30 August 2007

My walking, talking conscience

I have always wondered why God blessed me with children. Growing up, I never did much baby-sitting, and since I was one of the youngest cousins on both sides of my family, wasn't around too many infants. I had never changed a diaper until, just hours after he was born, I changed my son's. Any maternal instincts were deeply buried. Completely unlike others I knew, I had no understanding of those who got married and wanted kids immediately. In fact, I used to joke with a co-worker at Boeing that I would wake up one morning and have an epiphany. I would either want to have a baby ASAP, or realize I was a lesbian. Neither of those scenarios happened, but I did wake up one morning to find I was pregnant.

Well, not quite. I went to Urgent Care very late one New Year's Eve so sick I wanted to die, and was told, as they were closing the doors, "You're pregnant. Happy New Year." It would be an exciting New Year. It would become an exciting and blessed bend in the road.

Now that my son is four and is able to understand a great deal of what is going on and also articulate it, I see myself from an entirely new perspective. The mirror I'm looking at is the world view of an out-going, squirrely and precious child. Just a part of the big picture God had in store for me when he brought these children into my life.

Recent opportunities in self-examination

Road rage. Not something I would say I'm guilty of, but I do have my father's bad habit. When I was little he used to carry on a running commentary about the driving skills of those around him. Now, I come to find, I do it to some extent. The other day, as I was driving down the road, I heard, "Mom, are you yelling at those people? Why are you yelling at those people?" My response was to clarify to my son that I wasn't, in fact, yelling. Just reacting, out loud, to some bad driving on the part of others. Now, every time I get in the car, my son's comments are in the back of my head. A lot of time, they are momentarily forgotten when I encounter the poor soul who has obviously gotten their driver's license in a box of Cracker Jack and is in need of a verbal correction.

When my son was very little, I did the organic mom thing. Organic foods, home-made baby food, the whole game plan. It quickly became abundantly clear that there weren't enough hours in the day to nurse, wash the cloth diapers that never saw harsh detergent, stimulate my son's development, get four hours of sleep, AND make him baby-food. I gave up on the baby-food. And the diapers. These are two things I still don't hear the end of. For some reason, other folks like to see that those around them aren't superhuman either and gladly remind of you of it when they get the opportunity. When I returned the unused cloth diapers to the store, the lady said, very condescendingly, "Oh, you can't DO cloth diapers, huh?" Previously, in their eyes, I was a card-carrying earth mother doing my part to save the planet, now I was solely responsible for all the ills of society.

Today, at the fair, I took my son to the Miracle of Birth barn. Attached to the main building was a room that had some exhibits, greatly overshadowed by the baby animals next door. He got to spin a wheel and answer a question correctly to win a prize. The question was, "Name three fruits." Now, each day my kids get lots of fruits. Mainly bananas and strawberries, but many fruits. Well, I helped my son come up with strawberries and then apples, and then my son said, "Doughnuts!" We went through the list again and I added "bananas" for him, to which he exclaimed, "AND DOUGHNUTS." Of course, the ladies running the booth gave me a weird look, but then awarded my son his prize. They must think that's all we eat. It just happened that we ate mini-doughnuts when we got to the fair, immediately before we went to the Miracle of Birth barn.

But, my son isn't too far off. I do make sure the kids eat well, but I don't eat as well myself. I need to start working on that "your body is a temple" idea before my kids start following my example of how I, myself, eat.

My maternal grandmother was as close to a saint as anyone I know. She did have one swear word that she rarely used, so when she did say it, it really had an impact. On the other hand, both my parents swore. Aside from nursing courses, I think that's what my mother learned in college during the 50s. My father, a Navy man during WWII, could use colorful language with the best of them. This, coupled with my time spent in public school, nurtured a similar vocabulary in me. It has been significantly, SIGNIFICANTLY, curtailed, but I come to find I swear more than I ever thought I did. How I know is that my son has learned the word dammit. Yes, on the heels of my pride in how he's learned his prayers so well, is this latest development. Funny though, my husband thinks my son learned this word from him. Good thing my daughter isn't talking yet. Maybe I have time to stop this before I have two truck drivers in my home.

