I don’t know if there is anyone who doesn’t smile at the sight of baby. Fresh and new, unblemished, ready to begin life on earth. We smile at the innocence, the beauty, the miracle.
I think I began my life as a mother in a similar way. Innocent, hopeful, full of wonder and excitement. Of course, trepidation was a common feeling too. “How am I going to manage this ‘mom’ thing?”
As my children grow, I see their experiences molding and shaping them year by year. I take note of their minds and hearts working as they learn to make decisions for themselves. I try to give them helpful counsel as they learn to react to and interact with others. All too often, I wish I could protect them from hurt and difficulty, from the scars I know life will bring. Brought on by those same things I have faced and sometimes continue to face, even as a “grown up”. Sometimes I even wish I could protect my children from myself. From the fears I haven’t faced, the hurts I haven’t quite gotten over, the skewed perspectives I have. I think how nice it would be if I could do the “mom thing” from that same unblemished, perfect state babies seem to have when they enter the world.
Sometimes it takes years to realize something I encountered long ago still affects me … and my interactions with my children. The way I relate and respond to them. Not long ago, I felt hurt by a friend’s attitude toward my kids, and didn’t know why. Then I realized why it affected me the way it did. Years ago I had been hurt by the words of another “friend” who was vocally opposed to my second pregnancy and let me know in no uncertain terms that she felt me and my children were only a burden. The hurt I felt by her remarks remained in a place so deep I didn’t consciously realize it was there.
But it was. I became one of those parents constantly hovering over my children, hushing them if they became too loud, telling them not to disturb this person, and not to bother that person. Yes, it is good to help children grow in awareness of others and to understand there is a good and a not-so-good time to ask for things, but my hovering was borne of fear that I would again face—or worse, that my children would face—someone letting them know they are a burden, an unwanted load.
I was often preoccupied with making sure my children were “good” and “quiet” so they wouldn’t become an issue for someone else. But I don’t want to make the mistake of raising children in fear or negativity. Enough negative and harmful things face my children simply because we live in a broken world. My duty as a mother is to be a haven of security, peace, and helpful boundaries. Not to exude an “excuse me for breathing” mentality.
Most of all, my responsibility and privilege is to show them unconditional love. Children are a gift. They don’t need a reason or an excuse. Each child is a treasure with the potential to change the world for the better.
Seeing each day through the eyes of a child can help me remember every day is a chance to start over. Each lesson I help my children understand can serve as an encouragement to let go of past pain and hurt. Every new life ushered into this world is another proclamation that my life can likewise begin anew every day.
“Who would want to be a parent?”
Although it’s embarrassing to admit it now, that was my frame of mind before actually becoming one. I figured that all the hype about parenthood “enriching your life” and being a mother “is its own reward” was just what parents said to make themselves feel better about the fact that their lives were no longer their own, to console themselves during sleepless nights and through endless dirty diapers. I admired parents yes, as well as their resolve that “it is worth it;” but actually becoming one was another story.
Then the inevitable happened. I got married and soon afterward was expecting. As I got closer to “D-day,” and my tummy got rounder, friends would often ask me, “Won’t you be so glad when it’s finally out? You must be so tired of being pregnant!”
“No.” I would reply. “It’s perfectly safe inside.” It’s not that I didn’t want to have a smaller tummy again, but I just was not sure how I would do at actually being a mommy. Would I be able to cope with the sleepless nights that all new parents talk about? Would I get used to changing a baby I-don’t-know-how-many times a day? Would I have enough love for the new baby to deal with the loss of my freedom and “my life?”
I didn’t have to wait long before I discovered the answer. Our baby girl was born and although I might sound corny, it was “love at first sight.” That first night that she was born, I just lay awake, looking at her. Every feature was so perfect, from her tiny rosebud lips, to her ears that were shaped just like her daddy’s. She was lovely, and I was hooked.
Yes, there were some of those nights where I did not get to sleep before two or three in the morning. There were times that I wondered if I would ever be able to go out again “just for fun.” But there were also times that filled my heart with joy and wonder that I had never experienced. Like the time that she first “talked” with her little baby gurgles, smiling at me as if I was the greatest person in the world. As she grew, I beheld a new wonder as I saw the world through her eyes, as if experiencing simple joys again for the first time. I felt the pride that only a parent could feel when she read her first book “all by herself.” And just this evening, as we went for a drive, she slipped her little hand in mine and said “You’re my friend, mommy? I love you!”
I will gladly admit, with capital letters, I was wrong about parenting. For the record, becoming a mother is the best thing that has ever happened to me. The treasure of a child’s pure love is the greatest reward of parenthood, and yes, it is more than worth it. The feeling in my heart is living proof.