Oh, where to begin?
I have been going through so much- our family has been growing in leaps and emotional bounds...
All the small things, the things with which I pass my time- the house plan browsing, the recipe hunting ( too many things to link to, so I can't pick just one. Sorry.) the constant reading I have been doing lately-
But there are a few big things, such as Tristan's first birthday (!). On Wednesday, our son will be a full year in existence, and what a delight he has been! I find myself saying constantly "He's such a good boy." He is behaving as a child who is thoroughly assured of love. I am amazed at his growing personality- how cheerful he is, and how serious.
When he was six months old, he started crawling, and the world was wide and exciting. There was little interest in sitting still those days. Now, my son is walking, and he has started choosing to show me affection, to reach out and be touched, to be loved in a tangible way, and his choosing is what delights me most. I know that by seeking to sit in my lap, he is looking for affirmation himself, but I cannot help being thrilled because he knows that he can get it.
What great satisfaction in being the kind of person others go to for love and affirmation- to be a person who is so safe. I am not yet this safe in all my relationships (ask my husband) but I am growing in that direction.
Some of my reading has led me to a resource that describes healthy parenting as a "one-way valve" where resources flow from the parent to the child, but not the other way around. I have come to thoroughly agree with this. I can affirm my son, but I must never look to my son for affirmation. At least not directly, and certainly not as a goal in our interactions. My son will love me, but I must never depend on his love- for he is small, and he is very vulnerable.
The healthy flow chart of love- from God to me, from God to my husband. From my husband to me, and me to my husband, and then from us to our son (and possible future children). Just as God does not depend on my love to be who He is, so I must not depend on my child's love for me.
This is in no way saying that my son's love for me is unwelcome or unwanted- but I am saying that I must not lean on my son's love for me. Do you understand the difference? I am starting to.
Recently, my husband and I discussed a passage in a book that read "Whenever I hear a client say that they 'love being a parent' I get suspicious and start looking for clues that they are using their children to meet their own needs."
While Kevin said he disagreed, I had to admit something that had caused me some source of black shame-
I do not love being a parent.
Hear me out- I love being Tristan's mother, and I love Tristan, and I love my family. But being a parent is the very reason I stopped my schooling, stopped working, and live a somewhat rigorously scheduled existence that has very little to do with my own gratification. I do not write that way I used to.
Oh, the hours spent at coffee houses, journaling, writing poems and drinking coffee! Spending money on frivolities! The road trips, the nights out at parties, at clubs, the life that then seemed a bit solitary now seems utterly hedonistic!
So when I am asked if I love being a parent, I am liable to say yes, but the truth is a little more complicated. Do I love sacrificing everything for the first three years of my son's life, focusing my energy on others?
No. Yes. No- er...Am I a masochist? No. Am I a human being, selfish mostly? Yes.
But am I also a mother? A principled woman who believes strongly in causes bigger than me? Yes. Do I believe that while I may never get a return on my investment into my son, it is still worthwhile?
All this ferocious rhetoric to justify the simple thought that I am not such a fan of self-sacrifice. But you see, to be a mother in this culture is to be riddled with guilt, any way you turn. How can I say that I do not want to live for my children? ( inner guilt brigade gasps at even uttering such a statement.) Ah, but I can. I can say that I refuse to live for my children. I can say it and accept it as a healthy statement.
Because, let's be honest, a one year old sure ain't a conversationalist. He cannot sustain me, and I will never ask him to. I look forward to my husband's arrival home like a thirsty woman leans towards a glass of water. I eagerly await my emails from friends, my rare and oh-so-thrilling girl's nights out, when I am not a mommy.
Here is the main lesson I want to really learn, to suck the marrow from its bones: I and my children are seperate beings at very different stages of development, and as such, we will not be friends for a very long time. I have been entrusted with this one young life, and I am not here to be his friend. I am here to be his mother, to train him up, to direct him, to lovingly tend him, and to teach him how to be on his own. I will respect him as a seperate person, even as that personhood is growing, even as he is not sure who he is.
This, I am coming ot understand, is a healthy place to be. I will not be consumed by my role as mother- I would rather be consumed by my role as human being. Complex, maturing, growing, encouraging. Supported and loved by husband and friends, so that I can then support and encourage my son with all my needs already met. We should never burden our children with our needs, or our desires, or our longing for companionship. My children are not here for me.
My children are not here for me.
Free at last, free at last, I thank God I'm free at last.