Every mom has a story to tell.
My story starts on a hot Monday in July, 2005. It was a work day, just like any other Monday. The manager at my office mentioned that I seemed particularly listless that day, weighed down by temperatures near 90 degrees, and 39 weeks and two days of pregnancy.
By 7:09 the following morning, after a quick six hours of labor, my firstborn was in my arms. A little boy, characteristically ahead of schedule. Almost exactly 26 months later he was joined by his remarkably smiley sister, also a sign of things to come. That little boy turned ten this month.
Time is often measured in decades. Fashion. Reunions. Music. Parenthood, though, is measured in moments and milestones. If we measured in decades, it would be over in the blink of an eye. Just two decades and they’re not even kids anymore.
So ten years — an entire decade — since I took on the title of Mom feels pretty significant. I’m not the same person I was in 2005.
My notions of being a parent have changed. My priorities are different. I’ve learned a few things along the way.
Expectations are the Enemy
I used to feel like I had to mop the floor and vacuum the carpets before anyone aside from my husband set foot in my house. I lived in fear of unannounced guests, despite the fact that noticing the state of my floors would first require being able to see the floor at all, underneath mountains of toys and piles of laundry. Prepping for a ‘casual‘ play date was panic inducing. The floors were just one symptom of my self-induced lunacy that persisted through many years of child rearing. Until I couldn’t do it anymore. Luckily, my friends like me anyway. As moms, the pressure we put on ourselves to fulfill an idealistic and totally false vision of parenthood can make us our own worst enemy, fueled by the culture around us. While still a work in progress, being conscious of this makes me a better mom.
Let the Mystery Unfold
My kid — and your kid, sorry — isn’t the next Carli Lloyd or David Ortiz. Probably not the next Bill Gates or Sheryl Sandberg, either. But the parenting culture urges us to approach every opportunity as though our kids will be on a championship pro team and will helm a billion-dollar empire. Because anything is possible, right? Yes, anything is possible. But everything is not. In my experience, the greatest thrill and the biggest distress of parenting is allowing the mystery of who my children will become to unfold in a way that is true to who they are. I want to expose them to as many opportunities as I can, and I want to push when their uncertainty overshadows their confidence, but I’m also learning to let them help lead the way. It’s taken me a long time.
The Metaphorical Tunnel of Early Parenting is Real
I can say this with certainty because now that I have a ten-year old and a nearly-eight-year old, I have actually emerged from said tunnel and am looking at it a bit more objectively. I can still see it behind me. This is the tunnel of parenting young kids, those years marked by accelerated chaos, by both all-consuming love and all-consuming exhaustion. It can be exhilarating but it can be dark at times. And a decade in, I also realize that it’s temporary. Every stage kids go through has its own hallmarks. I can’t claim to know what the impending tween and teen years will bring. Maybe you’ll tell me that a new tunnel is waiting. That’s ok, but at this particular moment in time I’m enjoying the view.