Friday, June 2, 2017

Learning to Fly

It's a slow day today, after a hectic week. My middle daughter had an appointment with her Developmental Pediatrician yesterday afternoon. Those visits used to be laborious, and I often walked away from them feeling as if I could never possibly do enough for my child. Now she is articulate, and is learning to self-advocate. She relies less and less on me to give voice to her struggles, and is able to speak for herself. It makes me quite proud of her. At the moment, the Doctor recommended a slight increase in medication, and continued structure throughout the summer. It is the fewest number of recommendations tendered for treatment to date. All I can assume is that it means my daughter is maturing and progressing. I take such pleasure in seeing the young people my children are growing into. They are each amazing in their own way, and it is a privilege to be their mom. I take no credit at all for the amazing people they are. They've developed a majority of that for themselves. All I've done is keep them alive, and done my best to nurture them where I could.

Last night we had back to back end of year rewards ceremonies. The first for my Sophomore, now Junior daughter, who earned a silver star for her second year in her chosen academic program. The second was for my middle daughter's class, transitioning from middle school to become Freshman next year. I will attend a similar ceremony for my youngest son in about a year's time, and then there will only be High Schoolers in my home. It amazes me how quickly it has gone. Growing up took so much longer for me, as I recall, the relativity of youth.

My oldest son has found a place of his own, and has moved out. He seems happy to finally have his own space, and the energy in the home is certainly more relaxed already. I think all of us felt the strain of an additional person in the house, although it was certainly lower key than I've seen some other family issues where an adult child is stuck living at home with family. So maybe everyone can settle back into more of the routine they are used to, including him.

It's been a little over nine years now, since I left my last marriage. Some days it seems like it was another life, and I ask with amazement, is that all? Then there are days it feels so close, the mourning process for some reason re-booted unexpectedly, and I wonder to myself, has it really been that long? More and more it is the former rather than the latter, because of how fast and how much my children have sprung into young adults before my very eyes.

But the latter was prevalent last weekend as I spent time holding a newborn, and watching my friends as first time parents. It brought up so many memories, some wondrous and joyful, some painful, and some bittersweet. I did my best to focus on the wondrous and joyful, while privately working through the others. It was refreshing to see my friends as they both worked together on the care of their child. It made it easier to disconnect my experiences to a degree, and enjoy observing theirs.

But it also made me realize how painfully alone I was in parenting, even when the other parent was present, while the children were young. Being that I am adopted, I struggled without parents to tell me about the similarities between my children and me while they were babies. Now that they're older, my mom is able to happily point out their maternal genetics. But I had so much trouble seeing myself in them while they were little, which made it feel difficult to relate to them on some levels.

And as to the role my spouse at the time played, I met resistance and criticism on nearly everything, and received little support when it came to the day to day physical care. He was the fun one the kiddos got to play with. I was their glorified nanny, and any attempt to step outside that role was met with accusations of selfishness and lacking in maternal instinct. I resented it. Particularly because I was predisposed to believing the deck was stacked against me in being a decent parent to begin with, but I was determined to prove I could be anyway.

Being isolated from family and friends did nothing to help either. That was strikingly clear to me as I watched the requests flood in to visit my friends' newest family member. I realized after coming home, just how lucky I am that my other friend and I are counted as family, and were privileged to be among the first allowed to visit them without hesitation.

I realized I had little in the way of someone to tell me what was normal and what wasn't. I did not have a seasoned mother to tell me that anyone who tells you motherhood is instinctual is full of shit, because it's about learning your child, their cues and nuances, and adjusting to meet them where they're at on a daily basis. People seem to believe children are blank discs ready for the parent to program with good and bad manners, habits, education, etc. When actually a child comes with a pre-installed operating system complete with space to learn, and limiting parameters to what information they can accept and store, if you'll pardon the analogy.

I didn't have someone to tell me that it was ok that sometimes motherhood sucks, that people are judgmental asses, that your kids can be sadistic little brats, and that you will always wonder if you are doing enough for them, or if you're hindering them by doing too much. I didn't have someone to tell me that the flip side of that all exists too, that motherhood can be amazing, that people can be supportive, that your kids can be the most amazing people you've ever met, and that some days you know you've done your best, and that's just fine. But it's not either way all the time.

I didn't have someone to tell me that ultimately society holds mom responsible for the child, and that it is more acceptable for a father to walk away and wash his hands of the responsibility than it will ever be for a mother. All that knowledge came much later, after I spent a great deal of time beating myself up, shaming myself, and believing that I was a terrible woman and mother who should have never deigned to have children. It came after questioning whether or not I was the best person to take care of these tiny, now-not-so-tiny humans, or whether they would be better off if I were the one to walk away.

Now, my kids and I are all way too close to the finish line to be bothered with all that insecurity. We're where we are now, and we'll keep pushing forward. I'm content that I am raising capable, confident, and mostly well-adjusted young adults. As we near closer and closer to their time to leave the nest, I have no doubt of their ability to spread their wings and fly. I also have no doubt of their ability to pick themselves back up if they fall. That's the best I can hope to teach them. I think that's the best any parent can hope to teach their children.

No comments: