Sunday, July 31, 2011

Hindsight & Heartstrings

My little angel
When I was growing up my Mom and I used to fight a lot. I wasn't a wild child, but I apparently had quite the mouth. I liked to, let's say, reason with my Mom... and it got me into quite a bit of trouble. She used to tell me that someday I would have a child of my own and I'd understand why she was hurt and upset by whatever it was I'd said or done. I remember being little, feeling cornered and misunderstood. I used to think my Mom was out of her mind and that someday when I had a child of my own I would be a totally different mother. Whenever I was in time out I would imagine all the ways I would be a different mom to my child - that I would never get upset; that I would be patient; that I would never raise my voice or feel exasperated. I imagined that as a mother I would never be any of the things that drove me nuts about my Mom. I would only take all the things I loved about my Mom and our relationship, and leave behind the many things that I thought my Mom was wrong about. Fast forward to today...

I've been a Mom for two years. Alyssa is now in her full blown new toddler phase. She knows hundreds of words, but often gets frustrated when I or her Daddy can't understand her, or when she doesn't have the right words to use. This usually results in a tantrum, tears, and the absolute loss of all muscular ability and Alyssa melts into a puddle on the floor, sidewalk, or grass. One morning, Alyssa and I were going through our usual routine of getting dressed and picking out shoes. I wanted her to wear sneakers, and she wanted to wear jellies. I succeeded in getting the sneakers on her feet, but not without sustaining some battle wounds: Alyssa was not having anything to do with those sneakers and she wanted me to know it. She kicked and screamed, cried and wailed, and bucked the whole time. It's not easy for me to handle Alyssa when she's in one of these states and it takes a lot of deep breathing on my part to get through it without losing my cool. I was frustrated, hurt, and I could feel my blood pressure rising. Reasoning with her didn't work; hugging her close to me and saying "I love you, and you're going to have to calm down" didn't work; raising my voice and telling her what to do didn't work either; so letting her lie on the floor to cry it out was the only thing left to do. She lay there yelling at the top of her lungs, face bright red and so very mad at me. I sat there looking at her, having done what I could and feeling very vulnerable. Finally, she calmed down and I scooped her up into my arms. She came willingly, took her thumb out of her mouth and quietly whispered to me, "I love you, Mommy. I sorry, Mommy!"

Instantly the tears came. I hugged her tightly to me and told her I loved her too. But I was crying because at that moment I understood what my Mom meant all those years ago. I had a child now, and I realize that it isn't easy to be a Mom. It's hard work being patient when the little person in front of you, who you dedicate most of your waking hours to, is being stubborn and is wailing her head off. In that instant I wished I could take back all those times I had said something, or done something that must've made my Mom's heart ache. She was right all along. Someday had come, and I know it's only the beginning. I can't take back the past, but I can do my best now and in the future to make amends. As I hugged Alyssa I imagined the kind of Mom I'd be to her... I will take all the good things my Mom was to me: I will try to be patient, I will teach her how to take care of herself, I will steel myself when she makes mistakes because I know it will help her learn important lessons, I will always be there for her, and I will learn when it's time to let her go. Because someday, I hope that when she has a child of her own, she will come back to me and perhaps thank me for being the best Mom I could be to her.

And to my Mom- Thank you for being the best Mom you could be to me. I love you, and I'm sorry for all the times I hurt you. But you continue to be there for me unconditionally. I hope to be half as good as a mother to Alyssa as you are to me.