Posts Tagged ‘mother’

Eleven

Eleven years ago.

Eleven years of days, hours, minutes; some blinking fast like a firefly I can’t catch, some crawling with a glacier’s pace. Eleven years ago, I was given a gift, the greatest, hardest gift. Eleven years now of guidance, growing, learning, changing, crying, praising, heartbreak and happiness. Eleven years ago, a piece of my heart was taken from within me, and placed in the outside world.

I named her Sophie. And though she had that piece of me within her, she became herself, an individual who is independent and fierce. And though she has always been exactly who she is (to me), as she approaches eleven, she struggles to find her place in this big, amazing world. And, as part of my heart, it is my job to help her navigate that path, although I fail regularly and spectacularly. Some days I barely make it to the end, wondering how anyone ever saw fit to place me in charge of another human being. But we’ve made it this far, these eleven years, all the while learning about life, love, heartbreak, and happiness together.

Have you ever laid in the dark of night with your child curled into the crook of your arm? You’re wide awake with a racing mind as she twitches and settles, falling asleep in the safest place she can imagine. Soon, over her even breathing, you are left to watch the terrifying thoughts of night race by, wondering how you will ever be able to lead your tiny human safely from childhood to adulthood, protecting her from the harms of this world, teaching her right from wrong, helping her navigate learning, and friends, and technology, and kindness and decency, and individuality, when you are unsure in any given moment whether you yourself fully understand those things.

Eleven years now, I have thought, and searched for answers, and prayed and cried, and laughed, and felt my heart expand in ways I never could have imagined. It seems impossible that much time has passed since the day I first held my daughter, feeling terrified and elated, refusing to put her in the bassinet and instead letting her fall asleep on my chest, until finally the nurse gently convinced me to let her take Sophie for a few hours so I could sleep.

Sophie's Birth Day

Year One took us from the uncertainty of how to care for a newborn without breaking her, hurting her, or coddling her, through Sophie standing on her own, on her first birthday, ready to step away already and do things her own way.

Eleven years is a gift many don’t get.

I often tell Sophie, in the moments when we are alone, just her and I, don’t forget someday when a memory pops up of us seeing a hawk standing on the ground; or us screaming, upside down, on the biggest, fastest roller coaster we could find; or seeing a rainbow that ends right above our house, that we are the only two people alive that share this memory. It’s an amazing and terrifying thought.

Year Three, and Sophie seems to remember many things, yet I don’t even know how she could. She remembers begging her Daddy not to leave, crying, and feeling like it must be her fault because he left anyway. She remembers watching Hachi with me on the couch, and how we had to pause the movie for ten minutes because we were crying so hard we couldn’t watch it. Crying for the dog who mourned his master, and crying for us because our lives had so drastically changed. She remembers the Orange Juice Incident, as she calls it, which was just Sophie throwing a huge tantrum at bedtime, and me doing the best I could to deal with it.

Sophie With Apple

Eleven years and I have laid awake more nights than I can count, racked with worry and tears, wondering, Am I doing this right? Am I making the right decisions? Will she be okay?

Year Seven, and everything changes again. I meet someone new, someone who has the potential to be that male influence she so desperately seeks out, because despite my efforts, I can never be both Mom and Dad to her no matter how hard I tried. But with new comes change, and this year revealed more to me about how broken we both had been. For much of this year things felt bleak and hopeless, that I had failed and I was submerged, barely above water, dealing with as much change for myself as she was with new routines, personalities, new family members, and opportunities.

Eleven years is a long time to figure things out, but that is a fallacy because you can’t figure it all out when things keep changing. You just hang on and hope for the best and keep getting up every day to face it all again. Some days I am so proud I can’t even speak it. Other days I am so disappointed and crushed I wonder if I will be able to carry on. This child, my child, has been given to me for these eleven years, but she is not mine. She is herself and I have to let her fail even when it slowly kills me inside. I have to stand behind her with my arms outstretched when the very people she trusted and depended on let her fall.

