Friday, March 02, 2007

Desert Flowers

Recently, both girls have been playing Mommy a lot. They love their babies, ask Danny and me to baby sit and help calm down a crying baby, change, dress, and even put them to sleep. As a sign of how mature she’s getting, last weekend Emma spent a good two and a half hours quietly caring for Kelsey and Alicia, her two babies. I’m sure that for Emma that some of this playacting is due to our recent visit with Aunt Donielle and her new cousin, Heidi. Still, a vast majority of the time she’s had to learn how a mother behaves and loves her children has come from her life with me. Based on what I’ve witnessed, I’ve done a decent job teaching them how to be a mommy. I also know that Danny has done a bang up job of teaching them how to love one another. Parenting skills, after all, are taught by both parents.

Allison has been increasingly more vocal about her love for me over the past month or so. She’ll come up out of nowhere and tell that she loves me. I can’t tell you how endearing that is. She tells me just about everyday, in referring to the trip to Chicago that she likes her “Mommy at home.” She comes up and asks specifically for a kiss and a hug. I absolutely love it. Sometimes as a parent I lament stages that Emma and Allison have grown out of. What I keep forgetting is that moving on means that bigger and better things are on their way. As much as I miss cuddling her to sleep, she couldn’t tell me that she loved me or wanted me to be at home with her.

Sometimes I also feel like I’ve been a less than adequate mother to my girls, especially during those long, dark days that aren’t all that far away in history. But Emma and Allison’s recent expressions of love for me and their love for their baby dolls feel to me like a sign that maybe I wasn’t as terrible of a parent that I thought I was. Also, children are surprisingly resilient creatures. They have an ease with forgiving and letting go that we seem to lose as adults. It’s as if they can see that adults are not perfect and accept that fact at face value. Perhaps if I looked at our every day lives in this way I would be more patient and much slower to anger when they act their age or try to assert their independence.

Wouldn’t it be nice if we could create a contract for parents and children to sign at the beginning of their relationship?

I, [insert parents’ names here], will not expect you to act like a smaller version of me. I will keep in mind that you do not come with the full ability to handle situations and emotions effectively. I will do my best to remember what it was like to be your age and how it felt to explore my sense of humor, my creativity, and my boundaries. I will be patient as you learn. I will step back when I need to step back and I will forever champion you in what you do.
I, [insert child’s name here], will not expect you to be perfect. I will learn to forgive your faults, impatience, and distance by watching you forgive me when I spill fingernail polish on my beautiful toy box, run around the house with messy hands after eating, and preferring to enjoy my independent being, my siblings, and my friends by pushing my limits. By seeing, accepting, and loving your despite your imperfections, I will learn to accept and love myself when I fall short of my own expectations.

The problem with such a contract is that the parent/child relationship is entered with rose-colored glasses. Unfortunately, it is inevitable that soft, strong, and secure safety net that parents provide from birth will grow course, loose its flexibility, and develop holes over time. It’s not meant to be permanent in the first place. Similarly, our children will begin to do everything they can to ignore, work around, and tear and cut away at that safety net much sooner than we expect and can feel comfortable with.

As a parent it appears that I am my own harshest critic. It is equally true that my beautiful, gregarious daughters recognize, accept, and trust me as I am making positive changes in my life. They were not the cause of my own journey through the desert of my heart and soul, but they suffered from the heat, famine, and loneliness. I am working as hard as I can to be the mother they need me to be from here on out. Hopefully during the process they will learn that even in the desert there is beauty to be found if only you look.


DD said...

Oh, man do I love that picture! It made me laugh!

I was just telling my husband that I really miss the baby stage, and the trade off has been bittersweet. No matter his stage, he will be the reason I get up in the morning, and the reason I have good dreams at night. said...

I LOVE this photo. Is that you with your girls?

I could so do a cup of hot chocolate and some cookies with you, I'd want to hold the baby and play with the bigger one.

Jennifer said...


That's me and the girls, but now the baby is the same age as Emma was then. We had a wonderful evening that day and it's just another way of saying that there were some wonderful times in the midst of that hell.

Let's definitely do hot chocolate, though!