Isn’t it funny how we mothers have probably never been more in love with our children than before they were born, and during their early infancies?
Think about it:
Before they’re born, they’re mysterious and magical, full of possibility. As mine grew inside me and my belly swelled accordingly, I was filled with awe. And the kicks and rolls and squirms, they rendered me spellbound. Who was this child? What would he or she be like? What would they look like? They were a part of me, floating along in sync with me, real but surreal.
And then they are born. Tiny and soft and unspoiled, with their blinking, doe eyes, taking everything in, considering it all. And even though they cry and are utterly needy and demanding, it’s pure and uncomplicated. Scarlett is difficult, but all she wants is loving arms to hold her, a cozy place to sleep, and some warm milk in her belly.
It will be awhile before things begin to get complicated, before we start clashing, before the battles start – battles over what they can wear to school, what I made for dinner, whether I served their cereal to them in the wrong bowl in the morning, and how mean I am for making them clean up their room. It will be awhile yet before they start favoring Daddy because he’s more fun. It will be awhile before they let me down, and I let them down.
But that will come in time; it always does. And then I wonder how it is that my kids – despite my best efforts – behave the way they do sometimes; I wonder where I went wrong. I feel like a failure. And I wonder sometimes if these battles that feel constant and endless are causing permanent damage to my relationship with them – will we be close when they’re all grown up? Or will they despise me? Or will they just tolerate me?
And would I have had kids if I had known – no, if I had believed – it was going to be so damn hard? An impossible question to answer. That’s the thing: none of us believes it’s going to be so hard. We all picture the soft, sweet baby, and maybe even the mischievous toddler, but not the kids who pretend they don’t hear you, or the screaming little girl, or the defiant boy, or the smart-mouthed teenager. Oh no – that’s not going to be our kids. That only happens to parents who don’t know how to parent.
So maybe I don’t know how to parent.
For now, I’ll savor the uncomplicated dance Scarlett and I share. While it lasts.