Friday, March 22, 2013

ten years of this guy

Ten years and two days ago I was giving birth to a tiny turtle of a baby.  I always called him a turtle baby because he was 5 weeks early and hadn't yet grown into his skin when he arrived.  He had all kinds of saggy baggy skin and it just made him look like a little turtle.  Also an old man.  He was pretty crazy cute.

If you're reading this blog, you probably know me, and you probably know that S was the surprise of my life.  He turned everything upside down.  He pushed me into the arms of a good man, permanently.  He forced me into the role of motherhood before I was ready, but I have done my best.  Very often I have felt that my best is simply not enough.

It requires so much, motherhood.   Trite, I know.  Like, DUH, right?  I am such a good writer.  I can articulately express my complicated feelings about motherhood.  {Insert Liz Lemon-style "oh, brother" here.}

I'm trying to recall the trajectory of my experiences with S over the last 10 years.  I know my memory is not to be trusted.  But it is the only source I have on hand.  According to this faulty instrument, here is the information I can offer:  S was an easy baby.  He didn't cry much.  He slept lots.  I remember his babyhood as a swoony romance between baby and mama.  There were hard things, of course.  Breastfeeding was a bust for us, which tore me up.  I still was reconciling myself with the trauma of his birth, and dealing with the emotional aftermath of having disappointed my family by getting pregnant at 20.  So there were some heavy things going on.  But between S and I there was nothing but love.

Time passed, his personality bloomed.  It quickly became evident that he was incredibly smart.  Not meaning to brag, just stone cold fact that the kid had (has) brains galore.  He was extremely loving and sweet.  He also was a very worried kid with a lot of anxiety and fears.  He was very friendly and a social butterfly.  But he could also be very shy in certain situations.  As every human does, he grew and evolved and became a more complex person at every turn.  All of these descriptors fit him at age 3 and still fit him now.

Things that stand out in my mind about young S......  he has always been affectionate and up until very recently would insist on multiple hugs before bed every night.  He seems to have been born with a love for books and reading.  He is naturally cautious, a mother's dream on a playground.  He is silly and I love his laugh.  He loves language and playing with words.  He loves water; he is fearless in the ocean (contradicting with my claim that he is cautious, but what can I say, he is his own man).  He loves to run as long as it's not part of any organized sport. 

The last six months with this child have been incredibly hard for me.  S wants more independence, the desire is seething out of him.  It manifests in him questioning pretty much everything I say, or saying NO right to my face when I've asked him to do something.  I am having trouble knowing how to give him the independence he wants.  And I am really having trouble summoning the presence of mind to remember that a desire for independence is the reason he is acting the way he is acting.  He is so ferocious in trying to be himself these days, trying to be a big kid who can make his own decisions.  It can come off as disrespect and noncooperation.  And I get really upset by his displays.  I often lose my patience with him.  I puff out my feathers and send him a message. You wanna come at me?  You're gonna step to me?  Uh uh, little boy.  I am your MOM and you will do what I say BECAUSE I SAID SO.  (I don't really say those silly things.  But they are implied, and not in a silly or friendly way).  The thing is, whatever your beliefs on kids and obedience and respect or whatever, this model is problematic because IT IS NOT WORKING FOR ME.  Not at all.

Because of my impatience and short temper, and his need to assert his independence, we are often going head to head.  We feed off each others' frustration and everything escalates ---voices, tempers, heart rates.  When he was younger I could have never imagined us like this.  Okay, maybe I had a blurry vision of the possibility that it might happen when he was a teenager.  But already?  Now?  No way, I'm not ready for this.  It is breaking my heart.  Sometimes I can laugh about it.  I see us as ridiculous sitcom characters who egg each other on.  But more often I am in absolute anguish over the state of our relationship.  Many tears have been shed over this.  I am in weekly therapy talking mostly about this.  It is a big deal to me that I am not getting along with my first born son.  I care about it A LOT.

I feel like such an asshole writing this, because why can't I just be thankful for my kid? Why can't I just enjoy his presence?  He is healthy, he is smart, he is wonderful in many, many ways.  I am blessed to have him and why should I say a word of complaint?  Please believe me, y'all, if I could flip a switch, if I could push a button to be patient, to be gentle and kind, to be understanding, to be constantly grateful for my kids, I would be all over it.  Believe me.  Like white on rice.  I don't know why this stuff doesn't come more naturally for me.  I see other parents walking down the street smiling and chatting with their kids in such a calm and easy way and I feel jealous!  I want that ease with my kids.  I want that patience for everything S throws at me.  But wanting it is not enough.  It's not going to magically happen for me.  I'm going to have to work for it.  (I realize that every parent I see who seems to be doing great with their kids might not actually be, or, alternatively, may be working very hard at it).

Working toward a better rapport with S looks like this, I think.

-Managing my expectations.  An idealized vision of what family life "should" look like never helped anyone.  I'm trying to live more in reality and love the reality that we have, instead of getting stuck on a picture of what it "should" be.

- Giving him more space to be who he is.  I never thought I'd be the type of mom to do this, but it's too damn easy to dole out my expectations on this person.  In this world there are many ways to be.  That S doesn't see the world the way I do should not be cause for irritation.  I constantly have to remind myself to let him be who he is and not try to mold him to some other idea.

-Continually cultivating more patience.  I think this speaks for itself.  Always, always seeking this.

I am working on these.  I am working on being kinder to myself so that I can be kinder to him.  In the last two weeks or so, I feel like things have been better.   Maybe something is shifting. 

His tenth birthday gave me occasion to think about all this, and, more to the point, write about it.  I've been thinking about it for a long time now.  Those of you who made it to the end of this opus, thank you for letting me get this off my chest.  Writing about this has felt great and I appreciate you allowing me to do it.  I am going to improve my relationship with S OR DIE TRYING.  Sometimes I wonder if he's going to be a super easy teenager because he is using up all his intensity on us now.  Fingers crossed, but not counting on it!


We decided to have a very small get-together for his birthday this year.  We had a handful of friends over for a movie and way too many movie snacks.  He had a great time.  After it was over, he came up and gave me a hug and said "Thanks for such an awesome party."  It was one of the sweetest moments we had shared in a long time.  

Here are a few pictures of him with his buddies, and then on the morning of his actual birthday.  

One final thing I will say about this kid is that I love him with all my heart.  It might be difficult right now.  But my heart is overflowing with love as I write this, as I think about these past 10 years of motherhood.  I can't wait to see what the next 10 years bring for him (and also for him and me).

1 comment:

TaylorStreet said...

GREAT post Laura. You are a good Mama Bear.