Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Something I Didn't Understand Before I Became a Mother

Know what I didn't fully comprehend before I had children? Just how fully these tiny people PWN you. And I don't mean in the Ron Howardy, "Gee, the kids are constantly asking me for juice/grapes/stories/books" kind of way. Chock-full-of-corn as it sounds, these babies of mine thoroughly own my heart.

Oh my God, you have NO IDEA how hard that was to write. I feel like I'm turning into a Hummel figurine. I have squishy feelings, OKAY?

From the moment the Older Boy was born, my family has invaded my past, present, and future. In doing so, I've been forced to live there a little. Not because I'm the Terminator. Although that would be intriguing. Let me explain what I mean...

Regarding the present: almost every decision my husband and I make is done with respect to what's best for the kids: where we live, how we spend money, what car to buy, what to have for lunch (seriously -- if the Older Boy needs a sandwich and we have two slices of bread, Super Ninja's packing leftovers). That's one way the kids sit on my brain. The other way is just enjoying raising them and the things they do. Like when my kindergartner decides to wear rain boots to school because they are part of his superhero costume and they will make him feel awesome all day...or when my three-year-old daughter says "whobody put this here?" (there's somebody, anybody, nobody, so why not whobody?)...or when my two-month-old wakes up and beams a smile at me... All of that fills me with joy.

(Wow, I am just losing ALL of my hipster cred. Oh well, guess there wasn't that much to lose. I mean, I do Beyonce's "Single Ladies" dance with the Girl. One of us is usually wearing a tutu when this happens. It's not like we're swaying to Kings of Leon around here.)

Losing my focus...

The point is, everyone understands this part of parenthood. It's not hard to wrap your head around the fact that you are responsible for your kids' well-being, that they will do some cute stuff (and some not so cute stuff), that all of it is a lot of work, that you'll be tired, but mostly happy.

But my brain does this weird multi-time-and-place thing. I"m surprised I haven't given myself an aneurysm. I flash to the past to compare my childhood to the one I am giving my children, trying to replicate what was good, trying to change what was not so good. Ultimately, I feel like I understand my parents much, much, much better than I did back then. And I forgive them for a lot more.

Then I flash to the future, and imagine all the possibilities for joy and pain that await my children. Swimming and movies and graduations and college and dating and marriage or holy orders or neither and maybe possibly children of their own and ultimately adventure, lots of adventure... I don't let my mind dwell there too often, because I don't want to force them on a certain path (or invite a fight with me about what they will and won't do with their lives). But I'll hang out with them and my mind will snap to twenty years from now and envision what it'll be like to talk about a movie or politics or whatever with them...

I'm not naive; I know that they will drive me up a wall almost as much as they delight me. My five-year-old already thinks he has the world pretty well figured out, so that'll be fun when he's a teenager.

This forecasting, though...I think this is where fear starts. Worry, in it's milder form. That's the dark side of having a family: the possibility that it would be fractured or lost. See, I have expectations that these children, and my husband, will be a part of my life until my life is done. And if that did not happen, my heart would simply break.

Don't worry, I'm not going all post-partum depression on you. I am like, 98% in the happy. However, I think it's normal to spend some time wondering about how you would react to devastation, like your kid or your husband getting hurt, or sick, or dying. I'm not saying I've gotten funeral planning brochures or anything creepy like that. It's more like a role-playing exercise. Like fire drills. If you imagined that say, your kid fell down a flight of stairs, you might react to it actually happening more quickly.

If you find that you imagine a situation in which you cause these things, though, or sort of wish they would happen so that you can get some sympathy, please go here.

So, there it is: these children, by virtue of being born, have already left their sticky hand prints all over every part of my life. No matter what happens, they are inextricably entwined with who I am. I am still me, the goober who loves Scrabble, staying up late, movies, and being slightly left-of-center. But I'm braided together with these lives, first my husband's, then my children's. Maybe we're programmed this way as humans to ensure survival, but man, it's a doozy when you feel the power of it.

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