You Too

We spent our Easter trapped inside  – the dismal Oakland weather rained all over our plans for an egg hunt, but at the same time, no one really minded – it’s impossible to be in a bad mood in the presence of great friends and spiral cut ham.

Eli has known Elena since the day she was born but he’s always viewed her with a certain disdain – she’s my best friends daughter so of course we have to say things like “this picture is for their rehearsal dinner slide show” – but although Eli is not so sure about that nonsense, Elena thinks he is the best damn thing ever.  It’s quite adorable, really, and it might be starting to dawn on Eli that here is someone willing to give him the amount of attention he finds sufficient (hint: all the attention in all the world).  On Easter Sunday they spent all day playing together.  At one point they were tucked together inside a giant cardboard box – all the little cut out doors and windows pulled shut – whispering giggles back and forth.   (Every grown up on the scene immediately died from the cuteness on the spot, of course.)

As the day wound down towards night, Elena’s mama took her into the bathroom to take a bath and I tried to get Eli on board – he loves baths and he wanted to take one until he found out someone else was going to be involved.  The last joint bathing session – one I’d forced him into – had been a total disaster, screaming and hysteria the whole time.  And this time I won’t pretend that I had any great parenting revelations, I think I was honestly just too tired to do battle with Sir HissyPants, but I simply walked into the bathroom, took a perch on the toilet seat, and talked up all of Elena’s bath toys for a few minutes.  (She does have quite a nice collection.)

Eli wandered slowly into the bathroom and announced he would just stand in the corner.  OK, I said.

A few minutes went by, Elena got stripped down and plopped in the tub, and started to play with her toys and dump water and splash around.

Eli announced he would just play with some of the toys, but outside of the bathtub.  Ok, I said.

He spent some time pouring water around – seeing how much he could get away with or just not sure how to keep water in the tub, and I told him he had to keep the water in the tub and we showed him some magnetic boats and he poured some water on Elena’s hair and everyone laughed.

Eli announced he would take off his legwarmers and just stand in the tub, but he wouldn’t sit down.  Ok, I said.

So we took off his leg warmers and stood him in the tub, and two seconds later he sat down, fully clothed, still wearing a navy blue cable knit cardigan and his seersucker easter shorts and his diaper.

The diaper thing grossed me out and his dad wasn’t feeling as patient as I was so we negotiated our way through the removal of the sweater and the diaper and then there he was, finally, just sitting and splashing in the tub with Elena.

And part of me thinks this was no big deal, that I was just tired, that maybe it’s not that I’m finally starting to figure this kid out and just let him be, to just let him come to his own way of doing things, and part of me just absolutely has to cling to moments like this, one of the VERY FEW moments where I think  ” That day, I was a good mom for this kid” because those moments are so very few and far between for me of late.

I have such limitations as a parent – I really do.  I do not like noise and I do not like dirt and I do not like playing preschool games.  I am terrible at making up stories and songs – I am not a carpet sitter.   I love this child with every breath in my being  but I don’t want to park any damn cars, now or ever.  And he is just as stubborn and intense and willful as I am and sometimes it feels like every day is nothing but one long battle – as though all we do all day is go back and forth between “no” and “time out”, as though every day is just him closing every door in the house behind me and me being driven crazy by the endless closed doors at the same time  I am envisioning all the wonderful maternal sweet loving parents out there who just chortle a little loving chortle a few times a day because little Johnny sure does love to close doors!  And there I am, so NOT chortling, instead gritting out , between clenched teeth, “what is the rule about doors Eli?!” because it’s that or just screaming “QUIT SHUTTING GODDAMNED DOORS IF I WANTED IT SHUT I WOULD SHUT IT YOU ARE DRIVING ME INSANE!”

I’m not sure that this is universal, but I think my parenting experience is made more raw because I remember my childhood and all the slights I incurred so very vividly.  I still feel as though my mother never held me enough.  There was not enough cuddling.  No one listened to me.  I wanted a Trapper Keeper and an Esprit bag and Pentel pens and instead I had a dirty red backpack and off brand crayons and my dad’s old binders from work.  I was forced to eat disgusting lunches I couldn’t stand.  We never ever made chocolate chip cookies together.  I was the most shy kid in the world and it drove my mother crazy and she spent my childhood trying to drive this out of me and make me talk on the phone and look strangers in the eye and and and.   Much of the time that did not feel very much like love.

But I see all this in my son – how shy he is, how nervous new things make him.  How badly he handles change.  His stubbornness and his crankiness and his frustration and how he wants to do everything himself and how much he wants to be held and how hard he loves the people who love him and how he is my carbon copy and I am afraid.

