Friday, November 30, 2012
Shades of Mediocrity.
I read a lot of Mommy blogs even though most of them are written by younger mommies. I started with just one blog and then it snowballed, as I jumped from one mommy blog to the next. I realized that I read them because I was missing the early years of my children, who are now on the cusp of adulthood. I loved reading about the bits and pieces of children's lives, accompanied by beautifully illustrated photographs. It helped pass the time while I was struggling with illness and it was feel good reading.
Until it wasn't.
These are the things I was reading about: Attachment parenting! Skin to Skin bonding! Breastfeeding in the Delivery Room! Baby Wearing! Co-Sleeping!
The mommy bloggers post these beautifully written letters to their children expressing their unconditional love, sometimes monthly. My kids are ages 17, 20 and 23 and two of their three baby books are not quite finished yet.
As I continued to read, I started to feel really bad about myself, like OMG, I did it wrong. I screwed up the whole parenting thing. I didn't skin to skin bond with my babies; I did breastfeed, but not at birth, in fact the first night I opted to keep them in the nursery so I could sleep after being awake for two days straight; I didn't share their birth stories about effacement and dilation and muscous plugs and what have you; I didn't wear my babies, or constantly sleep with them. Some days I was really, really glad they went to bed so I could have a minute to breathe. I put them in their crib at regular times for regular naps and put them to bed at night with a story and a song and a hug and a kiss, expecting them to sleep on their own. Every minute wasn't magical, every milestone wasn't noted and recorded, and their rooms weren't decorated by Pottery Barn.
My mommy efforts paled in comparison to the Mommy bloggers. All the good things I did were erased from my memory. Even though I parented with good intentions one hundred percent of the time, I fell short. You know why? Because all parents fall short. We are an imperfect species.
As hard as I have been on myself this last year, I finally realized that these new mommies are really hard on themselves. They are trying to be perfect parents. It is not borne of grandiosity, it is because they are trying to protect their children. I understand it because I spent twenty two years trying to be the perfect parent. I thought by sheer will alone I could shield my children from all of life's pain. I went to such great lengths, I was on the verge of a nervous breakdown. I had my eye on the ball 24/7 and it was exhausting.
Last summer, my then sixteen year old son told me, "Mom, I can't learn from your mistakes. I need to learn from my own. I know you want me to have a perfect life and I will probably want the same thing for my own kids one day, but life just isn't perfect".
Such wise words from my beautiful boy! I realized that the times I grew most in life were the times I had overcome adversity or suffered disappointment. I needed to let my children do the same. While I encourage their success, I also have to let them fail. It is good to let them fail while they still have a safe place to fall. I have to trust that they will learn from their mistakes, just like the rest of us did.
I mean you just can't wear that baby forever. There is a point in time where you just have to send your child into the world and pray they will survive. And for me, it will be the hardest thing I've ever done. Attachment is the easy part. It's the letting go that is killing me. I have to find the grace to let my children go, when all I want to do is rewind the clock to their less than perfect childhood, and start again. I hope that my children will always know how very deeply they are loved and I pray that no matter how far they travel, they will find their way home.
I'll be here -- grateful for the past, mindful of the present, and trustful towards the future. Maybe one day, I will even finish up those baby books! See, that's the thing about the future, you just never know. It's a leap of faith and I am getting ready to jump. Not quite yet, but I'll get there. If there is one thing a Mommy knows how to do, it's survive.