One of the best parts of having a baby is falling in love. The pure euphoria of the bond between parent and child is an amazing feeling. Being able to fall in love with a tiny human as partners is truly life affirming and the thing I cherish the most about the early days of parenting.
When Ellis was three weeks old I remember sitting on the couch with him and Adam and being perfectly happy. The people I loved most in the whole world were with me on that couch. I thought about how much I wanted that for Ellis: to grow to love people that much and to experience that deep happiness. And then I got very sad because I realized that his happiness would one day not include us. His couch of happiness would have to be of his own making just like mine was at that moment. That lop-sided love is hard.
The most unexpected part of becoming a parent was being able to finally relate to my parents, but not because we are both parents now. That seems obvious that we would be able to relate over our shared experience and rite of passage into parenthood. Rather, the surprising part for me was finally getting a glimpse of what is was like to have been their baby. As a parent, I found myself on one end of the fiercest love I had ever experienced and I realized that I had been on the receiving end of that from the beginning. When I became a parent I experienced all of the retroactive love that my parents must have felt/feel for me. I knew how intense my love was for my children and realizing that I was once the object of such intense love and joy was deeply comforting.
I am very fortunate to have many parents in my life. A present Mom and Dad even through divorce. Step parents who have nurtured me for 25 years. In laws who have loved me for the past 10. A slew of grandparents and wonderful Godparents. But I only have one mom and I only know what it is like to be a mom (not a dad, step-parent, in law or grandparent) so I can only write from my specific experience.
The cycle of mothering and being mothered is a strange and complicated thing. My mom was and is a great mom. She was patient and playful and hardworking. She instilled the value of education and hard work by example. She worked and went back to school when I was little, which I know she feels guilty about, but I always appreciated seeing her model achievement. Like many mothers and daughters our relationship wasn’t always easy, especially when I was a teenager and did crappy things (like glue hundreds of magazine ads to my wall because my mom asked me not to use push pins…)
One of the things I enjoy the most now is watching my mother play with my children, because I get to peek at the kind of parent she was when I was very little before I can remember. She is a very on-the-level grandparent. She is the first to play peek-a-boo at a restaurant. Or grab a ball and invent a game that can be played for the next half hour. She connects effortlessly with her grandkids. And I bet she was like that with me and my brother when we were very little.
I believe that all parents can be great parents, but not all the time. Some are great with babies, others really get teenagers. I am not sure what my phase is yet (I have like each one more than the last) but it is very evident to me that my mom is an excellent toddler person. And since that isn’t a phase that I have memory of, I love getting to re-live it second hand through witnessing the grandparent/grandkid relationship.
There is a saying “love me, love my kids” but I have found the opposite to be very true: loving my children shows just how much you love me and always have. So mom, since you are one of the handful people who always reads the blog I know you will see this: Thank you!