Monday, May 19, 2014

I've changed on Change

Super Anderson saves the day. Photo by Mud Goddess Photography.

Someone told me recently, with a sneer, that "mommy blogs" are ruining the internet and to never, ever refer to my own blog as one of these cesspools of self-promotion and exultation of MotherhoodwithacapitalM. It made me really think. Eventually, I arrived at one overarching conclusion: Screw this person. I do a lot of things in my life, but the main thing I "do" is mommying. I'm not obsessed; I'm trying to raise human beings into Non-Asshole Adults. This person should both stfu and also thank me, really. In the immortal words of Cartman, I'll do what I want. I can only hope you read that in a Cartman voice. Now, on with the show.

When I was pregnant for the first time, I vowed to never be one of those people who let the experience of parenthood change them.

In this case, I was the idiot.

Because of course I've changed. Not only have I become a parent, but time has marched on. I have aged 9 years since I found out I was pregnant with our first little guy. I'd have changed either way by now; lucky for me, becoming a parent has helped me to change for the better, or at least I feel it has.

Oh, I'm a mess; don't get me wrong. Every parent I know is a mess in some way. We're all fumbling the ball like morons and just hoping our sloppy plays help to get these creatures into to the end zone one day, despite our best efforts to screw it up at every opportunity. We're basically the Cleveland Browns.*

It might look different from one house to the next, but my limited wisdom has shed plenty of light on this subject. You get a parent to talk, to really talk, and the next thing you know, you're huddling together and sending out hopes and prayers that you just make it through the next 10 years alive.  

I've had many a conversation with near strangers that have gone a lot like this:

There's usually a pregnant pause here, as the parent gathers some strength to actually say this next part out loud.
"Someday... they are going to become teenagers."
You chuckle together while exchanging panicked glances.
"And then, one day..."
"I know..."

Sometimes there is crying during this part of the conversation, and sometimes it's a transparent, joke-y banter about turning their rooms into craft studios and being able to travel without a U-Haul attached to your cavernous family vehicle. But in reality, it's just another session of trying to fool yourself into believing you'll be totally okay on that day, the one where they leave you.
But you won't be.

I mean, sure, you'll be "okay," and you'll develop strong, wonderful adult relationships with them, hopefully, but this part here, where they know no other home but with mom and/or dad, where their small hands still fit inside of yours, this part is special. I don't know yet what it's going to actually feel like when my boys fly the coop on their own, but I know it's going to be a big hit, no matter what happens in those apparently apocalyptic teenage years. Because I'm going to have this part right here tucked away in my hidden mommy pocket for forever.

In the end, if you're lucky, you look back over your childhood and you catch the glint of sunny memories. All those gray in-between days glom into nothing, and the highlights come streaming back. For me, it's Brownies and sleepovers, days at the zoo with my beautiful, young parents and my healthy, active grandparents; hanging out on the balcony of our first, Section 8 apartment when we were still poor; getting a baby brother (and then 2 more); sitting on a lawnchair by my mom in our backyard in our bikinis(!), coated in coconut suntan oil; excruciatingly long road trips in the back of a blue Mercury Topaz, crammed between two carseats, singing to the radio and dreaming of our destination - exotic Tawas Bay, Michigan or the Indiana Dunes. Highlights. If I think hard (too hard?) I can certainly conjure up some pretty bad times. But for the most part, I had a great childhood and it's a gift - a gift I want to pass along to my kids, too.

I guess that's part of the criticism some people level at some parents - it's not a good thing to make your life all about your kids. Giving them a "good childhood" can quickly escalate to spoiling and coddling. And we're meant to have our own lives, our own thoughts, and to make decisions that are inherently selfish sometimes. I get that. There are days I really would like to just go find a space somewhere outside and empty, and think only Sarah Things. And I do try to do "me" things here and there; I'm sure it will become more true as they become more autonomous. However. I'm not going to apologize for prioritizing my kids over me most of the time. They give me more than I could ever give back, if I'm being totally honest. It's just where I've landed as time has gone by. I'm a heart-on-my-sleeve kind of person, and I had no chance of not winding up completely smitten here. I'm a sucker for all of it. Someone has to be the sucker, right?

All of this babble is really just my way of coping with the fact that my Anderson is turning 8 soon. It's one of those ages I can remember very clearly, so I know he's getting up there. But he's not me. He's wonderful - his imagination boundless, his vision clear and limitless, his heart completely open, and his big brown eyes deeper and stronger and somehow ever more magical when it comes to sweet talking his mommy. This kid is going to change the world for good, and I am thankful to be able to watch him do it, and to have such an amazing partner for it all. I love this family a whole, whole lot.

It turns out I'm more okay with change than I realized that fateful morning I realized I needed to buy a pregnancy test. These have been the hardest, happiest, most magical, monumentally mundane 8 years of my life, full of change at every turn. I am braced and excited for whatever comes screaming around the next bend, be it teenage aliens or digging change out of the couch for bail. Maybe not that last part.

*Obligatory Cincinnati dig