Thursday, December 27, 2007

the way she sees me

the way she sees me

When I was pregnant with my boy, his gender still a mystery, I thought it incomprehensible that I could be carrying anything but a girl. Even admitting my faulty logic at the time, I couldn't move past the deduction that, well, I'm a girl. I have but one sister. My mother had three sisters, no brothers. I'd already made one girl. How could I possibly produce anything but? And what would I do with a boy, anyway? Well. And then he was born and I think I mumbled something like, "oh crap, what will we name him?" because even though our girl name had been long decided, boy choices weren't even narrowed down. He was nameless for a few days. But he was my son, my baby, he couldn't possibly have been anyone else, right from the start. What had I been so worried about? Indeed. Of course, just recently, the irrational doubt has crept around the edges of my thinking, reminding me that, hey, that little, scrunchy toddler boy with the long curly hair who still sleeps in your bed and nurses and dives into your legs with full contact hugs?? He'll be a grown man someday. And I know it's a little early to be freaked out about that, but it's just weird to think about being the mother to a big, broad grown up man person someday. And I wonder if he'll be one of those big men who pick up their short little mothers and swoop them around in circles upon greeting, or if he'll stay on the other side of the room and give a polite but shy head-ducking hello nod. I wonder.

In predicting my future relationship with my son, even though, sure, I'm laying some of that foundation now in how I mother him, it's all speculation. I have no clue how many ways our relationship will shift between now and then. There's some amount of blissful ignorance in parenting a toddler, in the 'future is wide open, yes, but you'll always be my dear little sidekick' way. Or, I should say, I look back on myself seven, eight years ago and I think, O! to be so blissfully ignorant again.

My relationship with my girl is already shifting. And she was my little sidekick. For seven years, until her brother came along, she was my precocious companion, we did everything together and it was so sweet. It's still sweet. But now we are three, home and out and about together, and she is older. I see more of an older kid in her than I do a toddler. She's more likely to groan when I start to sing, less likely to laugh at my jokes, and quicker, often, with witty retorts.

But this isn't about how I see my kids. My kids won't remember, even when they're big adults, the glory days of their toddlerhood. They'll have to take my word for it, piece together tiny shreds of foggy memory and feeling, and look for their perspective on our collected photos to write their own story of how they grew up. I'll always be able to see in them the grown-up and the baby, a visceral memory of who they were will always be a part of me, like bumpy scar-tissue I can't help but to run my thumb over. I'll remember everything and they'll only remember what they remember. This is about how my kids will see me.

I fall short in so many ways. I thought I had it all figured out when my girl was wee. She was intense and spirited, full of opinions and ideas so far beyond her years, but I was younger and more hopeful. I had all the years in the world to be the mother I wanted to be, my one kid was practically a baby and we could do anything. The years are closing in on me now. She'll be nine next month and I can't believe she's halfway to being a legal adult. When I make mistakes now, they do matter. When I'm unable to sleep and full of worry in the night, it's not because I'm worried about toilet training my toddler, it's because I hope I'm making the right decisions with my big girl. Will she resent me, later, for the lifestyle choices we've made? She seems so happy and, yet, so lonely sometimes. And my heart breaks. And I know I'm not the mother I wanted to be. Oh, I'm funny and silly and I hit the mark a lot. We have a lot of fun. I bake a lot more than I thought I would, I feed my family better than I thought I could. We crank up the music and dance so much and quietly sit together and watch the birds outside every day. But. . . I'm slower to break out the art supplies than I should be. I don't keep the house quite as orderly as I'd like. I find myself not always as patient as I ought to be. I leave cupboard doors open and I'm lazy about replacing toilet paper rolls. I'm not nitpicking. I'm just laying it all out there because I know it's all part of who I am to my children.

In clearing the table before dinner the other day, I found the above picture. I'd known she'd been drawing, she usually draws pertinent illustrations while I read. I pushed together a stack of paper (she's prolific and produces more than I can really examine closely) and almost missed it. I picked it up, recognizing myself right away and I bet you think I'm going to say I cried or at least I got all teary and stood there staring at my daughter's rendition of me and had myself an emotional little moment, but I did not. Oh no. I picked it up and ran it right down to our scanner and set it there to wait until I could find a memory card (which took a few days) so I could digitally save it so someday, even if the original gets misplaced or ruined, I can pull up the image and show them that, see, I was your mother and I read to you all the time and I must have done something right, don't you remember?


Angelina said...

When I was pregnant I desperately wanted a girl and knew that I would have a boy, later confirmed by an ultrasound. Lately I've been thinking how much simpler it would be to be raising a girl. You talking about imagining your boy as a man is a potent thing for me as I do that all the time now that Max is seven. It really freaks me out that he's going to have really hairy armpits and stinky big feet and a deeper voice.

I fear raising a boy into a man and yet it's what I do every single day. I wish I could just relax into it and trust that he's going to turn out just fine.

Lisa said...

Oh Angelina, I have never raised a boy, but I don't think that girls are simpler. I don't think that one is harder than the other exactly, I think they are hard or complex in different ways. I have heard, from mothers with both sexes, that girls were easier than boys when they were younger and as they got near puberty, girls were much harder. I don't know if this is true in all cases, but I can definitely see it with Maddy.

I can see the battles that are already here sometimes and more still looming with Maddy as her hormones kick start and her obstinance and my obstinance clash. As she develops her own opinions and personality and tests them out on us. I can feel what you feel, April, that I don't want my children to resent the choices we have made and it is scary as we try to forge ahead as they get older. Maddy will be a teenager in less than two years! Yikes. How did it go so quickly.

Angelina said...

I've heard the same thing, Lisa, and it will be interesting for all of us to compare notes as our kids get older. I always like to think having a girl would be easier, but I know it's just what I imagine when I'm having a particularly tough time with Max. Not having a girl makes having one an easy fantasy. You're going to have to report from the trenches!!