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Tuesday, October 04, 2016

On Motherhood

My oldest daughter is expecting her first child. Her younger sister already has two, so you think I we would be sanguine, even bored, with the thought of another grandchild. You would be so far from the truth as to be kissing the other end of the universe. We love our kids so much that the thought of them reproducing makes us very happy, and not for the parental curse of having one just like them, either.

My husband fairly danced across the house when we learned she was pregnant. I was overjoyed. Each new life in our family is a celebration to all of us and loved from the moment we are aware of its existence. Our granddaughter and grandson are the lights of our lives. I miss them the moment I leave them and cannot wait until I can go see them again. I am so proud of my daughters.

I like to text with my daughter as often as she'll let me. I'm not your typical mom. My children were raised by me, however, they are adults with their own lives to live and I leave them to it. I've never been what you could call a Blackhawk or Tiger Mom. Why? Because my job is to raise them, not befriend them until they reach an age of reason, and then I'll decide whether or not I did my job correctly. If no one is actively seeking out one of my children because I raised the biggest asshole on the planet, Mission Accomplished. Right?

I have always approached parenting from a different perspective than most people, I think. It wasn't a path I consciously or willingly tread, it was forced on me and I tried to make the best of a bad situation. My ex, the genetic donor to my four children wanted to be Uncle Daddy. He would teach them sports and tae kwon do and working out, but he didn't want to help raise of discipline them. That was ALWAYS left to me. So I decided, in the wish to retain my sanity as an individual, that I needed a degree of separation so that I could survive raising them.

Here is the best illustration of that point. My two boys had played sports, baseball, football and basketball and were taking tae kwon do when my oldest daughter wanted to play T-Ball, like her brothers had done. The team she was put on had a lot of mothers who were in the league for the first time. This was hardly my first rodeo and apparently, it showed. I didn't order a team t-shirt with "Marie's Mom!" on it. In fact, I did not order a t-shirt at all. I already had other from years past. My kids were never on the same team two years in a row and I didn't need any more team T-shirts. The team mom (I was on the Little League Board and felt no compulsion to be any further involved) was very upset that I wasn't getting a t-shirt then tried to shame me because I did not want to announce to the world that I was Marie's mom. I told her that I was more than someone's mom, wife, sister, daughter, whatever. She just stared at me. The stupid bitch could not imagine defining a personality outside the carefully constructed walls she'd build to enclose her world.

Not many people understand this story. Not even mothers who refuse to suborn their lives to their children's.  Women who subsume their entire identity to their children and who drawn themselves in being someone's mommy is nowhere more evident than Freshman Orientation at colleges. Recently, a friend took her daughter for her Orientation and to sign up for classes at the college she'd chosen. My friend is a psychologist, so observing people is sort of her thing. When they took the kids to go sign up for classes and parents were not allowed to accompany them, several women were outraged. One student had a break with reality because they could not make any decision without their mother right next to them telling them what to do.

Oh, yes, I so want to cripple my child like that.

My daughter told me last night that she was being told so many things by so many different women. She had just come back from a trip to Trinidad to visit her fiance's family and they told her she should just kill her baby now because it would be born retarded. WT actual F??? Who the fuck believes bullshit like that much less tells another person?

She told me she doesn't want her life to become her kid. She is a person besides being a mother. She doesn't want her kids wholly dependent on her once she's raised them.

These are words I've been saying for three decades now. Since 1986 when I had my first.

It is important to raise people who will be useful in this world. It is important to raise people you like being around or family dinners are awkward.

Mother your children. Love them, teach them, discipline them as you will. Raise them to be people you're proud of, fledglings who can leave the nest. Raise children you are happy to see every day. Raise beings who bring you and others joy with there mere existence. But also, learn from them and when they leave you, have your own life. If you don't you will be like so many women I've witnessed in my life, who break down, do incredibly stupid things, once that child they hinged their entire personality on is gone and frankly, doesn't want clingy mommy around at all.

I know my daughter will love her child fiercely, because that is how she loves. Her child will probably never know the nights their mother paces the floor, worried about this or that, but making it her problem, not her child's problem. I worried about them doing well in school, in life. I worried about their friends, their health and the whole myriad problems that motherhood throws at you, but I also had to take a step back and realize, some things they had to figure out for themselves.

When my eldest was 14 he said he wanted to enlist in the service. He wasn't exact, but we had assumed the Army since his grandfather and uncle had served in that branch. On his 18th birthday he came home and woke us up and said he'd signed with The Marines, the branch in which his step-father had served.  This was in 2004 when we were well involved in the second Gulf War. We all knew that regardless of his MOS, he would be sent to the war zone. He chose to go infantry, and although we were disappointed as he'd tested in other areas that wouldn't require him on the front lines and offered more opportunities after his enlistment, we had to let him roll with his decision. He spent most of his enlistment on two tours of Iraq.

His brother followed him two years later. He, too, chose the infantry. He only had one tour in Iraq, but, as with his brother, I worried. I walked the floors some nights because I was terrified for them both. I have one picture of both of them together in uniform. A friend took it while they were in Kuwait. My eldest on his way out of his second tour and his brother on his way in for his first. I treasure that picture, because when they sent it to me, it gave me hope that they would both come home whole. I've kept it on my desk, my mantle, and I keep copies on every electronic device I have and store it on several clouds. It is proof to me that I accomplished my goal of raising two individuals who have seen hell and made it back, on their own. On. Their. Own.

I wasn't there to hold their hand and tell them everything would be alright. I raised children who grew up to know they could do it on their own, who were not afraid to try new things, all by themselves. they constantly disagree with me, get mad, but they also bring me such joy with such actions because I know that they feel secure in their own opinions that they have made based on their own experiences that they have the confidence to disagree with me. I don't dance with joy, especially when I know they are dead wrong, but I realize it's another truth they have to discover on their own. I love them and I am proud of them individually for things they have done and personality traits they each have that they do not share with a sibling.

In a way I feel like my generation has groundswelled this whole overparenting crap. When we were 18 we were unceremoniously dumped out of the house and into life or college or the military. And, in typical human fashion, we wanted better for our kids and decided to make home a comfy spot where our kids could feel safe. That's all well and good, but it's gotten too comfy. Why would kids ever leave the sheltering safety of parental care if they didn't have to? It's a lesson my two oldest children are about to learn. BTW, Boomerangs are nearly impossible to relaunch.

We all have our failures as parents. Good Lord, if I wrote down all of mine it would outstrip War & Peace as the longest, most boring read ever. But, for most of it, when we fail it's from an overabundance of care and love of our children. But, they are their own people, and we have to let them be that while we remain our own people. Be yourself, not an adjunct of someone else.

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