Sunday, May 10, 2015

Happy Mother's Day To All

On Being Mom
    by Anna Quindlen
    If not for the photographs, I might have a hard time believing they ever
    existed. The pensive infant with the swipe of dark bangs and the black
    button eyes of a Raggedy Andy doll. The placid baby with the yellow
   ringlets and the high piping voice. The sturdy toddler with the lower lip that curled into an apostrophe above her chin. ALL MY BABIES are gone now.
    I say this not in sorrow but in disbelief. I take great satisfaction in
   what I have today: three almost-adults, two taller than I am, one closing in
    fast. Three people who read the same books I do and have learned not to
   be afraid of disagreeing with me in their opinion of them, who sometimes
   tell vulgar jokes that make me laugh until I choke and cry, who need razor
   blades and shower gel and privacy, who want to keep their doors closed more than I like.
    Who, miraculously, go to the bathroom, zip up their jackets and move food
    from plate to mouth all by themselves. Like the trick soap I bought for
   the bathroom with a rubber ducky at its center, the baby is buried deep
   within each, barely discernible except through the unreliable haze of the past.
    Everything in all the books I once pored over is finished for me now.
    Penelope Leach. T. Berry Brazelton., Dr. Spock. The ones on sibling
   rivalry and sleeping through the night and early childhood education, all grown obsolete.
    Along with Goodnight Moon and Where the Wild Things Are, they are
   battered, spotted, well used. But I suspect that if you flipped the pages dust would rise like memories.
    What those books taught me, finally, and what the women on the playground
    taught me, and the well-meaning relations -- what they taught me was that
    they couldn't really teach me very much at all. Raising children is
    presented at first as a true-false test, then becomes multiple choice,
   until finally, far along, you realize that it is an endless essay. No one knows anything. One child responds well to positive reinforcement, another can
   be managed only with a stern voice and a timeout. One boy is toilet trained
   at 3, his brother at 2.
    When my first child was born, parents were told to put baby to bed on his
    belly so that he would not choke on his own spit-up. By the time my last
    arrived, babies were put down on their backs because of research on  sudden infant death syndrome. To a new parent this ever-shifting certainty is
    terrifying, and then soothing.
    Eventually you must learn to trust yourself. Eventually the research will
    follow. I remember 15 years ago poring over one of Dr. Brazelton's
   wonderful books on child development, in which he describes three different sorts of infants: average, quiet, and active. I was looking for a sub-quiet
   codicil for an 18-month-old who did not walk. Was there something wrong with his  fat little legs? Was there something wrong with his tiny little mind? Was he developmentally delayed, physically challenged? Was I insane? Last year
   he went to China. Next year he goes to college. He can talk just fine. He
   can walk, too.
    Every part of raising children is humbling, too. Believe me, mistakes
   were made. They have all been enshrined in the Remember-When-Mom-Did Hall of
    Fame. The outbursts, the temper tantrums, the bad language, mine, not
    theirs. The times the baby fell off the bed. The times I arrived late for
    preschool pickup. The nightmare sleep over. The horrible summer camp. The
    day when the youngest came barreling out of the classroom with a 98 on
   her geography test, and I responded, What did you get wrong? (She insisted I
    include that.) The time I ordered food at the McDonald's drive-through
    speaker and then drove away without picking it up from the window. (They
   all insisted I include that.) I did not allow them to watch the Simpsons for
   the first two seasons.
    What was I thinking?
    But the biggest mistake I made is the one that most of us make while
   doing this. I did not live in the moment enough. This is particularly clear now that the moment is gone, captured only in photographs. There is one
   picture of the three of them sitting in the grass on a quilt in the shadow of the swing set on a summer day, ages 6, 4 and 1. And I wish I could remember
   what we ate, and what we talked about, and how they sounded, and how they
   looked when they slept that night. I wish I had not been in such a hurry to get on to the next thing: dinner, bath, book, bed. I wish I had treasured the
   doing a little more and the getting it done a little less.
    Even today I'm not sure what worked and what didn't, what was me and what
    was simply life. When they were very small, I suppose I thought someday
   they would become who they were because of what I'd done. Now I suspect they
    simply grew into their true selves because they demanded in a thousand
   ways that I back off and let them be.
    The books said to be relaxed and I was often tense, matter-of-fact and I
   was sometimes over the top. And look how it all turned out. I wound up with
   the three people I like best in the world, who have done more than anyone to
    excavate my essential humanity. That's what the books never told me. I
   was bound and determined to learn from the experts.
    It just took me a while to figure out who the experts were....
Then and ...

  "Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away."  George Carlin

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