Because that, the sleepless nights, the worry, the never ending cycle children in my bed...that is motherhood.
As I drifted off, I felt her little hand on my tummy. She rubbed my stomach, much like I rub hers when she's tired or sad to calm her, and I smiled with the realization that she'd been waiting for me to sleep, too. Her fingers fell into the deep grooves of the stretch marks 27 months of pregnancy have left on me and she paused. She backtracked slightly. She took the tip of her finger and began tracing the marks, the lines marking the roads on the map of our lives together. At that moment I realized something I'd not honestly grasped in 11 years of parenting; that I am hers. I am this thing, this pile of bones and skin that belongs to her. To them. That I am not just a 30 something girl with big hips covered in silvering tracks; I am an extension of three people, and I belong to them completely.
And that, the giving over of myself to someone else, well...that is motherhood.
If you asked me what motherhood was, I could give you the obvious answer. I could tell you it's 9 months of puking and 18 years of mumbling to yourself. It's hardly having enough time and never having enough for yourself. It's diapers and bottles and boo boos. It's dishes and laundry and grocery bills and college tuition. And I'd be lying to you with every word.
Motherhood is none of those things. Those are merely the minute details of life. If I didn't have these children I'd still have grocery bills and bank accounts and I'd probably have some career that required much of my time. I'd have work to bring home and deadlines to meet and maybe a dog to feed and walk. I'd be busy, I'd be frazzled and I'd be distracted. None of that changes with or without having my children, just how it plays out does.
So I take all of that out of the equation and what I'm left is what happens on the sidelines. I'm left with falling into bed and knowing that my daughter is so intertwined in my soul that she could dare trace the lines of my body while she thought I slept simply because she wanted to, which is something I'd never had dared do with my own mother. That is motherhood.
I brought a basket of clothes to my boys' room the other day and when I opened my oldest son's top drawer to put his socks and boxers away, I realized that he'd unfolded all of his boxers and re-folded them differently. He'd moved his socks from the right to the left, the t-shirts to the back and laid his boxers out like I'd never think to. I stood for a little too long staring at that drawer, smiling, realizing that my son had taken an idea I'd given him and made it into something uniquely his own. That he was moving away from me and he knew which direction he was heading and he didn't need to ask for my permission or my seek my validation anymore.. That is motherhood.
I cook dinner at night and my middle son helps, no matter what we're making. He does a really crappy job of chopping the parsley and he over-salts the sauce and he sets the table all wrong and we laugh our asses off the whole time we're getting ready to eat. We talk about Pokemon or skateboarding or the new video game and I listen to his stories, his tales, his experiences that have nothing to do with me and I learn something about that little boy who does still need me to validate him, who wants to be in the kitchen with me because I love to cook and he wants to be a part of what I love. I listen to his silly stories, I nod at the things I honestly don't understand, because he loves those things and I want to know about the thing he loves. That is motherhood.
My daughter climbs into the pile of dirty laundry that is now taller than she is. She burrows into it until she finds the buried basket and she makes us all find her. Sometimes she lunges out at us, sometimes she just peeks an eye out and whispers, "boo." Then she leaps out and we run around the living room, tripping over piles of clothes, through the kitchen, jumping over bags of groceries still not put away, playing tag and laughing until it hurts. That is motherhood.
Motherhood is a tide, ebbing and flowing in my life. It is a push and a pull, a give and a take. It's me giving all I have to these people and me taking everything I can from them while I have them. It's them holding on to me while they push me away. It's watching them learn and grow, it's mourning the loss of their dependence and celebrating the independent people they are becoming. It's getting flustered because the dust is piling up and the floors are a mess but me not being able to bring myself to windex the little handprints off the windows because I want to savour them for as long as I can. It's that it's been so long since I've had a minute, a day, a week to myself that I can hardly remember what that's like and it's the way 11 years just blew past me right then when I blinked and the next 15 are going to be over before I can blink again. It's running on three hours of sleep, grieving for the loss of a child not my own and at the exact same moment finding a fleeting moment of pure peace in the eyes of another child.
