I had preconceived notions about motherhood before I joined the cult.
I thought that newborn babies slept all the time. I imagined I’d set our round kitchen table for three balanced meals a day, but not much else would change. I believed my children would flock to me for advice, and once they were comfortably seated at my feet, I would begin my teaching moment. I thought my children would be exactly like me, just smaller and with better hair.
I remember thinking these thoughts, and now gently ask myself, self: were you on crack?
If motherhood is anything; good, bad, ugly, wonderful, transcendent, frustrating, confusing, beautiful (it is all of these, and frequently within the space of fifteen minutes), it is mostly full of surprises; reality has tossed my crazy ideas right on my perpetual ponytail.
Too late, I learned that newborns rarely sleep (except when you want them to be awake). Our place mats still have price tags attached. My life bears no resemblance to its former self, back when I mattered. The more advice I offer my kids, the less they want to hear. And my children are as different from each other as they are from me. But with better hair.
So, preconceived notions cast aside and thrown in the garbage alongside an astounding amount of candy wrappers, everyday I learn new things about motherhood that surprise me. Shock the hell out of me, in fact. A short list of recent surprises:
- I didn’t realize I would be the butt of all jokes in our house, and that the only thing that unites my children is their collective laughter at me. Apparently, and without even trying to be, I’m hilarious. Forget surviving middle school relatively unscathed – if I can survive my daughters scorn, I can survive anything.
- We spend more time discussing my teenaged daughter’s social life than socializing.
- No matter how many groceries I buy, my kids can’t find anything to eat in our house.
I’m not exactly that all-knowing role model I expected to be. Surprise. But, and sorry to overuse the word, another surprise. Mostly, it is my children who teach me. I knew (or hoped) it would happen in time, but I’m astounded by how fast it’s happened. Here’s a short list of things I’ve learned recently, courtesy of my daughters:
- The eldest educates me about important things like eye primer (did you know there was such a thing? She owns five.) and the vast difference between my mascara and the BEST mascara. Needless to say, I’m not meeting her expectations.
- My twelve-year old patiently explains the rules of hockey to me. Every week. (Penalty! No mom, they’re allowed to do that.) She doesn’t play the sport, but grasped an understanding of the game – even an appreciation for the fighting – that I have failed to achieve in my lifetime. (Still, those refs are blind.)
- My nine-year old signs me up for Instagram, and then explains the apps I should download and the filters I should use for an optimal experience. Her fingers fly across my iPhone like butterflies around a flame, and I’m like but wha – whoa – hey – where – wait a – how did you get there? Kids these days.
And then the more profound surprises, of course.
I knew I would need patience, but the frequency with which I meet its limits is astonishing.
I knew my children would need me, but didn’t realize how much it is actually I who needs them.
I knew I would watch my children grow, and by definition, overcome obstacles, but didn’t think about the pain and restraint involved in watching them struggle.
I knew I would love my children, but the depths of which I love them, still, is shocking.
Motherhood hasn’t been a smooth ride – on the contrary, it’s filled with potholes, sharp curves, and the occasional road block. And no driver’s test required, amazingly. It’s not a one-way street, and frankly, I’m not always in the driver’s seat.
But oh, the places you can go.
Powerful. Moving. Emotional. As usual, I required a box of elusive tissues, and sniffed for an hour instead.
It’s not Hollywood’s latest blockbuster, but rather, the annual Remembrance Day assembly at my kids elementary school.
Imagine a world that knows no hunger, my daughter sang.
Because watching children on bleachers recite In Flanders Fields will never grow old. Seeing veterans sitting tall and stoic in front of the children is remarkable. Listening to children tell stories of heroes in their family is amazing. Poppies made of tissue paper, and pop-art peace doves adorn the gymnasium walls.
Imagine a world where children are free.
The children sit still. Chins rest on hands. They are listening. They are learning about sacrifice, bravery, and loss. Learning things it almost hurts to tell them.
Imagine a world of infinite beauty, given for all to share.
We remember our past, and dream of a future where war is only a memory.