Because I am not sure this makes sense, even, but the more I see how similar we are?  The more I start to wonder how on earth I can be a good mom to this tiny little someone who is turning out to be just like me.


13 Responses

  1. Oh. I worry about this daily. I’m afraid my little girl will be all the things I hate about myself. And I won’t know how to parent that.

  2. Oh my goodness, I am so with you on this! I tell my husband frequently that I am so sorry for this personality characteristic or that one, because I’m now seeing them in my son and they’re hard to live with!

    And I’m so with you on the noise and the dirt and the carpet-sitting-avoidance. It’s my biggest struggle as a mom, finding the concentration and the patience to do things at his level. One I don’t frequently succeed with.

    As usual, beautiful writing and I’m glad you had a moment of success with feeling like a good mom. Hugs to you for the moments that you don’t.

  3. I happen to love the hell out of both you & Eli. I also know that Eli wouldn’t know how to love hard if he hadn’t been loved hard. He’s such a great kid & since I’ve seen your parenting in action, I can vouch for the fact that you’re a great mom. A sad fact of childhood is that none of us ever get loved the exact way we’d prefer…but we know if & when we are loved. I don’t think Eli will ever doubt that you love him immensely.

  4. The fact that you are not the most-read blogger on the Internet boggles my mind.

    And, not that this is about me (although oh yes I can make much about me), but you just make me relax and exhale because, oh thank goodness, there is someone like you in this world.

    You’re one of the most beautiful mothers I know.

  5. I am raising three daughters. My first two are twins, and both have similar personalities to mine. My 3rd child is my exact opposite. And guess what? My first 2 are the hardest BY FAR for me to parent… my youngest is a breeze.

    I always thought, before parenting arrived on my doorstep, that if I had a kid like me, I’d understand my kid soooo much. I thought, in fact, that I wanted a kid like me, because I could parent a kid like me BETTER than a kid not like me.

    Um? Not so much.

    Also? I don’t play with my kids either. It’s what other kids are for. =)

  6. you had me at leg warmers.

    hell, i’m the ass cleaner not the playdate. i cook and maybe clean but will not play barbies.

    because i’m my mom.

    sounds like you are doing an excellent job to me but then again, i would never ever take my advice as i feed my children chocolate chip cookies for breakfast and cuss and scream in the car every morning that the “OTHER” drivers just plain suck ass.

    i’ll be surprised if my girls turn out with a modicum amount of sanity.

  7. Oh, I worry about this too. It’s so hard to fight down that voice about the doors constantly (oh my goodness, does my daughter ever love to shut doors & it MAKES ME BONKERS) but the fact that you DO fight it down? That’s what makes you an awesome mom. Because you’re thinking about the effect your words will have on your children.

  8. I’m not a mother yet, and may never be, partly because I have all these same worries. But I think that you acknowledge them, that you can voice them so well… That’s something right there. That speaks volumes about who you are as a person, who you are as a mom. And for what it’s worth, it makes me feel like maybe someday I could do it, too.

    I think your children are very very fortunate to have you.

  9. Oh what I would’ve done to get my hands on an Esprit bag like everyone else.

    I, too, think this stuff daily. I just hate reading the same nauseating book 423 times a day and playing with his firehouse stuff. I hate it. But that doens’t make my love for him any less.

  10. Wow, do I relate to this. My girl is different from me in so many ways- her fearlessness about physical endeavors, her natural grace and athleticism, her very zany sense of humor. And it is these aspects I derive the most joy from. It’s the parts of her makeup that are MINE that are so hard to tolerate: her stubborness about trying things academically-related unless she’s sure she can do it perfectly and not need help, her little obsessive-compulsive ticks, her inability to cope with illness gracefully, the way she freaks out with frustration about little things like accidentally knocking down a dollhouse chair when she had just gotten everything set up PERFECT.
    I think it’s that I don’t know how to help her properly. I know how hard it is just to help MYSELF, and how long it took to get over certain things, and I dread having to walk down that road again.

  11. Thank God I’m not the only one who is no good at playing preschool games and singing made-up songs. I’m terrified of the day my twin girls want me to start playing their little games. Although, like Marie Green, that’s why I’m grateful there are two of them!

  12. The fact that you know yourself and you know him, so well, speaks volumes as to your ability to parent.

    Those of use that grew up with the “less-than” parents benefit soooo much in the knowing we have dealing with our own kids, I find.

    Perfectly imperfect and perfect for them, flaws, bruises and bumps included.

  13. I don’t’ have any magical words to toss your way but it seems to me that recognizing who he is and knowing what you were missing as a kid is a major puzzle piece here. You can do this because you care, he’s 3 and your already aware of what he needs. Isn’t this whole Mothering business learn as we go? Just keep going. And god help us all with the f’ing door slammers!

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