curiously.
- You willingly dole out "squeezes" and are the most cuddly toddler I've known. It's not uncommon to spend 30 min with you in my arms, sucking your thumb, gazing out the window. You are very tender, often hugging your playmates or cousins of your own volition.
- You are SO curious. You love to watch me make coffee in the morning. You love to brush your teeth with the sonicare. You want to play with my phone, camera, and xbox controller all the time. You love to open all manner of drawers and cabinets.
- You are rescued by the outdoors. No matter how cranky or upset or sad our day becomes, you are restored to peace just by walking out the front door.
- I marvel at how much you understand. I will give complicated directions and you will follow them exactly, shocking me a long the way. You will make connections I've never drawn for you - like looking at a picture of a clock then pointing to the clock on the wall.
- You love to help unload the dishwasher and water the plants.
- Your favorite repeated words are "Abbey" and "HiKitty" over and over and over.
- You are so verbally aware! You are repeating accurate number of syllables and love to have me say words to you during the bath. Your most impressive word to date is "applesauce."
- You are walking, climbing, nearly running.
- You are still a good eater and a great sleeper.
- Your favorite toys are legos and puzzles and the tupperware cabinet.
We love you, little lady. If you want to take a break and slow down the whole growing up thing, we'd be fine with that. Just sayin.