My parents didn’t expect me, though they tried for a very long time to have me — seven years, in fact. My mom took her temperature every frickin’ day for seven years after my sister was born. I’m super appreciative for all the effort. I knew I was wanted and loved every moment of my existence even though I decided to come out butt first on April Fool’s Day. Sorry, Ma.
They all took care of me — my mom, dad, and big sister. They coddled me, rocked me. My mom’s philosophy was that there was no reason a baby ever needed to cry, if you’re wondering how much I was put down in the first year of my life. And while I had the normal amount of rules growing up, I never wanted for anything. So this is kind of what I expected out of life: me, strolling along, getting everything I wanted. And yes, I rarely cried.
Having kids of your own is a giant reality check for a person who has spent their entire life pretty confident about their place in the world. When that newborn baby boy was placed in my arms, sweet-smelling and tiny, my confidence was immediately obliterated. What was I doing? I’m the grown-up now? Wait, what?
And even though I was adequately impersonating a grown-up in real life (I was married, had a job, a mortgage, and a dog), I don’t think that I really became an adult until I was put in charge of that little person’s life. I was petrified of him. He was so helpless, and it was my job to keep him alive. Nothing, I mean absolutely nothing, was about me anymore. And I quickly realized that it never would be again.
There was a lot of crying — by me, by the baby, by me.
“How the hell does a baby never cry?” I wailed at my mom one night on the phone, convinced that she had been lying to me. “Well, maybe you cried sometimes,” she admitted, probably so that I didn’t feel like a total failure.
And it’s not like things got easier as he turned into a toddler, or when he went to school, and it certainly didn’t get easier when I had his sister. I had to figure my shit out. I had to learn how to be a grown-up mom person who made dinner for a family while rocking a baby and who sometimes didn’t even have time to look at her face in the mirror before leaving the house. I was a mom, someone’s mommy, and they were counting on me to feed them, clothe them, rock them, tell them stories, and teach them how to grow up.
My children were patient with me as I grew. They would softly rub the back of my hand as I cried crocodile tears over burnt toast. They would bring me roughly cut out hearts to let me know that I was doing an okay job at figuring out how to be the mom they needed me to be. They would remind me with every sticky hug that I didn’t have to be perfect at being their mother, but that I did have to try — for them.
I’m still growing. I don’t always know how to be a parent. I don’t know exactly what I should do when they bring a bad grade home, or roll their eyes at me, or say “Jesus Christ” in front of their grandparents. Parenting and growing is hard and messy and sucky. And now I am making up for all the crying I didn’t do as a pampered child.
But when I hold their faces and say, “You are a wonderful child. Thank you for choosing me to be your mom,” I hope they know they are as wanted and cherished as I felt. I feel my own mom’s arms, never putting me down, and I know that I’m slowly figuring this out, like a real grown-up.