Sunday, July 15, 2007

Mommies, go get a cup of coffee and settle in for this one....(you might need a tissue too.)

Someone posted this at a homeschooling message board I frequent. I feel I need to share it. The words really resonated with me and I know I will have to come back and read it again.

Anna Quindlen, Newsweek Columnist and Author:

All my babies are gone now. I say this not in sorrow but in disbelief. I
take great satisfaction in what I have today: three almost-adults, two
taller than I am, one closing in fast. Three people who read the same books
I do and have learned not to be afraid of disagreeing with me in their
opinion of them, who sometimes tell vulgar jokes that make me laugh until I
choke and cry, who need razor blades and shower gel and privacy, who want to
keep their doors closed more than I like. Who, miraculously, go to the
bathroom, zip up their jackets and move food from plate to mouth all by
themselves. Like the trick soap I bought for the bathroom with a rubber
ducky at its center, the baby is buried deep within each, barely discernible
except through the unreliable haze of the past.

Everything in all the books I once poured over is finished for me now.
Penelope Leach., T. Berry Brazelton., Dr. Spock. The ones on sibling rivalry
and sleeping through the night and early-childhood education, have all grown
obsolete. Along with Goodnight Moon and Where the Wild Things Are, they are
battered, spotted, well used. But I suspect that if you flipped the pages
dust would rise like memories. What those books taught me, finally, and what
the women on the playground taught me, and the well-meaning relations --what
they taught me, was that they couldn't really teach me very much at all.

Raising children is presented at first as a true- false test, then becomes
multiple choice, until finally, far along, you realize that it is an endless
essay. No one knows anything. One child responds well to positive
reinforcement, another can be managed only with a stern voice and a
timeout. One child is toilet trained at 3, his sibling at 2. When my first
child was born, parents were told to put baby to bed on his belly so that he
would not choke on his own spit-up. By the time my last arrived, babies were
put down on their backs because of research on sudden infant death syndrome.
To a new parent this ever-shifting certainty is terrifying, and then
soothing. Eventually you must learn to trust yourself. Eventually the
research will follow. I remember 15 years ago poring over one of Dr.
Brazelton's wonderful books on child development, in which he describes
three different sorts of infants: average, quiet, and active. I was looking
for a sub-quiet codicil for an 18-month old who did not walk. Was there
something wrong with his fat little legs? Was there something wrong with his
tiny little mind? Was he developmentally delayed, physically challenged?
Was I insane? Last year he went to China. Next year he goes to college.
He can talk just fine. He can walk, too.

Every part of raising children is humbling, too. Believe me, mistakes were
made. They have all been enshrined in the, "Remember-When- Mom-Did" Hall of
Fame. The outbursts, the temper tantrums, the bad language, mine, not
theirs. The times the baby fell off the bed. The times I arrived late for
preschool pickup. The nightmare sleepover. The horrible summer camp. The day
when the youngest came barreling out of the classroom with a 98 on her
geography test, and I responded, "What did you get wrong?" (She insisted I
include that.) The time I ordered food at the McDonald's drive-through
speaker and then drove away without picking it up from the window. (They
all insisted I include that.) I did not allow them to watch the Simpsons
for the first two seasons. What was I thinking?

But the biggest mistake I made is the one that most of us make while doing
this. I did not live in the moment enough. This is particularly clear now
that the moment is gone, captured only in photographs. There is one picture
of the three of them, sitting in the grass on a quilt in the shadow of the
swing set on a summer day, ages 6, 4 and 1. And I wish I could remember
what we ate, and what we talked about, and how they sounded, and how they
looked when they slept that night. I wish I had not been in such a hurry to
get on to the next thing: dinner, bath, book, bed. I wish I had treasured
the doing a little more and the getting it done a little less. Even today
I'm not sure what worked and what didn't, what was me and what was simply
life. When they were very small, I suppose I thought someday they would
become who they were because of what I'd done. Now I suspect they simply
grew into their true selves because they demanded in a thousand ways that I
back off and let them be. The books said to be relaxed and I was often
tense, matter-of-fact and I was sometimes over the top. And look how it all
turned out. I wound up with the three people I like best in the world, who
have done more than anyone to excavate my essential humanity. That's what
the books never told me. I was bound and determined to learn from the
experts. It just took me a while to figure out who the experts were.

1 comment:

Mama mouse said...

Amazing! ..and so true! I try really hard to enjoy the small stuff - to laugh - to give Mackenzie memories she'll remember forever. It's sooooo important. Thanks for the story, friend.