Sunday, December 20, 2009

Mommy guilt

My newly pregnant friend shared with me in an e-mail this week that she had read somewhere that having children is like subjecting yourself to complete guilt all the time. I wrote her back to say that the quote that had stuck out for me while pregnant was something to the effect that being a mom is like having your heart walk outside of your body. And it got me thinking about both subjects--guilt and love--that overcome us as parents.

I told my friend that I thought love was the bigger emotion. It starts while you're pregnant and then just keeps growing as you get to know your child. Sometimes I marvel at the confidence I finally seem to be having as a mother. But then I realize that it's not because I know anything more about mothering; it's that I now know my child more. I have a deeper understanding of who she is and what makes her tick as each month goes by. That knowing translates into a deeper caring on my part because there is this joy in knowing. Deep knowing=loving? I think so. And I love loving her. I love the fact that as I get to know her more, I find it that much more easier to love her. So I told my friend that love was the emotion that took me by surprise with my daughter, that this love is so big and consuming and like none I've known before. It's a love that is altruistic in nature, and protective and nurturing. It's a mother's love that still makes my heart catch in my throat. It's one that I just never imagined would be mine to give away. It's not a perfect love, but it makes me ponder one that is, one that comes from above.

It's within this love that we see how vulnerable we really are. We know that we are forever changed by the little life or lives that we are leading and it makes us so hard on ourselves sometimes. I think that the mommy wars and competitiveness come out of this spot of weakness, when we realize how much we have at stake and how we want so much for our little ones to thrive and love and be loved and succeed, sometimes we yearn for them to achieve what we were not even able to achieve or be loved as we have not yet learned how to love. It makes us strive to be perfect parents, which of course we cannot be; it makes us sick with remorse when we decide that we have been the ones at fault for a situation that may or may not have been in our hands after all.

Twice this has hit home in the last few days. Once I lost Angelica for a brief minute (that felt like a lifetime) at the museum, as I got distracted in converation and she was off within the blink of an eye. The next time I was out by myself while she got sick and developed a fever while grocery shopping with her daddy. In the first situation I still feel this sense of dread that I was not there, watching out for my girl when she skipped away. In the second, I know there was absolutely nothing I could have done at that moment, but I still feel the guilt for not being there at that moment to help soothe her. It's the feeling of failing her. I don't want to fail her, yet I know that I will many more times in many small ways in the years to come, and that knowing pains me. The guilt creeps in because we understand that the love, as big as it is, is not always as we wish it to be because we are flawed. We are not perfect and cannot be in this lifetime.

However, the fact remains that this love--and love in all of its most basic and purist forms--is the most precious and valuable entity that we possess on this earth. We must remember to forgive ourselves and move forward, and let go of the guilt once in a while. It's not worth letting it eat us up inside, because that stagnates us while the love that we carry will move always move us forward if we let it.

Give me another day or two, and I think I'll finally get over the museum thing....

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

This week in lists (Listomania)

Oh, the joys of motherhood. The ups and downs and unexpected weird turns. I realized I could make a list of them for the past seven days (I'm pretty sure that every thing on every list did happen within that framework...sorry if I'm off by an extra day or two). So then I didn't stop at one list, I realized that the listomania was like a living animal and finally I did have to reign it in. But this is what I ended up with, so read away....

Three things that make me cringe:
1.) Angelica running to the corner of her bedroom, squatting and peeing before I can get a new diaper on her
2.) my little chipmunk spitting milk all over my sweater and hair (that was actually fixed) after having held it in her mouth for a new record amount of time...
3.) What?! That smell again? four poopy diapers in one day before 1:00 PM

Three things that make me feel so peaceful:
1.) being able to shower, get dressed, brush my teeth and do hair/makeup all before going in to get my sleeping beauty in the morning (however...a sacrifice of sleep and warm covers is in the mix for this one)
2.) afternoon naps that go beyond two hours...heavenly
3.) being able to do the dishes or a load of laundry or better yet, drink a coffee leisurely while Elmo or the characters from Meet the Colors are entertaining my girl via "educational" videos (haha, well the "educational" part makes me feel better about this one, and the fact that I ALWAYS choose the Spanish option).

