22 years ago Daniel was born, catapulting me into the land of no return otherwise known as motherhood. To say it was a difficult birth is like saying our country just experienced a little recession. Labor started with my water breaking while seeing a film at Liberty Hall about the Black Plague, and things went downhill from there. I had envisioned birth as a soiree and so had invited many friends to hang out. It turned out to be opposite, but I was in too much agony to feel like a failed hostess.
Daniel arrived 18 hours later, but in his urgency to get born, he inhaled some amniotic fluid, which meant a trip to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit from the all natural-birthing center. A week later, we took him home, strapped between us in the cab of a red pick-up truck, and while “La Marseillaise” played (it was Bastille Day), we told him, “You’re free! You’re free!”
Fast forward to now: Daniel had graduated from college and is applying for Americorps positions, seeking the path for where he goes next. It’s again 7/7, and tonight we’ll have dinner with some of the people who attended his birth, including his namesake. Two more kids have come as well as numerous cars, a different house, a change of pets, and a whole lot of different used furniture.
When I became a mother, like anyone who crosses into the unknown, I had no idea what I would find. This truth became overwhelmingly evident with Daniel, who didn’t follow what any baby book said to the extent that I actually ripped apart several such books, deeming them unfit for anyone raising a child (only to later discover the next few kids did kind of follow what the books said). What I’ve learned is mainly what I’ve unlearned, and it mostly has to do with how little control parents have (or really, any of us have), particularly when it comes to the arduous, delightful, harrowing and surprising task of shepherding a human through the social constructs of the world. Here’s some of what I now know:
- Parents are, despite whatever I thought ahead of time, the social seeing eye dogs for their children, teaching them and modeling for them how to navigate the world, and when you have some real issues with reality, this task is like negotiating some of the rings of hell.
- There’s nothing like someone or something threatening your kid to turn an ordinary woman into an attacking panther.
- Whatever is budgeted for food needs to be doubled….or tripled…..when the child is between 16-22. Keep on hand plenty of pasta, and expect all large casseroles, good for feeding a dozen, to vanish within a day as someone’s late night snack.
- My kids are capable of watching truly violent and scary movies without any ill effects. I am not.
- When it comes to family vacations, the bumper sticker I always wanted to produce is true: “Kids: They Ruin Everything.” Yet it’s also true that I wouldn’t give up any of the family vacations we’ve had (although I might revise a few).
- There is nothing more heartbreaking than when your kid has a broken heart.
- There is nothing more exhilarating than when your kid is deeply happy for all the right reasons.
- Related to the last insight, I don’t want to hear conversations about partying. Luckily, I can go to bed early with earplugs.
- Most of all, like anything that requires a whole-life, whole-self commitment, motherhood is a spiritual path. That means, the offspring function like the most irrational and demanding guru-like beings cross-pollinated with wild boars.
- I loved from the very start and still love wandering through the dark house, knowing all my children are sleeping soundly.