Maybe I need to re-evaluate some things. I like to run a tight ship, keep my house clean. The level of clutter I used to consider acceptable has changed, but everything still has its place, even though it might not get put there every day. Growing up, my best-friend came from a family with eight kids. Her mom had a schedule. Mondays were wash days. Tuesdays for vacuuming, etc. I don't have a rigid schedule like that, but I don't have eight kids, either. However, household chores might not always have to be so high on the priority scale. When my son came up to me and asked, "Why are you always working?" I suddenly saw from his perspective that mom wasn't too much fun sometimes. It is important that the house run with a sense of order and discipline, but maybe not so militaristically. Five minutes playing trucks, which is about the extent of a four year old's attention span, is probably not going to impact the overall cleanliness of the house.

Interacting with little sister
Kids will be kids, and that's hard for parents to get used to at times. Right now we are going through Stage 1 of sibling rivalry. I don't know how many steps there are, but I am getting a strong feeling it is only beginning. When my daughter does something, I hear my son correcting her as I have corrected him. It's like nails on a chalk board. It can't possibly be me he learned this from. I might not be patient, but I don't sound like THAT. But, honestly, it is me. Ugh. Not fun to have someone push the "replay" button on your parenting style.

But, then there are the kind things he does for his little sister. The selfless things that warm a mother's heart. Giving her some of his food, reaching for a toy that is too high for her to get, speaking gentle words of comfort when she is crying or hurt. And the unconditional love they both give. The "big wet kisses" that come out of no where. Having my son get up from playing and come sit in my lap and tell me he loves me. My daughter just wanting to (constantly) sit in my lap.

I'm not perfect, but I'm not so bad either. I'm still a virtue-challenged soul, and whether I like it or not, I'm gaining a better understanding of what to work on. Children have an innocence and honestly that is embarrassing, brutal, cute and illuminating all rolled into one. Sometimes, when I do an examination of conscience, I wonder how I ever made it so long without them.


Ma Beck said...

I LOVE this post.
Several times, I found myself nodding in agreement.


Please. My mom didn't make our food. We didn't know what organic meant - DDT, baby!
We weren't breastfed.
And all 9 of us grew up happy and healthy.
Mary wasn't breastfed and although I've had two killer colds since she's been born, and never changed my interaction with her, she's never even had a sniffle.

Sanctus Belle said...

I chuckled when I read the part about you giving up on making your own babyfood and cloth diapers. I remember when my oldest was a baby, I lasted in cloth diapers oh....about 2 days!! Man to cloth diapers totally SUCK!! The worst part was your poor baby's skin is always wet and that was what did it for me. I am saving my little innocent one from diaper rash, thank you very much.

I THOUGHT about making my own babyfood, but realized right away that I wouldn't have time. When I questioned myself about this, I figured "I was fed Gerber, I turned out ok right?"

One thing I was rather militant about was breastfeeding. I loved it and it was by far easier than bottlefeeding. I have no idea how some think its easier to clean bottles, make bottles, warm bottles, go and GET bottles in the middle of the night, be running errands and realize you FORGOT the bottle not to mention paying a fortune for formula. Nope, I've got all my baby needs right here - all warm and ready to go!

Thanks for the great post!

swissmiss said...

Ma and Sanctus:
The people that were the worst about the mommy guilt were those closest to me. My aunt continues to remind me that I gave up on cloth diapers and home-made baby food, like it's a failing or something. When I say I'm going to homeschool, I get the comment, "Well, you said you were going to do cloth diapers and make your own baby food, too." Like there is some pattern in my behavior where I give up on things. It's just diapers, folks!!! Of course, they forget the extraordinary lengths I went to to get my daughter to nurse despite EVERYONE telling me it was just too hard and to just give her a bottle. Becoming a mom has taught me to just do the best I can, the heck with the rest of the world and its ideas of what is best ;}

:o) said...

I agree, cloth diapers sucked. I tried it very, very briefly. The closest I got to making my own food for my girlie was to mash up a banana, potato or sweet potato. I did nurse and loved it. I guess I was lucky.

That's too bad your aunt is being unkind.