Author – Science, Environment, Travel, Children's Books
I have always believed that love in any form is valid. We can’t always justify it, we can’t always label it, we can’t always expect others to understand. But if it’s genuine and reciprocated with at least kindness, then it is healthy and good. I feel a lot of love in a lot of different ways for a lot of people. But the type of love I find hardest to describe is the love I feel for my children. How can it be so primal and violently protective, but at the same time as gentle and tender as one could ever imagine? Since being a mother, I have experienced stronger feelings of pride and accomplishment than ever before, but also the most debilitating humiliation and self-doubt. My love for my girls makes me nuts! I would do anything for them. I am desperate to do right by them! Motherhood takes adoration to a whole new level.
One of the sweetest moms I know has only been a parent for four and a half months. If only she could see herself as her baby boy sees her. The love in his eyes when his mommy holds him could take your breath away. He is certain that she’s infallible. The end of her pregnancy was pretty darn awful. After a frightening, dangerous birth, she was forced away from the little guy frequently to deal with pain, therapy, medications… but their bond still grew stronger with each day. Even when she lamented not being able to breast feed, when she was too weak and sore to hold him for as long as she would have liked, nothing could have actually jeopardized that love between mother and son.
This young mom is also a super fly nurse. One of the best in our office, if you ask me. Yesterday I overheard her consoling a parent on the phone. She was telling this mom that she was doing everything right; her child just had some difficult challenges. Success or failure was not an indication of this woman’s ability to be a mother to her child. But this mom’s love and concern was making it impossible for her to have that realization. She was letting her daughter down. My friend was expertly handling this situation and would hopefully hear her wise words repeated in her own head after leaving the office that evening.
You see, Friend, RN is grappling with her own feelings of incompetence. So am I. So are all parents. We are cursed with a frantic desire to do everything right because we love them so. “She needs more freedom.” “I should have been watching closer.” “I was too hard on her.” “I’m too nice, she gets away with everything.” “She doesn’t have the same advantages as other kids.” “We’re spoiling her rotten.” It never ends. And why do we berate ourselves for behaviors and situations common to all children? Kids have always been hard to take to the grocery store. Babies have never been good sleepers. Toddlers will definitely throw refried beans at El Mezcal. But who cares that someone else’s kid does it? Those things are still negatives, they are still a problem and surely we could have prevented them from plaguing OUR children if our parenting had been adequate.
The love we feel as parents makes us just plain stupid. We know better than to stress out every time their teacher sends them to time out or to cry over a diaper rash. We apologize over and over for tantrums at church when nobody else even noticed. They’re just kids after all. We’re certain we’re screwing them up for life. We will deliberate over each dinner plate wondering if there is enough protein, fruit and vegetable and if the sodium content is too high… And guess what? When we send them off to college they’ll have a ramen noodle packet for breakfast, one for lunch and a sensible dinner… of Chinese carryout or pizza.
As Valentine ‘s Day approaches and I’m surrounded by pink, glittery reminders of amore, I’m going to try a little love exercise of my own. I’m going to work on approaching my love for my kids a little differently. I’ll attempt to calm my maternal mind and suppress the protectiveness and paranoia. I’ll smile at their endearing flaws rather than blaming myself for them. Instead of loving them as challenging projects, I will love them as sweet, adorable little friends. When I stop fretting over Laura’s ear infections and green snot and look a few inches higher, I see smiling, blue eyes and brown curls framing grinning cheeks. Is anything prettier than that? When I stop dwelling on how Abbey screamed while I brushed her hair, I notice that her strawberry blonde pigtails match her smattering of freckles just exactly. So precious! I will never feel for anyone else what I feel for them.
Love is blind, I guess. But we really can’t waste precious hours of childhood allowing parental love to be too much so. We should open our eyes to the site of our children existing fearlessly with the kind of confidence that comes only from being safe, nurtured and healthy. This is proof positive of our success. We should look to each other and see how our struggles parallel. A quick glace around will reveal that we’re not any of us alone in this endeavor. Nor are we any better or any worse at it than anyone else. My friend has great eyesight when she’s helping a patient; she should be able to see clear as day that she too is doing a fabulous job. In fact, I think we all are.