Thursday, May 10, 2007

Mother Am I?

For most of my life, since I was about 11, I've been called "motherly" and "nurturing." I was always the Mama Hen in my group of friends. Why? I'd tell it like it was, stand by your side when you're sad or in trouble, live my life openly and authentically, and generally be a gigantic fount of comfort and generosity.

In college, my apartment was the gathering spot for people on their work breaks, people who need a meal (even if I only had Ramen to ofer), people who had a bad day, people who just wanted to relax and escape from the crazy drama of the outside world. They were my friends, and I was very loyal to them.

Now that I'm actually a mom, I get to look back and see how those traits that branded me as a "Mamma" actually relate to parenthood. And the answer is... they relate more than I thought.

I'm a mom newbie in that my son is only a year and a half. But I've gotten the gist of the whole motherhood thing in little lessons every day. I've compiled a list of things that I feel make me a mother.

1. My life is all wrapped up in my child. He's the center of my existence. Even though I have a life away from him, he's still what my thoughts and emotions default to.

2. I'm good at making him feel good about himself. Maybe it's because I'm a total goofball at heart, maybe it's because I've always enjoyed the antics of children, but Ben gets lots of attention and praise and encouragement every day. Perhaps it's why he's such a confident, curious, outgoing kid. He's had his "mommy" stages where he seems to be made of glue when he's around me, but it's never stopped him from interacting with his environment and new people we meet.

3. I've made sacrifices for my child (and my current fetus). A month before I got married and started getting freaky with my dear husband, I quit smoking. Sure, hubby didn't want me to smoke, but I mostly did it for the unborn kids in our plan. I've stayed smoke free, and I've made an effort to stay off of anti-depressants while I'm pregnant (even though I'm totally hormonal and moody).

4. My face lights up everytime I see my child. He really is my delight, and my whole internal focus has shifted. I'm constantly amazed at the new things he's learning, the cute facial expressions he adopts, and the general Ben-ness of it all. Some people get psychicly turned on by music, movies, religion, literature. For me, it's my child.

5. I'm constantly reevaluating every decision we make concerning his upbringing. Since I'm convinced that what worked last week for this changing toddler may not work again, I have to be on my toes and searching for the right fit for Ben. The rules of what is permissable change to allow him space to grow and explore.

6. I seriously have had panic attacks at the thought of Ben experiencing a broken heart. I can't stand the idea of other children picking on him, or the sadness he will feel when we change daycare providers and no longer sees his favorite teachers. I am very protective of his sweet, sensitive spirit, and the mother bear in me rears up and growls when anyone would dare to tamper with his joy and goodwill.

7. I have no plans to hide the truth of my past from my son. I've done some bad things in the past, and I've made some bad decisions. When the time comes to talk to him about the tough subjects like sex, drugs, and alcohol, I'll be sharing my experiences with him rather than just preaching at him. He'll know right from wrong, but he'll also know both the dramatic and subtle consequences for bad choices. I could take the easy route and just tell him the moral truths (or I could just hope he gets all the moral training from school), but I think I'll be more of a mother if I let him learn from my mistakes.

8. I make judgments about how other parents raise their kids, but I sympathize with them at the same time. Maybe it's the single mother I work with who has three young boys at home but who chooses to go out drinking and dancing a couple nights a week. Maybe it's the mother I see berating her kids and calling them losers and dumb****s. I'm not going to apologize for being all "sanctimommy" on their asses. Instead, I'm going to use their examples to highlight to myself why I treat my son the way I do. Being a mom means that motherhood comes before the party life, even though it's important to kick back and relax once in a while. Being a mom means that it's my job to lift my children up, not tear them down. There will be enough mean people in their lives who will take it upon themselves to do that. If they annoy me or misbehave, I'll call them on it and tell them they're being naughty or disrespectiful, but I will not call them names. "Brat" will never be a pet name for my child.

9. I look forward to finding out what my children will do with their lives. Ben has such a way with people, such a tender spirit and expressive personality. How will that play out when he's older? What traits and characteristics will I discover about this little peanut who is still nestled in my womb, growing and squirming? I think part of being a mother is embracing the possibilities, and enjoying the daily opportunities for wonder and joy. My son is a 22 pound enigma, and every day I'll get to learn something more about him.

10. I am now a mother because I finally starting to understand all of what my mother had to go through, what she still goes through. Her heart is still wrapped up in her children, though we're all grown and starting families of our own. My mother's heart recognizes hers. And my mother's heart also recognizes the quiet sensitivity of the other mothers I encounter everyday, be it online or in real life.

I'd love to do a link callout to Parent Blogger Network and Light Iris, but my links aren't working in blogger. You can find their addresses in the blogroll. Join the fun today and write your own post about what makes a mother. Remember to send your link to to let them know you're participating.