Tuesday, November 18, 2014

A reflection on two year olds

Becoming a mother is the only thing I have ever done on blind faith.

With Flynn, that pregnancy test was the one time I have ever truly been shocked. My mom and sister planned a surprise party for me on my 16th birthday. I was surprised then- or confused rather for about five minutes when I didn't know how to react. But this... this was different. Shock, yes. But it was more. It was so mind blowing, so unexpected that I immediately accepted it as truth the moment I saw the pregnancy test had a pink plus sign. WHAM! There it is. And only when I held my son for the first time in my arms did I realize that the initial shock had finally worn off, 33 weeks later.

Before Flynn's birth I had the assurances of some- my mother, close friends, my husband- that of course you will be a great mother! But other than that, and the limited passive-aggressive relationship I had with our cat, Winston, motherhood was never something I had thought about, let alone planned for. I remember worrying vaguely that I might be an abusive parent, because I have a violent streak in me that is quite unexpected. Perhaps due to my mother's excitement or the many stray cats and birds I cared for in my past, I never really worried that I would be a bad mom. I never thought I would be fabulous, like a Lorelai Gilmore to my genius offspring but I thought I'd probably be okay, and that always seemed good enough for me. I figured I would learn and things would work themselves out.

As Flynn and I have entered the Terrible Two dynamic of our lives, I've realized that parenthood is wildly more complex than I previously imagined. Before his birth, throughout his infancy and even now I never have given myself much credit. I never thought ahead of what kind of mother I thought I would be versus what I might actually be like. Everything is in regretful retrospect with a hint of a positive afterthought. I ate too many fries while I was pregnant (but he was so adorable and fat!).  I watched too much TV while I was breastfeeding (but I held him in my arms all day long). I don't play outside with him enough. (He loves me anyway, right?)  I do think of good things in retrospect too, but, elusively, they are harder to recall than the bad.

But the truth is I'm a better mom than I think. I'm the woman at the grocery store with the screaming toddler. I can keep my voice calm and cheerful, pull toys and endless snacks out of my purse, and keep my emotions set to sympathy and frustration rather than anger. I'm the woman in the restaurant with the screaming toddler. I can get him to eat-- sometimes. I'm the woman in the family picture with the screaming toddler in her lap. I can still smile at the camera, turn to my husband, and laugh. I'm okay with not being perfect and that's what makes me a better mom. Every day there are problems, and every day I try to work through them with Flynn.  His speech is limited right now but his need to connect is just as powerful as mine, maybe more. I am learning sign language for my son, because I love him. Sometimes I forget the signs. Or I anticipate Flynn's needs without giving him a chance to communicate them to me. Or I scold myself thinking, "we should have started this a year ago!"  But I try again and again because I want to help him communicate those impassioned meltdowns into something productive. I want to empower my child. The tantrums will happen but I see an independence in him that makes me so proud to be his mom. After two years of parenting, my laissez faire attitude has changed very little. Just add in some more constructive play time, lots of, "Flynn, look at Mommy's eyes" and a little more tried and true faith in the balance of the world and I think, yes, things are just as they should be.