Of all the ways motherhood has surprised me, the biggest surprise has been the unmet expectations I had coming in….in other words, that I’m not the Mom I expected to be.
I wasn’t going to be the Mom, for example, who let her kid leave the house in a costume.
But here we are at preschool drop off with Astronaut Anna of Arendelle.
When our first was born, she came out screaming and kept her eyes open for the first six hours of her life. Everyone at the hospital commented on how alert she was. I see that alert attention now for what it was — a mischievous, wild-eyed zest for life that will. not. be. quieted.
And I don’t want it to be quieted. But also, sometimes I wish it would just be quieted, just a little. At least at bedtime.
I was a quiet kid. I loved to read, and I loved to follow rules. I worked well within boundaries. When I’d hear people say things like “Just wait until you have a child of your own to give you a taste of your own medicine” I’d think Alright, I could deal with that. I could handle a quiet little boundary observer.
What I got instead was a boundary pusher. Followed 18-months later by a stubborn, my-way-or-the-highway, determined little man. Followed 20 months after that by a sweet but determined scrapper of a third who’s not afraid to hit back or instigate a fight.
These were not the children I expected. Their minds work in ways that my mind doesn’t understand, and I find myself in a constant battle mode inside my head. I ask myself things like “Do I really feel strongly enough about this to fight him” and “If I decide I don’t and I tweak the rule, will he think he’s in charge forever?” Or, “Is the natural consequence of whatever inane endeavor she’s in the middle of one that we both can handle?” or “if she picks that straw up off the floor of Fiserv Form and puts it back in her mouth, will she get just a common cold or a deadly virus?”
My children are not what I expected — and so I’m not the Mom I expected to be.
And that’s okay, because they’re even better. And that will make me even better. (If I can survive the next 18 years.) They challenge me in wonderful ways with personality traits that will take them so far in life if I can do my job of helping them foster and channel each trait into something productive. And therefore despite taking all the workshops and reading all the books, I still find myself flying by the seat of my pants just trying to survive raising them, day-to-day.
I thought I’d be more rigid — but it turns out I let them make a car wash in the bathroom sink and slosh water all over the floor because I think the great memories they’re making with each other are more important than the great big mess they’re making. But then I make them clean it up.
I expected I’d be grossed out when they drop their pizza on the floor of Costco but eat it anyway … and I am. But I still allow it, because apparently I’m the Mom who would rather risk a two-month virus than haul three kids back into line.
I thought I’d only worry about the big stuff — but every night when I climb into bed I worry that I’ve done it wrong, that I’ve messed them up, that a decision I’ve made or sentence I’ve said is going to alter their future. But just as I celebrate all those unexpected parts of their personalities, I try to celebrate the unexpected parts of me as a Mother.
I’m sure someday I’ll look back and wish I’d done some things differently, but for today they’re healthy, happy, and (most days) on their way to turning into respectable adults … or at least astronaut-princesses.