It’s that time of year for those Mother’s Day commercials featuring happy, shiny moms who can wipe tears and bums in one fell swoop. The cards filled with sentiments about ever-supportive moms who selflessly give their kids the world wrapped up in chocolate chip cookie dough.
This Mother’s Day hype makes me feel like it’s January 2nd and I’m stark naked trying on swimsuits in a dressing room with fat mirrors and bad lighting. Like shopping for bathing suits, motherhood is better if we don’t examine our reflections too closely.
I’ve made three people. This fact is undisputed. I see them every day and I am pretty sure they are the same kids I started with, although one does seem way too happy to have come out of my womb. The phrase “making people” sums up my attitude about having children—they truly are their own beings. I do not view them as “mine” in the sense that I “own” them because most things I own are not able to systematically lose or break all the other things I own.
I believe children come out fully cooked personality-wise. When I read my kids’ baby books, I realize that the personality traits I said about them then are the same ones I can say about them today. I don’t really have much control in that department, yet they make their own choices that bring out their uniqueness.
This insight might make me sound like I am confident in my parenting skills, but I mainly rely on the “they are who they are” theory when I’m drowning in guilt over my parental failures such as only serving food that come out of a cardboard box, being accused of always saying “the wrong thing” in a crisis or for resorting to fart jokes when the wrong thing has been said.
Speaking of fart jokes, my son, who is 13, says I’m sooooo immature (is it possible to be more immature than a 13-year-old boy?). He wonders why I can’t be a “normal” mom so the other day I tried my best, asking him serious questions about his science test and his hockey game without breaking into a song parody about how I’m going to make him read works of Shakespeare over summer vacation. To my relief, he didn’t like “normal mom” and released me from that burden.
Maybe he’s right. I’m 47 years old and still too immature to be a parent. I never came up with the right formula to “do it all” with a smile. I yell. I bitch. I moan. I cry. I do too much. I don’t do enough. I don’t always act like “everything will be alright” because I’m not always sure of that myself. I love them from the inside out and I definitely don’t tell them enough.
Yet my kids are pretty damn good despite my interference. I am proud that I ushered them into this world and hope that I have not become fodder for years of therapy to come. And it’s at those paranoid moments I am reminded that it’s not about me. It’s about them.
It doesn’t matter how I look in the motherhood swimsuit. What matters is taking the plunge, jumping in and getting wet.