Thursday, May 18, 2006

A mother who is really a mother

We live by this huge flight of steps (I've never counted, but it must be hundreds of steps in all) that goes down, down, down to a beach. Because it's health-conscious Seattle, people don't just hang out on the steps and admire the little glimpses of Puget Sound through the trees - they RUN. Up and down, often more than once.

So, sometimes I take Elijah to the steps and we run up and down the first section - it's not long but we're both certainly winded by the time we do it a couple of times. Today, a regular on the steps (an old timer with bad shoes and a great tan) saw us and said:

"Now you are a mother who is really a mother. You are to be commended, doing this with your boy."

It was one of those chance comments that came at just the right time. I've been feeling a little sheepish about this post. I think, no, I KNOW, I was snottier than I needed to be about jo(e) and her blog and I've been feeling sorry.
Shout out to jo(e): Sorry for being snotty before. And thanks for being nice in my comments anyway.
In that post, remember, I was going on and on about how other people's kindness and competence made me feel evil and inadequate, but last week, I had the following revelation. I've been whispering this little sentence to myself and it's changed my life.

I am actually a pretty good mom.

When Eli was born I was so stunned. I've never had a job or a relationship that required so many decisions. I'd never seen the results of those decisions bear such immediate, and often such undesired, fruit. (Remember that time, for example, when he was 13 months old and I gave him a bowl of chili and also four days of terrible diaper rash? Of course you don't, but I will never forget it.) As a consequence, I think I have let myself believe that I was just bad at being a mom.

But the truth is, that is not the truth.

There is no abuse or neglect going on here - just the every day work of trying to figure out how to be a human being, by both the 4 year old AND the grown-ups. I sure don't have that figured out yet, and it's ok for him to know that. In fact, he's going to know it sooner or later, so easier if it's sooner and maybe it won't be such a big shock. Ok, sometimes I'm grumpy, like I was in that other post. So what? Isn't that just part of the big story of being human?

Seeds of the revolution/revelation: One day last week, Eli's quiet play hour (alone in his room for one hour) consisted of drawing a huge map for his cars, along with a cityscape and the people inhabiting it. With crayon. On the wooden floor. So I pulled out the new scrub brush we had, by chance, just purchased at the drug store. That new scrub brush was the coolest thing Elijah had seen in a while and he loved whisking it around on the floor, which was profoundly irritating to me. I heard myself say to him “Hey! This is not a game!" but I looked at him grinning and scrubbing away and I wondered why it couldn’t be. He could learn not to draw on the floor and still have fun cleaning up, couldn't he?

So now, in every situation, I ask myself "could this be a game?" It's remarkable how often it could be. I'm saying "yes" a lot more, and laughing a lot more. And guess what? It's not making him spoiled and bad. It's making him delightful and good! I'm really enjoying it, and I'm ENJOYING enjoying it, if you know what I mean.
In other words, I think I might finally be becoming a mother who's really a mother.

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