Motherhood just kind of happened to me. It came suddenly, a lot earlier than I'd expected it and I didn't have the faintest idea what I was getting into. I liked babies alright, but I had never LOVED them. Babysitting was for the birds and the only infants I knew and actually enjoyed were my nieces and nephews. (Still my favorite people.) So when the time came when I was sitting face-to-face with my own offspring, I was a little bewildered. Okay, a lot bewildered. And that feeling has never really gone away completely.
I'm not a good mom. On bad days I think about sending them off to someone else (forever), or hint at Martin that maybe he should go looking for a new wife who would do a better job than I ever could of this child rearing thing. Good days are when no uncomfortable topics are broached, we play happily all day, we actually LEARN something during school time, and the kids all get to bed at their actual bedtime, or at least sort of in the general window of it. I have absolutely zero qualifications for motherhood. Biologically, I'm old enough (creeping toward the "too old" mark, in fact!) but even speaking strictly biologically, I'm a 4x c-section mom--I'd totally be dead by now if it weren't for western medicine! My worthless birth canal would have gotten me off the hook FROM THE GET GO. Therefore, I consider myself: naturally disqualified. I'm also a mix of the two worst parenting "styles": Helicopter and Permissive. Basically I just hover around my kids while they act like complete savages. I'm WATCHING them be all the bad parts of "wild and free." (And then I post about it on Instagram.)
An example of this would be from last weekend. We had guests. Actually, we've had guests at our house for the past three months, but this was the last of our guests and they were older people. They were very nice people. People who have really good table manners and remember to put spoons in the bowl of fruit for their guests. I, being not one of those people, forgot the spoon for the fruit and my children, being raised by me, just helped themselves with their hands, straight out of the bowl, like any barbarian in her natural habitat would do. I had thought this was going to be a nice patio lunch I was providing, and it turned out to just be a showcase of what a rotten mom I am, BECAUSE JUST WAIT IT GETS WORSE.
I had tried to delicately explain Ingrid's bathroom troubles without going into all the nitty gritty detail. (In short, she's a withholder. She doesn't like to poop, she's convinced it will hurt, so she holds it in until she gets so constipated that it DOES hurt when she finally goes, and then the next time she can only remember it hurting so she doesn't want to go.... it's a bad cycle.) One of my "tricks" when Ingrid gets into these cycles is to let her go without undies because just having to deal with underpants in a moment of "maybe I have to go poo poo" is enough time to allow her to change her mind. Trust me, it's just better to leave them off. So, we had commando Ingrid sliding down the slide in front of our guests (Ha! Slide! AS IF we have an actual SLIDE. We have a freaking piece of plywood leaned against a homemade balance beam BECAUSE WE ARE TRASH BAGS) and I was given a friendly alert that Ingrid had forgotten her underpants! Whoops!
OH BUT JUST WAIT IT GETS WORSE. You know what's coming.
WE ARE ANIMALS.
The combination of being biologically and educationally unqualified and not having a speck of natural talent for the job is enough to make me worry that someday (probably after I've written this blog post that really lays it all out) somebody is going to catch on that I have ABSOLUTELY NO IDEA WHAT I'M DOING HERE. I mean, I'm still surprised to have these four living beings in my care. I don't feel old enough to have children. I don't feel mature enough to have children. I don't feel like I am mom-material in any way shape or form. Yet, here I am, answering to "Mama" and hanging out with these super cute, spunky sidekicks every day of my life. How the heck did this even happen?!
Since I don't know what I'm doing, I just go along with my life, doing what I do, allowing them to do it with me (so I can safely hover over them while they do tasks recommended for adults.) This method seems to be working out miraculously well--Greta now switches out my laundry loads and folds clothes without being asked. Anja hears we're going to a gathering and asks what she can make for it. (A cake! We all love cake!) Elka is a natural gardener and has taken over a chunk of the weeding and watering, as well as planting a cut flower garden. Ingrid... well, I don't know where she came from or who's in charge of her. I certainly don't go around pooping on sidewalks. But seventy five percent isn't a terrible success rate, is it?
I'm nowhere near a success and I certainly don't deserve to be celebrated. But I do consider myself INCREDIBLY LUCKY to be able to be with these girls every day. Last week we were learning about composers of the Baroque era, which meant sitting on the patio observing birds and drawing while listening to Vivaldi's Four Seasons. I AM SO LUCKY. During an evening storm last week we all cuddled together on the couch and read a chapter of Little Women because some of us are a little bit afraid of storms. I AM SO LUCKY. Today we went to a Baptism (of my new nephew with the most adorable little tiny face!) and my kids were attentive, respectful, and kept their clothes on the whole time! I AM SO LUCKY. I get to give reminders to brush teeth and fix hair into braids and wash grubby faces and deal with endless piles of loose drawing paper on a daily basis... I AM SO LUCKY. And even though I'm pretending not to know about the rose bush they got for me this afternoon to replace the rose bush they got me last year (which was a replacement for the year before... I have a really hard time keeping roses alive) it brought me such joy to listen to them outside with Martin planting it and to be ordered to stay away from the front of the house, and to see them scurry around trying to help me avoid that area. Even though I feel like a failure, I AM SO LUCKY.
I'm celebrating all the moms I know tomorrow--hats off you! To those of you who are on the path of success, to those of you who are hanging onto the back bumper of the struggle bus, to the grandmothers, godmothers, biological mothers, adoptive mothers, to the mothers who think they're failing--YOU ARE SO LUCKY.
I've got so, so, so many negative marks against me as a mom. But that number is nothing compared to the precious bits of life these girls give me every day! Happy Mothers Day to all the moms. Even though it still feels weird to be among you, I'm glad I am.