“I hope you have one just like you.”
As I held Gibson in my arms at 2:30 in the morning for the fifth rousing of the night, all I could think was, “My mother would have been so vindicated right now.” I know she lived for the day when I would call her completely exhausted and so much closer to insanity than I’d ever been before with the words, “You were right.” And she would have laughed.
And then she would have told me it’s going to be okay. You’re doing fine. This too shall pass. He’s going to sleep someday. Just be tough for one more night. And then another and then another. That I’m strong enough to handle this and work a full-time job. Because she managed it with two kids, and I am made of the same stuff.
I am made of strong stock. In my genes I carry the same perfectly-pulled-together DNA that carried my mother through single parenthood and full-time jobs. She juggled the cost of daycare with bills and groceries. She managed the car payment and kept us in shoes we were forever out growing. My mother changed wet bed sheets in the middle of the night and still managed to get up at the crack of dawn to cook for the elderly at nursing homes or run presses for plastic injection molded car parts.
I know from her example that getting up at 4:30 to be to work by 6 AM is more than doable with a child. Especially since I have a full-time live-in partner in The Man. But you know, I wish she’d made it look harder.
Yes, I couldn’t have possibly have understood how hard child rearing can be by watching my mother accomplish it all with my baby eyes. And I could never have appreciated all she did as my teenage eyes rolled in my head at her every syllable. I wouldn’t have appreciated the knowledge even as a young adult striking out on my own looking back at her over my shoulder.My mother was my mother, and she did it better than anyone else ever could have.
“You’ll understand one day when you’re older” is something everyone says to children. And we all huff with exasperation at what we think is being shut down by the parental units who are just done talking to us. But that’s not the case at all. It’s a truth. Wisdom sometimes just can’t be condensed down to bite-size pieces for baby ears. Sometimes you really can only come to understand something by living it.
A veteran parent friend of mine recently told me, “It’s so hard. I wish someone told me how hard it would be.” And I responded that we couldn’t have understood even if someone had really sat us down and spelled it out. In my case, I’m sure I would have been bubbling with so much enthusiasm and bravado that the advice would have fallen on deaf ears. Of course I’m fully capable of being a parent, now simmer down and watch me nail this thing.
But now, I’d love to sit down with my mom and watch Gibson nap in his swing while we drank hot tea. I’d love to hear her tell me about how she did the exact same thing with me. And I’d love to watch her try to hide a satisfied smirk as I pick my son up to soothe him as he starts crying for the billionth time that day. I would love to see my mother vindicated after years of waiting to watch me pick up the motherhood torch.
I’d love to see her see me having one just like me.