Most of the time I think about parenting from my own perspective – making decisions about how to best raise my kids. What’s the best way to potty-train? Am I striking the right balance of discipline and affection? Will I ever get my son to eat a vegetable?
But sometimes I stop and think about the relationship in reverse. It’s not just that my son and daughter are my kids. I am their mom. 30 or 40 years from now when my kid’s spouse/child/therapist asks what their mom was like, that person they’ll be talking is ME. Holy crap!
There are always these moments in books, movies and television where a character reflects on their mother – some oft-repeated piece of wisdom, the smell of her perfume, the swish of her skirt as she’d move around the house. I’m just picturing my kids, in contrast, wistfully recalling their mother’s messy mom bun and old ratty yoga pants as she sat staring at her cell phone. The prospect is pretty terrifying.
Thinking about things from this perspective makes you look at everything about your life in a new light. My bath robe isn’t just my bathrobe – it might be the big fuzzy red robe my kids remember snuggling up to on cold winter mornings. My bath gel isn’t just my bath gel – it might just be the scent that they subconsciously associate with me, that could bring memories of mom flooding back one day when they’re miles away from home.
Now that my son has hit the age where his little brain is capable of retaining memories into adulthood, it’s got me feeling especially paranoid. Who knows what his earliest memory of me will be, but I certainly hope it’s something like lying on a blanket together in the back yard and looking up at the night sky, vs. mama losing her s*** because he’s thrown himself on the bedroom floor and refuses to use the potty before bed.
I have an unbelievably bad memory, so a lot of the details of my own childhood are pretty fuzzy. But I remember crawling into my parents’ bed after a bad dream and the feeling that snuggled up next to them, everything was going to be ok. I remember my parents preparing oatmeal baths to give me a little relief from the itchy terribleness that was chicken pox, and lovingly spoon-feeding me ice chips during bouts of the stomach flu. I remember my mom’s mad play-dough skills, and her incredible ability to say the exact words I needed to hear when I got upset. I don’t remember all the wildflower names that he pointed out along the way, but I remember walks in Patapsco State Park with my dad, and the certainty that he was the smartest man on earth. I remember the little things that were everything – being curled up on my dad’s lap as he read The Wind in the Willows, and watching the baker’s chocolate melt over the scoop of shortening in the little sauce pan while I helped my mom bake brownies.
And all that gives me hope: hope that my less than stellar mom moments – the raised voices, the lost tempers, the mombie mornings when I just let the cartoons keep rolling because I just cannot gather the strength and energy to adult – will fade away; hope that the affection and joy will shine brightest in my kids’ memories; hope that even if they don’t remember every day trip, every playground visit, every special moment we try to create as a family, the feeling of warmth, protection and love emanating from their mama is what stays with them.
Everything I do and say becomes part of the portrait of “mom” for my son and daughter. It’s scary but also a little inspiring. Here’s hoping that I can live up to the challenge.