Sophie & Me

I will catch my Sophie, even when I won’t buy her excuses. I will back her, even if her words cut into me. I will defend her when nobody else will, and I will stand up in the ways I feel are right, even when nobody else agrees with me. I will love her unconditionally when she trips, when she hurts, when she’s lost, and when she’s angry.

I was told, recently, by a person who used to matter greatly to me, that I will never be the parent this person was. It was meant to be an insult, but I took it as a compliment. I will never be the kind of person who abandons my child, disappoints her, changes on her, or leaves her to cry herself to sleep at night wondering why she’s not good enough for me. I will never insult her, put her down, make her feel less than. I will expect her to act right, show respect, take responsibility for her words and actions. I will refuse to put up with any bullshit from her, and will teach her to not take any bullshit from the people around her, even the ones who are supposed to care. I will never make her feel like she has to change herself for me to accept her.

Year eleven, and I tell her, my baby, my big girl, “Don’t ever let anyone make you feel like you have to hide who you are.” So many times, she’s been asked to act a certain way, be a certain way, say this, don’t say this. Now my job, once again, is shifting so I can help her navigate this rocky path, as I have learned the hard lessons hard way and am better equipped to help her.

“What if I don’t know how to be who I am, Mom?” she asks. “If I make this choice, or that choice, the choices that make me different, will it change how you see me?”

Sophie B&W

Never.

When you were two, when you’re eleven, when you’re twenty, never, Sophie, will you change in my eyes. Because to me, you’ll always and forever be my perfectly imperfect child, the piece of my heart that is fiercer than me, more independent than me, smart, beautiful, talented, funny, frustrating, walking around in this world, blazing the path I was too afraid to blaze. No matter what age, what birthday, I will be able to look at your face and see the brilliant individual person you are and the tiny fierce baby you were and know that they are the very same person, and I will love your faults, and your fears, and your accomplishments and your failures equally.

For eleven years, my heart has had a body and a name, and it’s taken form in the world and I’ve been allowed to watch, and to teach, and to love this piece of my heart named Sophie, and even though it’s supposed to be her birthday, it’s the best gift I’ve ever been given.

 

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These Are My Children by Jaime L. Hebert

These Are My Children by Jaime L. Hebert

When I was a teacher, I didn’t want children of my own.

I have 20 every day, I thought. That’s plenty.

But then I left the teaching job.

I left the relationship I was in and found a new one.

Got married.

Suddenly, having a child, well . . . it wasn’t off the list anymore.

And then my daughter was born, and everything I had thought I’d known shifted, slightly, and I wondered, How did I think I’d never become a mother?

Three years ago, I had four more kids.

They are not “my” kids. They are Luke’s. I did not give birth to them.

But they are mine. I parent them just as I do my own daughter.

One of them isn’t technically Luke’s child, either. But she’d never know otherwise, since he decided long before her birth that even if she wasn’t of his blood, she’d still be his daughter.

And that’s how it has been.

I have five children, yet I only gave birth to one. It doesn’t matter, in the grand scheme of life, if I did or not.

I feed all my kids.

Read them stories.

Listen to their stories.

Hang their art on my fridge.

Buy them shoes.

Hand out band aids. Kiss boo boo’s.

Referee fights.

Stand strong against storms of tears both genuine and manipulative.

I know all of their personalities, their quirks, their favorites. I know one hates to sleep alone, while another likes to stir up trouble because she thinks it’s amusing. One is sneaky and cries if she’s called out on it. One likes to try to say “What I meant to say was,” even though he never gets away with saying it. One wants to be seen as the caretaker but has bursts of bossiness she can’t yet contain.

I was not chosen to give birth to four of my children, but I was chosen by them to answer to the name Mom.

Do they call me their Stepmom? No, I’m just Mom. So, you have 2 moms? Yep. Shrug. Okay.

These are my children. Many people don’t get it. There are so many people, some who should know better, who don’t understand, and who even judge.

So many kids, they say.

It’s chaos.

They’re so loud, how do you stand it?

Don’t you ever get a break?

