Wednesday, December 8, 2004

Just Like Wild Honeysuckle

Just Like Wild Honeysuckle
Lauren Eichelberger

There's this girl on Maia's soccer team that is really goofy. I like her a lot, she's very sweet. At times, though, she goofs off a little too much. Her mother is always yelling at her. It isn't that I don't get it. It's good to remind your kid that it is a practice and you have to "work" while you play. When your daughter is grabbing all the girls and waltzing them across the field, when they really want to do the zig zag drill you kind of have to say something. It's the way that she says it that bugs me. She yells. Then she yells more, ineffective things. Like saying 10 times that if she doesn't cool it she has to go home. Yesterday, though, she went up behind the girl and yanked her ponytail hard then yelled in her face. No one said anything. It was one of those awkward things. The girl didn't care and it certainly didn't stop her. It reminded me of my father though. It was one of those things that just bug you. Not because I judge her, but because it made me remember the things I hated about my own parents. It was just sad to see that the little girl did not care. I remember the point where I stopped caring what my parents did...I never did start caring again.

On a completely different note...

Maia had yet another falling out with the girl gang. It was understandable, her getting upset. I urged her to confront them, though. She didn't. She did get it in her mind that she would kick their asses, which was funny, but it wasn't as if she would do that. Today at the bus stop I decided to get friendly with some of the girls. There is this one 5th grader that I really like. She is always sneaking peeks at me. At first I just thought she was thinking I was strange. So today, I decided I would talk to her. I complimented her shirt, which was super cute. Then I asked her about her teachers and what not. She got up off the curb and stood by me the rest of the morning. There I was, an influence. I was a mom reaching out. It struck me as weird even as I enjoyed it. Actually it struck me as strange that I did enjoy it. When Rachel, one of the conflict girls, came I decided to talk to her too. She's shy but by the time Maia got on the bus they were happily chatting away.

Walking home in a misty Maryland morning I was smiling. I was smiling at the mother that I am, the one that is growing like honeysuckle, wildly fragrant and uncontrollable. All the years that I have struggled to be my perfect image of mother, it wasn't until I gave in and realized that I couldn't be a great one that I found that I was, that I could be. I don't often surprise myself. I'm a cynic and so many parts of myself feel broken, my expectations are low. I am surprising myself everyday lately, though. I find it so easy to be me. To just be open to what me is. I don't think I have ever felt that way.

I don't feel uncomfortable in my skin anymore. When I sit at a soccer practice with the other moms I feel like their equal. I chat with them and none of them seem to care that I am tattooed with purple hair. Even if they do care I don't notice. It's like discovering the treasure that you have been digging for for so long. To be able to look at yourself and see a mother that is good. A mother that is trying. When you can see that mother it doesn't matter so much what everyone else is thinking because you aren't searching for validation anymore.

For me that was the key word. Validation. I was searching for it everywhere, wanting some way to find out I was right. I've looked for it everywhere. When I wasn't getting it I felt crushed by the weight of not being just right. Not being hip enough. Straight enough. Devoted enough. Not being other people's idea of a mother. Not fitting in the box no matter which one I was trying to climb into. The judgment doesn't matter to me one bit anymore. I just don't care who likes me and who doesn't. I am not pushing myself into the mold anymore because my doughy self is always hanging out over the edges. Those molds make me feel less. They make me contort myself to fit in. Then, what I am, is just someone else's idea of what I should be. Then "me" is lost.

It is nice to be a parent and fit in neatly to whatever community you desire. It doesn't work, though. As your kids age they push into all kinds of groups, they take you out of your comfortable niche and you have to be able to walk in all the spaces without compromising yourself. That means being yourself. Being a parent really isn't about making friends, though it is nice. It's about being what your kids need while still retaining yourself. I think, for me, that friends are made without the kids. Which doesn't mean that I am not friends with mothers, it just means that I find bonds with them that are more than the fact that we are mothers.

Nine years into this gig I feel like I have found the secret that I searched for. The one that I looked for in books and communities and other moms. The secret to parenting can't be found in any source though. It is found in your heart and mind. In your days as a mother. We don't all find it when they are soft babies in our arms, though I am sure that some of us do. I found it on the soccer field. I found it when I slipped Keegan's sweet little Spongebob backpack onto his shoulders and waved good bye. I found it waking the kids up with jingle bear, a naughty little stuffed polar bear that sneaks under the covers saying funny things to get the kids out of the bed.

The secret, for me, is that with all my imperfections I absolutely adore my children. I want to take care of them. I want to do all that I can. Yet it is OK to do all that within my limits. The limits of ourselves are always shifting. What I had to do is listen. I am not good at following my lead because it takes me out of my comfortable space.

They are blooming. I am blooming. It is surprising and beautiful. I never really imagined that I would be happy to be a happy to be alive. I actually never figured I would be happy at all.

The kids are finding themselves...testing out new found freedom. Growing without me there every moment. Their freedom is, of course, tied to mine. Now that I don't have to be with them all the time...between having a job and them being in school, I can see that I actually want to be with them. It is easier to see all the things I like about them when I am not constantly cleaning up spilled is always changing. The change, it's good.

Here, at the end of all this, I am thinking that they are related. I expected to be that mother that was yelling, maybe even the mother pulling on a ponytail. I expected that I would never, ever be able to handle this. I expected that my kids would feel the same way about me that I felt about my parents. Cold, distant. I talk to them, Maia most as she is older, and it is obvious that she loves me. It is even more obvious that she trusts me. We just talk, openly. The other day we talked about abortion, she wanted to know what it was. Yesterday we talked about whether or not I should cancel my anniversary trip this weekend so that she could be at her first soccer game. Though she is disappointed she said that she would never let me give that up. And I thought "Who is this child that I have raised that is so full of love and understanding? Who is this child that loves her mother so much that she would give up something so important to her because she loves her parents more? How can something that I have cared for be so much greater than me?"

They teach us way more than we teach them...that is the one thing as a mother of older an older child that I can guarantee to all of you. I can also say that we can be way more than we ever expected if we just hold on.

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