Motherhood is weird. I mean, I can’t think of any other circumstance where we’d be so involved in someone else’s toilet habits and argue at length about which foot a shoe goes on. But at the same time, it’s also one of the most natural things in the world — if it weren’t, the human race would have died out long ago. And its combination of strangeness and normalcy is just one of many bizarre dichotomies about being someone’s mom. For example…
Wanting your kids to go away, but missing them when they do.
I can recall a million times when I wanted nothing more than a few moments alone. Times when, as much as I love my children, I felt like I would flip out if they needed one more thing from me. But once, I was lucky enough to go on a kid-free vacation — and when I did? I wasted the entire first day missing my kids so much I literally felt like I was suffocating, kind of like I do when they won’t leave me alone. Oh, the irony.
Seeing their faults, but being pissed as hell if someone else points them out.
Let’s say one of my kids is a champion whiner. Whines like it’s his job. Like somebody said, “Hey, kid, I’ll give you a million dollars to be the whiniest whiner that ever whined.” I can complain about this all I want — I’m his mother. But if someone else dares to say to my face, “Your kid is really whiny,” we’re going to have a problem. And likewise…
Disciplining them freely, but hating for anyone else to do it.
As the primary disciplinarian in our house (also known as “not the favorite parent”), I dish out punishments and reprimands on the regular. But when someone oversteps those bounds and tries to bark out an order at my kids like they’re — well, me — I get pretty salty, pretty fast, even if my kids deserve it. And when it’s my husband, who has just as much right to discipline them as I do, I always feel like he’s being too harsh — even though it may be less of a punishment than I would have doled out.
Wanting them to eat, but not your food.
When my kids were little and I worried about their ability to sustain life on nothing but air and crumbs, I tried everything short of standing on my head to convince them to just take a few bites. But wait, kid — you want a bite of this expensive chocolate I’ve been hoarding? No way. I don’t want to share it. That’s why I’m hiding in the closet while I eat it. Now go get your own snack. And share it with your brother!
See? Contradictions abound.
Secretly hoping they’ll be nerds, but not wanting them to be made fun of.
When I think about my children becoming teenagers, I worry for them; high school is hard. From a parenting standpoint, I would love nothing more than for my son to be, say, the geeky, honor-roll-achieving, pocket-protector-wearing captain of the chess club (because let’s face it, those kids tend to fall low on the teenage debauchery scale). But then again, I also fear for my son to be the geeky honor-roll-achieving, pocket-protector-wearing chess club captain — because that oftentimes goes hand in hand with bullying. Which is worse: my kids taking the stupid risks I did as a teenager (cringe!) or being low-risk, but potentially ridiculed? I can’t decide.
Losing your shit all day, but thinking how sweet they are once they’re asleep.
There are days (the majority of summer break comes to mind) when my kids are at each other’s throats, bickering from the time their eyes open in the morning until the sun goes down at night. I spend a good portion of those days wanting to wring their necks. But as soon as they turn in for the night, and I check on them once they’ve fallen asleep, every infraction they racked up during daylight hours miraculously melts away. All I see are their precious, peaceful faces, their innocence, their vulnerability. The lovely children I’ve been entrusted to care for and help grow. And I feel so lucky.
Until they wake me up to tell me they “can’t sleep.”
Motherhood: the most frustrating, rewarding, joyous, nightmarish, awesome, gut-wrenching gig you’ll ever (not) understand.