There’s this great myth out there that once you have a baby and hold him (or her) in your arms, you become part of this amazing tribe of mothers and you are vested with this knowledge of How to Be a Mom. That’s total bullshit. The reality is that we spend more time Google searching our fuck ups than being okay with them. That’s a lot of time spent trying to figure out what is wrong with us than just being where we are. Sounds sorta Buddhist karma yoga mama but that’s who I am now. Allow me to explain, if I can.
My oldest couldn’t sleep for the first five years of his life. I was so tired and frustrated. Sometimes I cried with him. Sometimes I put him in bed with me and put on a movie and passed out while he wavered between awake and asleep, watching “Pretty in Pink,” and “The Breakfast Club,” in his onesie. I just held onto that damn kid and I kept going. That’s all there is to motherhood, basically. You cry and hang on.
And then one day, you’re walking downstairs by his bedroom and you hear that he’s watching “The Breakfast Club” and you realize that he has the entire movie memorized. And you hear him say, “We accept the fact that we had to sacrifice a whole Saturday in detention for whatever it was we did wrong. What we did was wrong, but we think you’re crazy for making us write an essay telling you who we think we are. You see us as you want to see us. In the simplest terms. The most convenient definitions. But what we found out is that each one of us is a brain…and an athlete…and a basket case…a princess…and a criminal. Does that answer your question?”
For Shane’s senior year, that was what I chose for his yearbook dedication. It was for the kid who never slept, the kid who was my constant companion on long lonely nights when his dad was working graveyards, the kid I was sure I fucked up, the kid who reminds me why I’m here every damn day. That kid – that young man – is my soul.
My Shane is an adult now, a college student. He gets himself to bed and he gets himself up for school and work. But for those long first sleepless years of Shane, when I would talk to him and rock him and feed him and let him crawl into bed with me, every parenting book informed me he needed to be in his own bed, cried out, and weaned. I didn’t do it. Most mornings, when I check on him before I leave the house, he’s usually asleep, with his cat curled up next to him and our dog Atticus in front of his bedroom door. He seems to be okay.
I have days that I suck at being a mom. I get mad, I say the wrong thing. Or I don’t discipline my kids enough, I give my kids too much. I am convinced that I do a lot of it wrong. But no matter how much have I screwed up on the procedure, my kids have gotten the substance.
Maybe, just maybe, love can fix all that you think you did wrong in the eyes of everyone else. Maybe, just maybe, all you really do need is love.