My current failings as a mother include the following:
The bottle, off-and-on. When I took my son for his eighteen-month visit, I thought about lying on the questionnaire: Yes! Of course he’s completely off the bottle! But I didn’t. And I thought that the doctor would see my other two children and think that since they weren’t sitting in the exam room with latex nipples stuck in their mouths, I was relatively responsible. But she didn’t. Instead, she reminded me that bottles are bad, and nighttime bottles are the worst. I imagined those two front teeth rotting to pieces and ran to the store for yet another cup, the magic cup that he would take at night. And I watched the insult move across his face when I handed it to him at bedtime. He fussed for a bit and then went to sleep.
The screaming started at 3am. I tried the cup again. But this was a full-fledged, body-flinging tantrum. Pardon my language, but he was pissed off. I let him go for an hour (and since I was up, I decided to grade some papers). Screaming-it-out is a bit like playing with fire when the house is small there are two other children sleeping across a tiny hallway. I gave in.
The forever imbalance. I work too much. On a recent Sunday, I decided to design my midterm exams. We changed the curriculum this year, and I wanted my exams to reflect that — more application, less regurgiation. It took ten and a half hours. Teddy kept wandering over in his I’m-still-a-baby way and resting his head in my lap, attempting to tell me, without any words, that I probably should move from that chair.
And on a recent car ride when I was talking to my kids about my love for them, Georgia said, “Do you love us as much as you love your students?” Ugh.
The A Team. It’s currently my six-year-old’s favorite song. She knows all of the words and even sings them in a lovely British accent. I think she really believes it’s about angels who need coats because it’s just too darn cold outside, and I’m probably a bad mom for letting her pirouette across the floor, singing, And in a pipe, she flies to the Motherland, or sells love to another man. (At least it’s Ed Sheeran and not Bieber, right?)
The Three-Year-Old. I really do forget, sometimes, that she’s three. And that her very existence seems to be an attempt to mirror me, in appearance, word, and deed. So I shouldn’t be surprised at the following stories:
- Ms. Kerrie at daycare starts singing, “Put your finger on your lips, on your lips” to the tune of “If You’re Happy And You Know It” to get the little ones quiet. Jane stands back with her arms crossed. When asked what’s wrong, she replies “That song is frustrating. And it freaks me out.”
- At the gingerbread-house-making party, the houses are made and the kids are playing. Jane appears in the doorway and says, “This is disappointing. There’s a monster chasing us.”
- I disrupt her playtime by asking her to clean up her bedroom. She storms off. “I’m OVER this!”
Sigh. So, yes. I fail sometimes. (Okay, a lot of times.) Recently, I was feeling guilty for celebrating the idea that I can now say my son “will be two in May” instead of referring to his age in months. I confess that I’ve fantasized about not lifting anyone in and out of a car seat. I dream of the day the house is free of diapers, wipes, and sippy cups. (I may even burn the baby bottles in a backyard ceremony when I feel confident enough.) Don’t get me wrong; I’m not rushing anyone into growing up. I kind of even like where we are right now. I’m just excited for what’s next.
Maybe, sometimes, I get it right. Maybe.
My mother often reminds me that my grandmother (who had seven children of her own) used to say that a good mother grows with her children. No pining for the tiny onesies. No tears at the kindergarten bus stop. You have to be ready for what’s ahead. You have to meet them when they get there.
So even though it’s easy to look at Georgia’s sleeping face and see how much it really hasn’t changed since she was an infant (and every time I do it, I wince a little bit at the sudden splinter in my heart), I urge myself to gaze instead at all the life that is to come, and to consider how grateful I am that I have them to help me grow.