Three things that make me abolutely crazy:
1.) two days straight of trying to put down a super-awake toddler for an afternoon nap who staunchly refuses to sleep and even mocks me by pointing in two directions after I tell her to put her head down "here... okay then put your head down over here because it's time to sleep...." All attempts to settle her down--except by the magic one, breastmilk since this is a first step in the weaning process--fail miserably. Encouraged by her chanting "sleepy sleepy sleepy" I ask her if she is sleepy and get a wide-eyed head-shaking adament "no!" in reply. For two entire hours I struggle with her the first day, and just let her cry it out the second day. Finally on that day there is relief after an hour or so, I think, as silence (oh, beautiful silence) blankets the house and I lie down to rest my weary bones...
2.) I must be dreaming because otherwise I'd swear I'm in my classroom in front of a group of 5-6 students on the last day of class who have come to take the final after not coming to class all semester long. A situation to make any teacher's blood absolutely boil. I remember that I am vividly chewing one female student out, saying "If you didn't want to come to class, you should have bought one of those TV DVD things [What? "TV DVD things?" What are those? I think I meant to say "Rosetta Stone Language Software programs", so obviously I get flustered in confrontational situations even in my dreams...] but if you sign up for a course you ought to know that you have to be there!" when a loud bell rings, and wait, I'm obviously not used to getting much REM sleep these days because it really shocks me to realize that it is the door buzzer to my unit that has just sounded, and the UPS guy has come for a delivery. Oh, the timing. Then it takes me until 2 seconds before opening the door to even try to dissimulate the fact that I'm basically sleep-walking, you know, I do the whole "open-the-eyes-really-wide" trick to make myself look more awake, but first and almost only words out of the soft-spoken UPS guy are "Did I wake you?" (Hey--is he chuckling to himself?!) I fumble through an embarrassed response of something to the effect of "Uh...sometimes when my daughter sleeps I try to, too." Dude, if you only knew.
3.) then there's the slaving over trying to pack a balanced lunch to go and then GET OUT of the house on time for the children museum's story hour and then once ready for lunch time, seeing little Angel girl tear around the area of chairs and tables and fun condiment stands as if her mother never gets her out of the house, just to watch helplessly as this mother can only get her to take bites of the sugary flavored yogurt here and there in between the Tarzan and Jane-like wild-child running episodes and between the disapproving stares consider "lunch" a good idea, but getting her out of there and safely in the car to go home an even better one....

Wow. What a week it's been. Last, but not least, my favorite list.
Three things that make me giggle:
1) watching Angelica stealthily place a styrofoam coffee cup filled with water in the cupholder of an unsuspecting grandmother at church who upon noticing turns to her distracted daughter holding a baby and says "Did you bring a coffee in?" The distracted mother shakes her head with a blank look, and the grandmother looks bewildered. (Sidenote to this one: I got the giggles watching this and said nothing. But don't think that I'm that rude. She IS a toddler, so of course this routine of placing the cup in the holder, removing the cup and running around, and placing the cup in the holder....went on numerous times. Obviously the grandmother soon picked up on the origin of the "mysterious coffee". Although I don't think she was quite as amused by it as I was.)
2.) seeing Angelica's reunion with her daddy after work one afternoon, silly as can be...he squeals at her in this impossible high-pitched tone, and she reciprocates the squeal. (Is this some kind of whale greeting that they're practicing that I'm not aware of?) She then runs into his arms, he scoops her up and it is a Hallmark Hall of Fame moment. Until the door slams shut and she wiggles out of his arms and starts jumping up and down, yelling "Elmo! Elmo! Elmo!"
3.) gleaning words of wisdom from story time at the museum. Sandwiched in between books and songs and toddler joy the story teller dead-pans the following:
You can pick your friends, you can pick your nose, but you can't pick your friends' noses.

True enough. And that's about as deep as I can get this week.