But one of the rules of motherhood is that you’re not supposed to let your kids know they hurt you. They can hit you, bite you, call you names and tell their entire class at sharing time that you once put them in time out for intentionally peeing on the carpet when in reality they were just holding a water bottle between their legs and pretending to pee and then you made them lick the floor to prove it was just water (not my proudest mothering moment). But no matter what they do, you can’t let them know when they truly, deeply wound you.
You must learn the difference between chirping “No biting mommy’s nipple! Ouch!” to teach a nursing baby that you are dine-in only, not take-out, and saying to your kindergartner “You broke my heart.” You’re the mom. The rock. The unshakeable foundation against which they can rail and fight against but will ultimately hold them up. No matter what.You are their mom. And, for better or for worse, the only one they get.
But just because you can’t say it doesn’t mean they don’t break your heart sometimes. On what shoulder does the comforter cry?
Oh honey. You broke my heart. With this valentine.
First, I have to say how impressed I am that he knows how old I am (on my husband’s valentine he wrote he was 67 – hah!). But. My favorite thing to do is not “work so we can get more money.” It’s not! (If I say it enough will you believe me? Will I?) And I don’t want him to think my greatest skill is “the computer.” Egads. Good thing Dickens is dead or I’d have a night of ghostly visitors coming my way. I might have understood if he’d written that my favorite thing was “to exercise” or “talk on the phone to her sister” or even “hide in her closet and eat candy that she won’t share with us because she says that people who think Tootsie rolls are good can’t possibly appreciate imported Belgian chocolate.”
In truth? My favorite thing to do is watch him sleep. And not because he’s finally not shrieking. Because it feels like an immense privilege to watch over these little bodies – so tiny a twin bed dwarfs them – and to see the dreams flickering behind their eyelids and know that they believe, honestly, that they will grow up to be a master ninja, a fighter pilot, a catcher of dreams. I love how my eldest must sleep with a phlanx of giant, gaudy carnival animals. How my second son sleeps anywhere but his bed (every night is a game of Where’s Slumbering Waldo – favorite answer: in a garbage can). How my third son, my heartbreaker, needs to tie his talisman of safety (a plastic candy cane, a bell and a dinosaur) in a series of intricate knots above his bed before he can nod off. And I get tears in my eyes for the simple beauty that Jelly Bean still sleeps with her bum in the air; Miss Independent by day betrayed by the traces of her lingering infancy at night.
Have you ever read the real Peter Pan? In A Little White Bird by J.M. Barrie? It is the treatise on unsung mother heartbreak – seen from the child’s blind perspective, which makes it that much more wrenching. In the book it is a combination of the one-week-old infant’s own willfulness and the mother’s unintentional neglect that causes the tragic severance. (Oh and there are fairies involved.) In reality there is so much in this world to pull my children away from me. And I don’t want one of those things to be the computer. A machine! It doesn’t even have wings or sprinkle dust! In Peter Pan, there is no way back across the chasm. Peter is – spoiler alert – dead. But my story is not already finished and theirs has just begun. Fact: There is yet time. Fiction: There is limitless time.
I want to be a good mother. I want that more than I want anything. I don’t want him to remember me always tired, always scrambling for money (four kids, things are tight, yet we are immensely blessed). I want him to remember me like this:
The mother who gave him her smile.
P.S. For anyone who wants to see my mediocre mothering skills in action, the kiddos and I will be on the Today Show today (Thursday, March 8) around 8:20 a.m.! I’ll post the link when I have it.