I know what these judgements imply: Why the hell would you take this on? Why become a full time parent to kids who aren’t “yours?”

I find this ignorant.

So, theoretical question asker, you’re telling me that these kids are expected to pay for the choices of adults? Because two people were happier apart than together? Because one “father” chose to ignore the existence of his child? Because two people fell in love and chose to make one whole family out of several broken ones?

That it’s okay for these four children to forever feel different than – less than – my own child because she’s my flesh and blood and they’re not?

I don’t think so.

These are my children. They are the ones who seek my advice. They tell Knock Knock and Your Mama jokes to me. Snuggle with me in the early morning hours without a second thought. Shout “I love you, Mom!” across a crowded room.

Climb onto my lap if they’re 3 years old. Or ten.

If they feel different, not good enough, in my own home, what will happen to them out there in the world?

People and the media speak constantly about tolerance, erasing the color lines, the gender lines, the social inequalities. It shouldn’t be black or white, male or female, Christian or Muslim, they say. That’s why our world is so messed up, they say, because of hate, intolerance, and fear. It’s a national issue, a global issue, and it causes riots, beatings, pain, and death.

It does. That’s the truth. But all these big issues, they are carried out in certain directions by individual people. People who were taught, conditioned, and molded since the time they were small children that the world looks like this, people believe this, truth lies in this . . . and after years those small children grow up to be adults and they have to choose a path in this world.

It takes a lot to stand against the tide. It takes courage and honor and love to stand there in the middle of the storm and say, I choose this because it’s right, and it’s good and I was taught to stick to my own individual beliefs no matter who is trying to sway me.

These are my children, and I believe they have to right to be themselves and be proud of it. And I have the right to say, Those children, they’re my children, and we chose each other.

We chose each other when there were people saying it was weird, and awkward, and strange.

We chose our family when people said, Well, they’re just your step children, right?

Or, That one, she’s your real daughter? (Like the others were imaginary children?)

Or, What happens if you and Luke split up? (It won’t happen, but if it did, I’ll still have five children.)

When you’re a child, you’re a part of the family you’re given.

When you grow up, you choose the family you create.

My kids get to have the family they’re given and the family they choose. And I hope when they become adults and they are able to stand in their choices in a world that is fraught with difficult ones, they can say what they believe with conviction and feel happy with their choices, because they know that standing behind them will be their Mom – no matter what path they choose. http___signatures.mylivesignature.com_54492_292_28ECA84CB8C634F9AC8CB860B63B2A62

 

 

Grrr…. I know, that’s not a good way to start off, but if any of you out there have mothers, you might understand what I’m feeling right now. Who can inspire more guilt and therapy sessions that your own mother? I can’t think of much. And this weekend, I found out (casually, of course) that my mother said a doozy of a remark about me…behind my back…to my husband. Who then waited two weeks to tell me. The sad part of all of it is that despite the fact that I am almost thirty, my mother’s remark crushed me. How can she still do that? I literally have been depressed all weekend because of it, and avoiding her to boot.

So first, a little background. My mother is 5’5″ and about the size of a (very thin) toothpick. She teaches aerobics class and is almost obsessive about working out. Me? I come from my dad’s side of the family. If you put me and my mother together, we don’t even look like we’re from the same genus and species, much less from the same family, much less than the fact that the woman gave birth to me.

I am the spitting image of my Memaw, my dad’s mother. Which on the one hand isn’t bad. She’s almost eighty and looks sixty, at the most. She just bought her own house a few years ago and has a younger boyfriend. In all the (almost thirty) years I have known my Memaw, she has never changed, looks-wise. Seriously! So if I have those genes, I can’t complain too much. However, she has always struggled with her weight. So I got those genes, too. I remember first feeling self-conscious about being chubby at age 8. Since that time, I have done constant battle with my self image. I am all those things you would say… big boned, more to love, etc., etc. I am not a huge person by any means, but I am not skinny, and I have always been extremely conscious of the fact that I am not skinny. The number one person who makes me feel like a big blob of disappointment? Yup, that’s right, Mom.

