By Jake Rossen
By Jesse Marx
By Michelle LeBow
By Alleen Brown
By Maggie LaMaack
By CP Staff
By Jesse Marx
To raise children with whom we'll enjoy spending the holidays for the rest of our lives.
I didn't know this when I brought home my first baby. I thought I wanted him to be happy and healthy and fulfilled and a valuable member of society. Well, I do, I suppose, but my greatest accomplishment is a child with whom I delight in sharing the mundane.
And I thought everything depended on me, on the choices I made daily and the ease with which I steered his father into agreeing with my agenda. Our plans were well thought out and purposeful. We went on regular outings weighed down by a diaper bag ready for any possible contingency: bottles of juice and bottles of formula; snacks and money for concession stands; changes of clothes for accidents and/or weather variances.
I was prepared for anything, and the baby just enjoyed whatever presented itself. I fretted that I wasn't doing enough for him, helping him achieve his full potential, and he was achieving it regularly. I was the one lagging behind, unfulfilled.
At times I felt alone, the only at-home mom in all of Minneapolis. Community center classes yielded short-term friendships with a number of nannies. There was no work society because I didn't have a job, and my husband's career as a pilot is one of significant isolation (there isn't time or room enough for hanging out in the cockpit socially, and pilots rarely fly with the same crew for more than a month during a career).
I was the only stay-at-home mom in our childbirth class. An ECFE snafu put me in a class for teenage mothers. Church conflicted with nap time. Cooperative nurseries were nonexistent. At every turn, it seemed another door shut me in or shut me out. The simple truth, beyond the excuses, is that I just couldn't get myself together, couldn't organize myself to find a group with which I could connect as a mother and as a person.
I don't think I was ready for that.
So I looked within. It wasn't a pretty sight, but it had to be done. And when I emerged from a smothering depression and called an uneasy truce in my marriage, there was an astoundingly wise child making preposterous statements and vowing unending love and loyalty.
My seven-year-old is not of this world, but he graces it with his presence. Malcolm doesn't merely march to a different drummer, he has his own percussion section. When he was two, he started addressing us formally, like a character out of 19th-century England. Adults find it charming, while other children are sometimes taken aback. But "Father and Mother" roll off Malcom's tongue so naturally I can't imagine being called anything else.
Except Mama and Daddy. That's what two-year-old Ezekiel calls us. He's smart, funny, and a very old soul, just the being I needed to whip me into shape. He has no patience for moody self-involvement; he demands a upbeat attitude from everyone. He's so straightforward about it, we just acquiesce and do our best to live up to his expectations.
And so, with my second baby graciously latched on to my breast, I began writing. And writing. And connecting with other people in an entirely new and satisfying way. I introspected myself onto a computer keyboard and found all my personal struggles were more universal than I dared hope.
Somehow, my journey for identity is complete. Courtesy of my children, I believe.
From my experiences as a first-time mother, I learned about myself. In endless days of parks, zoos, museums, and story hours, I kept finding the same answer to the nagging "why was I put on this earth" question we all face now and then. I saw my purpose in the magical young boy who was determined to keep growing faster and taking in more than I ever expected. He seizes life with laughter, a story, and a song.
The second time around, when I knew enough to know I didn't know much and should just get on with the business of enjoying this extraordinary baby, I found my place in the world. Now, I stick an extra diaper in my smallish purse and we head out for the day. I watch him explore whatever surrounds him instead of constantly trying to make his environment worthwhile. We spend hours just toddling around the neighborhood, looking for sticks and squirrels. He goes with me to meetings and lectures, nursing loudly and contentedly. He sleeps less than his older brother, but I don't care so much. I know how quickly these baby months fly, and I savor the hours we spend gazing at one another. This is a child who misses nothing, and sometimes he's nice enough to let me in on all the secret things he knows.
So, while I'm certainly doing more now--participating in school, church, and community activities, writing regularly and connected socially, at last--I am quite content to be defined by my role of mothering these two boys. I'm honored and proud to be a mom, for while it may not be all that I am, I am all the things that it is.