…become a parent? Don’t answer that. I know the answer. Nine long months before I ever met Henry as our little bug, I was suddenly a mama–complete with mama instincts and mama love and so forth. I suppose there’s been no escaping that since then, but most days, I think of myself more as “Henry’s mom” than a fully-fledged parent who has to make decisions for an entirely separate and incredibly important life on a daily basis. What I mean is, this has all felt like pretty natural, run-of-the-mill, “so you have a baby now” kind of stuff. Except on rare days like today. Today I feel overwhelming like this: Ohmygoodness I’m a MOM and shoot, that means I have to make hard choices that don’t always feel good but are necessary and ew…ew…ew…I want to resist this because it just plain makes my heart hurt a little.
“It” being mostly the part where I realize that parenting is sometimes–or more probably a lot of times, going to require the hard stuff. You know, the stuff where you disappoint your kid because you have to tell them no, or “I’m sorry but,” or something else that you know they’ll hate, but you really can’t handle it any other way. So you do what you think is best as a parent because you love them. And it still stings for a while, even though you know it’s the right thing. Ugh.
Henry is only nine months old, and simply too young yet for me to really feel the implications of parenting in this regard, but I can feel it coming. And already, as he begins to show more and more in the way of preferences and opinions (and attitude!), I’m seeing how slippery a slope it can be if we aren’t mindful to love him just as diligently and carefully as possible. Just today he’s probably expressed his disapproval fifty times or more. His lips get all pucker-y and cute like he’s going to blow a kiss, and then they scrunch right on up to his button nose, where he proceeds to huff out air like a little bull ready to stampede. With his nose all wrinkled and his face all short and pudgy in this pose, I’d be tempted just to squeeze his cheeks and laugh like crazy–if I didn’t know he meant business. But when the huffing begins? Man, did I get something wrong. I might have taken a toy off of the high chair tray or moved something out of reach. Or it’s possible I just didn’t get the puffs out of their container fast enough for his appetite. Regardless, the boy is unhappy and everyone watching knows it. It’s very, very funny to strangers, and a little funny (although increasingly less so) to me. I just hope we can break the habit before we’re huffing and puffing in a time out chair/corner/spot in a year or two. How quickly things change!
Suddenly, I’m not looking at the petite babe who stays safely in my arms and wants to spend most of the day cradled and swaddled and close to mom. Already we have a wiggle-wormy monkey on our hands–one who always has an idea about the next thing he needs to see or touch or get closer to righthisminute! Hank is strong, determined, resilient, independent (fiercely so) and up for adventure. A definite boy, who, at opposite ends of the day–and sometimes in the middle still, reminds me that he needs me most of all. I am learning to dance the dance right now–the one I’ll likely stand in for the next 20 years or more. It is a powerful charge and responsibility, loving unconditionally, protecting unwaveringly, providing for continually, and growing closer to and away from, all at once and all of the time.
Being a mom is something you can want your entire life and suddenly become with relative ease. But being a parent–an intentional, calculating, careful, honest, tireless and practical one, is something you grow into in moments that stretch you, in questions that challenge you, and in situations that change you. On days like today.
henry’s parent, certainly. but above and beyond the fine print, henry’s i-couldn’t-possibly-love-him-more-if-i-tried em-oh-em. mom.