It's who I have become to my core. It's the space in between the mistakes I make, between what isn't getting done in my day or my life, it's the touch and the sight and the sound of something bigger than me and better than me unfolding before my eyes. It is a gift, being able to look at a child and see more than a short human; being able to see the roads that connect you to her to me to them. It's living less in fear and more in the moment. It's how I realize slightly more with every day that passes exactly how wrong, how tragically horrifying my own childhood was and realizing more with every day that passes that it doesn't matter anymore, that I am not that child, and neither are my children, and neither are anyone else's. That I can learn from it and let it go. That I don't have to forgive or forget or understand, but I am ready to accept it and leave it behind. That I have the power to give it meaning, to make it right, to cancel the whole thing out.
It has nothing to do with what I'm doing, and everything to do with what I'm becoming.
David and Catharine are hosting Around the World in 80 Clicks: 80 stories of motherhood from around the globe. Ree asked me, Kelley asked Ree, Tanis asked Kelley, Catharine asked Tanis and I'd like to ask X Box. Who isn't a mother, but who's quest to become a parent is as inspirational as it is heartbreaking. If you'd like to contribute, please let Catharine know about your post so she and David can add it to the "itinerary."
If you come as softly
as wind within the trees
you may hear what I hear
see what sorrow sees.
If you come as lightly
as the threading dew
I will take you gladly
nor ask more of you.
You may sit beside me
silent as a breath
only those who stay dead
shall remember death.
If you come I will be silent
nor speak harsh words to you
I will not ask you why, now,
not how, nor what you do.
But we shall sit here softly
beneath two different years
and the rich earth between us
shall drink our tears.
My friend and fellow blogger Heather lost her daughter yesterday unexpectedly, and I cannot find words. Heather's blog is offline now due to, I assume, the server crashing back up and running. Visit the March Of Dimes to leave a donation in Madeline's name, send her family well wishes on her twitter stream and view Madeline's brief and beautiful life at Heather's Flickr page.
The popular boy in school, the one with the right hair and the athletic abilities? He spends the whole night beating your three year old girl off of him with a stick. You spend the whole night weeping for your future. The chubby boy eats himself sick. Literally. You spend the entire night in the bathroom with him and his parents on speed-dial. The shy boy sits on the edge of the corner of the couch silently all night until you go to put I Robot on and he starts crying because, it turns out, he's pretty sure he's not allowed to watch it but everyone else wants to and he quite honestly wants to and he just doesn't know what to do. You spend the whole night rallying the other boys into a "protect the quiet kid and pick a new movie!" war cry. (Which succeeds brilliantly, by the way.) The two class clowns put on the toddler's size 4 foam jousting outfits, grab her foam jousting swords, and duel to the death. You spend the whole night screaming, "Above the belt! Below the nose!" The rest of the boys spend the entire night practicing up on their Greco-Roman Wrestling and you spend the entire night waiting for the scream.
The scream comes. And I quote:
"My crystals! My precious crystals!"
That's one less boy you're going to have to worry about your daughter going out on a date with.
The four girls, the sisters of the guests, they sit on your couch and play Webkinz.com and then puppy-dog eye you into renting Twilight for them on demand, even though you refuse to go there, and so you order it but it fails in every way to play. You spend the rest of the night thanking god for small favours. Your lose your camera but find your video camera, so you record the 20-some tweens singing happy birthday and then hand the camera off to your 11 year old who then video-tapes all of his friends. He interviews them, he tapes you, he giggles and squees and you smile because GOD this is going to be cute on film. The whole group spontaneously bursts into a hearty rendition of O Canada, which is kind of weird, but whatever, and you thank god you thought to bring that video camera out.
And then you watch your video later.
And realize neither you nor your son had remembered to hit un-pause.
So you're left with no pictures, a basement that smells like dear lord in heaven, ears that are ringing because it was very in all caps with a period after each letter loud, a Dorito-filled carpet and two boys who have declared the day the Best Birthday Ever.
I'm not entirely sure antibiotics will clear that up. And speaking of sick...
Yes, we make our sick three year old build our furniture. Don't worry; it gets worse.
That would be a direct quote taken from Ms. Bob the Builder earlier that same day.
See all of Sarcastic Mom's Terrible Parents Weekly Winners here. And more color glossies to be used as evidence against us at my Flickr page.