Motherhood never threatens to pull out my strongest emotions: overwhelming love, joy, gratitude as well as irrational fear, angst and anger.
Occasionally, when my three year-old is tired but refuses a nap, I want to lock her in her bedroom. Five minute is all I need. (Unfortunately and fortunately, our bedroom doors do not lock from the inside nor the outside. But we do have baby gates, which she climbs.) Then she asks me a question and she calls me mama and she pronounces a word through her lispy accent and her soft curls spring from her head like a halo and how can I possibly be irritated with such a precious creature?
So I kiss the back of her neck before she runs off in excitement (because she runs off either in excitement or in frustration, there are few gray areas), savoring the scent of her natural sweetness and proclaiming again: I love you so much. So much it hurts. Though I rarely bust out the baby gates, and I (barely) manage to keep many of my frustrations to myself, they’re still there. Pecking away at my patience with sharp edges. In the happier moments, I wonder why this anger keeps returning. I like to think it will ebb as I get better at this journey called life. (Does it get better? Maybe we get better at accepting our flaws? Or is this my fantastical way of coping?)
As for my boy, well, I find myself lecturing him more than I’d like. I get less time with him, and I have just as much to teach him, perhaps more since I feel I have to “counter” some of the things he learns at school and in the community center where he goes every weekday. (It really threw me through a loop when my purple-unicorn-loving, clip-on-earring-wearing little boy began shunning certain toys with absolute disgust, assigning a certain ambiguous title: girl toys.)
So I get really close to him, green eye to brown eye, round pale nose to small brown button nose, and the truth is that I love looking deeply into those wide puppy-dog eyes. Those eyes make the lecture worthwhile, even though I detest the sound of my nagging voice. When I see his eyes grow in response to my calm yet firm decree, I know he’s listening. He knows I’m serious. He know what I’m saying is true and important. I think. (I hope.) Alas, he doesn’t end up hating me for it. (Yet.) And seeing that I am not his “real” mom, he could very well wake up one day and decide he does hate me. But I don’t believe he will, because he knows how much I love him.
I wait all evening (sometimes all day) to put these sprite-like trouble makers to bed so I can put my feet up and actually read something (or blog something). But after the silence has fallen, I often end up thinking about them. Writing long notes to James about Emile’s summer schedule and plans. Daydreaming about all of the bonding we’ll do when Gigi and I get to keep him at home with us for a whole week, uninterrupted. I find myself scrolling through my phone at the pictures I took of Gigi on our adventure that day, or writing about them. Like right now.
Recently, when Gigi toddled (half-asleep) to my bedside to slumber between Mama and Daddy for the second half of the night, she had a baby doll stuffed into her too-small nightgown, pinned face-forward onto her bare chest. She’d fallen asleep taking care of the baby, likely nursing, possibly gestating. It’s hard for me to convey how this felt at the time; I was half-asleep, too. My heart has never been fuller than in that sleepy moment. There’s something profound about seeing your child nurture a baby doll. Sure, it’s pretend to us, but it’s real to them. Perhaps because this act represents the proliferation of our species: children grow up to have children. The circle of life continues, joyous and devastating at once.
For Mother’s Day, Emile’s first grade class made a paper bouquet of coupon flowers, each flower removable and inscribed with a favor. (Back rub, big kiss, movie night, etc.) Emile made this for his mother, along with the other children, and then he went on to make a card for me with a magnificent rainbow and a hand-written love note. My heart exploded and then melted and ultimately coalesced into something stronger than before.
This is how Motherhood transforms, like ripping up the muscle fibers so they will become stronger, a mother may lose her heart to her children’s infinite needs, but each time she surfaces for air (gasping for it, really), she notices that she is stronger and fuller than the time before.
Happy Mother’s Day, mamas. Especially to my own mom. I love you!