Before I had found out I was pregnant with my daughter in Sept. of 2004, I had just lost 40 pounds. I was looking smoking hot, at least in my mind. It was the least I’d weighed since high school, and I worked very hard to get there.  Of course, as soon as I was at my lowest weight, I became pregnant. Well, let me tell you, it has all gone to hell since then. I have struggled ten times more with my weight since having Sophie than ever before. I am a size 14, but I feel huge. My 14’s don’t fit right, even thought they do fit. It’s like all my parts shifted around after I had Sophie. More thighs, more middle. Couldn’t it have all gone to the boobs? Anyway, enter into this my tiny, energetic mother. I know she judges my size. She always has, but never directly. I see it in the comments she makes to others and the looks she gives others. To her, fat people are disgusting. Although, some of her very good friends are larger people too. She just doesn’t say anything to them directly. So if fat people are disgusting, does that mean I am too?

I know how I look. I know how to eat right and exercise. I fell awful in bathing suits and shorts. I beat myself up about my appearance more than anyone else ever could. Why can’t I bounce back to my pre-pregnancy weight in 3 months like all those celebrities? Oh, that’s right, I have to work a full time job and care for a child, often by myself, and we’re not rich. Where it’s taken them three months, it’s taken me three years, with no change. Three years!! This is partly why I’m unsure about having more kids. I’m terrified of being pregnant again.

So here I am, largely feeling down on myself to begin with because it’s hot summertime and everyone is wearing less. I just want to put on a big sweater, but that’s not an option. Then we go on vacation with my parents two weeks ago. One day, we’re in the pool at the state park, and I take Sophie to the bathroom. Apparently, while I’m gone, my mom says to my husband, Chris, “Geez, Jaime’s really going to have to do something about her weight soon, isn’t she?” My husband replied, “We all do, you know. We’ve slacked off lately,” or something to that effect.

My husband told me this on this past Saturday while we were working on our budget. The subject of my mother came up (she has a thing with looking down her nose at our debt problems, too) and Chris mentioned what she said. I was so shocked and hurt that I almost burst into tears right there, but I didn’t want Chris to see how much her comment affected me. Even now, two days later, I am still unable to come to terms with it. First of all, I know why she said it to Chris. Because she would never say it in front of me. But I know she thinks it, so isn’t that worse? And second, doesn’t she think I know? Doesn’t she realize what mean, hateful things I say to myself day in and day out about how I’m such a failure at losing the weight? Does she think I don’t notice how I look? Or does she just think I don’t try; that I’m too lazy to do anything about it?

I guess overall, it doesn’t really matter. She said what I knew she was thinking all along. She confirmed my worst fears…yes, she is judging me, and she does wish I was thin like her. Does it kill her that her daughter is overweight? Is she embarrassed? Disgusted? Disappointed? All of the above?

Well, join the club. I think all of those thoughts, too. But she is my mother. Isn’t she supposed to love me unconditionally? Why do mothers hold the ultimate power to inspire hurt and guilt in us daughters? Why does it have to be so hurtful to hear those words coming from her, when they are the same words I say to myself? It just goes back to that awful mother/daughter dynamic that we have played out over the years. I am never good enough because I am not like her. That’s the message I’ve always gotten, isn’t it?

I pray and hope that my relationship with Sophie is different. Sure, I want her to be healthy and smart, but I will tell my future self right now: Don’t cut her down when all she’s looking for from you is love and support. Don’t go for her weakness just because you know what it is. Help her with her problems, but don’t make her feel like less of a person because she has them. Future self, treat your daughter like you wish you were being treated right now. You don’t have to live by the example you have just because it’s the only example you have.

There, I think I’ve said everything on my mind. I’m not trying to trash my mother, because I really do love her and she’s done a lot for me. It’s just that there are some bad relationship dynamics that are always there no matter how good the two people are individually. I just wish she’d see my talents and my humor and my goodness rather than my faults. It’s hard, isn’t it, when you have children and your whole perspective on your own mother changes. Has that happened to anyone else?