Friday, January 12, 2018

My Mama Memory is Long

Babies are cute.  They are round, and they smell good and they have toothless giggles.  I loved breastfeeding, watching them walk, hearing them say silly stuff.

I feel like I'm missing something though.  How come I don't "miss" the babies? My children are getting older.  I love it!  I love seeing how they dress, hearing them talk about things that matter. I love their independence, and honestly, I prefer that they love me, rather than need me.

I wonder all the time, does this make me someone who wasn't meant to be a mom?  After all, I see these "mommy" types post on facebook or say at parties how much they miss the babies.  They remember when their kids were little, and the little hands and hugs. They remember the silliness, and they long for it.

Or am I misunderstanding what "missing" something means?  After all, I used to feel so guilty when in-laws would say they "miss" the children, until I had multiple trips where they didn't really play with the children, or clean up their vomit, or punish them, and I started realizing they "missed" looking at cute things.  They didn't long for the feel of baby hands.  It was more like--they just enjoyed having babies around.  Kids I was raising.  It was fun to see them. It was entertaining.  Once I realized that, it was liberating. Missing and longing.  Those are different.

Sometimes I miss being a single woman in NYC.  I think, "oh man, it would be so great to have nothing on my schedule today but to spend 30 minutes getting ready and then work out all morning and then take the subway to Chinatown or meet my friends." I miss that.  But I don't long for it.  I know that there were issues.  I was lonely a lot.  I wished I were more successful every day. And now, I can fill my day with other happy things.  In this reality, I have a supportive husband, kids who are adorable sometimes, and things to write about.  So . . . longing is not the word.  I just remember something fondly that I naturally evolved out of.

My mama memory is long. And with each memory of babies, I remember praying at 2 1/2 that my daughter would sleep.  I remember floor fits.  I remember having to buckle children in the backseat when it was 20 below, or 115 degrees.  I've done both hundreds of times.  I remember cracked nipples from breastfeeding.  Late night doctors. Just keeping them alive! But mostly, I remember mind-numbing afternoons where the choice was watching baby songs on the tv or playing batman toys, and I just wanted to be myself. Everyone told me I could "set boundaries" and still have my own life and that was really a lie. I wanted a life, I wanted to be a grown up. Each day, as my kids get older, I can set those boundaries, I can ask, and they come closer to understanding what I mean.

My investment in my children is, I believe,  what it should be. Someday it's likely that my daughter will look at me, she'll cry and she'll hurt deeply and she'll tell me that all of her body issues are because of me.  Because try as I might, I know she's going to inherit the most painful thing in my life.  Hopefully less than I have--but at some level, she will.  And my heart will hurt.  But it won't shatter.  Because I'll think, "I'm a really good professor," or "I encouraged someone today" or "I volunteered for people who need me" or a million other things I'm investing in my life to do for others that are not babies. Not even children. And I'll be reminded that I tried hard at parenting, but it was one thing of many.  Right?  It was never all of me.

I miss the past and fear the future about the same I guess.  Neither is exactly as we imagine. And neither deserves to be as important as today.