First off, Nate – let me say that the Lego Grand Emporium building set, with its 2,200 little Lego pieces and little Lego people and its great big Lego price has been ordered and – so the the online store assures me – is on it’s little Lego way. Please note that, this year, I am totally on top of it – it’s still a week before your birthday.
This essay is something completely different. Call it my love song to you, my beloved boy, a pre-birthday present and my Valentine’s day gift to you, all rolled into one.
I know, I know – stop rolling your eyes. It’s a mom thing. After fifteen years – fifteen! – you shouldn’t be surprised. My guess is you’re already halfway expecting it, and please (consider it your gift back to me) let me persist in the belief that deep down (maybe really, really deep down) (I’m a sappy mom, not a complete fool) you are secretly pleased that I am writing you this love song. Or at least, will be, in some distant future when weird mom things like this seem much less weird, and much more, well, loving.
Fifteen years ago, I was cranky and bloated and out-of-sorts-uncomfortable. I couldn’t sleep. Not enough, anyway. One thought kept twisting through the hazy fog, of my pregnancy-cursed forgetfulness: “I don’t know about this whole motherhood thing, but I do know that I don’t want to be pregnant anymore.”
Not much has changed in the last decade and a half. I’m still cranky and bloated and out-of-sorts-uncomfortable. I still can’t sleep much. I fall asleep okay; it’s the staying asleep that proves to be problematic. I still don’t want to be pregnant. I still have absolutely no clue about the Motherhood thing. At all.
Frankly, I don’t care much about the maternal instinct that I swear I still don’t have. I much prefer looking at babies to actually, you know, having them. Or holding them. Or playing with them. Certainly not changing them. Toddlers? They’re cute, mostly, but they’re also generally covered in fluids I’m not particularly fond of. They also get caught in that endless loop of repetition – “Again, mommy!” times infinity, until you just want to pound spikes through your forehead. It may bring comfort to a toddler; it is an endless, trackless void of madness for me.
The elementary years are somewhat better. If personality development and such are not quite on the right track, at least we’re in the car in the parking lot looking at the right track (sometimes only looking at a track, which, let’s face it, will do in a pinch for those desperate enough, and there were more times than I care to count that a track was close enough and better than no track at all).
I tried. I tried really, really hard. You asked questions. Sometimes incessantly. Your voracious curiosity demanded to know why, or what or when. Problem was, when I told you, your immediate response to my answers was always “No. That’s not it. That’s wrong.” For a while, when you were very young, I could get away with “Because that’s the way God made it,” which was a close cousin to “oh dear. The gumball/sticker/fake tattoo/cheap plastic toy machine at the grocery store is broken…” but you are a smart child and those answers didn’t hold for long.
I despaired that you would never make the leap from linear thought to abstract reasoning. Metaphors? Ha! Don’t get me started. You lived in a world of straight lines and unbending rules (never mind the monsters under the bed that were apparently (mostly) vanquished by the glow of a 25 watt bulb that seeped from the six inch crack left by your open closet door). You seemed to demand that I live in the straight and narrow with you.
There were times, my darling child, that I wanted to run away. Or hide. Or beg “Five minutes, baby. Please, just give me five minutes.” But that proved to be nearly impossible for you to give. What saved me were these occasional flashes of incandescent brilliance – leaps of fancy and abstraction that dazzled me and startled me and fairly took my breath away. You so clearly “got it.”
At six, you declared that when you grew up, you would “build houses for all the poor people, and make sure that they had enough to eat.” At ten, you burst into tears, not because Representative Gabby Giffords had been shot, and not that there were a handful of others (including a young child) caught in the wake of those senseless bullets, but because there was no outcry for the young boy who’d been murdered (also by senseless bullets) on the south side of Chicago only a few days before. You cried out: Where was the justice, the attention, the president’s speech for the poor black child lost to urban warfare? Why just the richer, white people in Arizona? At twelve, you chose your the Torah portion for your Bar Mitzvah to be Sh’lach Lecha; the one about the giants and the spies, yes – but you chose to talk about the commandments we were given on how to treat “the stranger”– the outside-of, the kept-apart one, the Other.
Oh, my darling boy – you so clearly get it. You so clearly have a sense of righteousness and compassion that I swear could heal the world. And I have no doubt that you will build the houses, fight for justice, demand that we treat one another with kindness. You are that boy, and I am so amazed at the grace and the gift I have in being your mom.
Don’t get me wrong, beloved – you will have your struggles. You know that already. And I won’t be able to heal your hurt every time. Or even any time. You know that, too. I will not always have words of wisdom, sage advice, or answers (easy or cryptic, take your pick). There will be moments of speechlessness and hurt, and a heaping pile of seething anger. On your side. And mine. We are who we are, right?
I can promise you forgiveness. I can promise that nothing you do or say will ever make me love you less. I promise open arms and comfort. And love. Ever and always – love. What you taught me – that there is love, unconditional, infinite and filled with grace.
I still, a decade and a half later, have no clue about a maternal instinct. Frankly, who cares about maternal instinct? I’m your mom. For good, forever, learned or innate, messed up and glorious and neurotically anxious and trying to keep up – I am your mom. It’s the most important truth of the universe. I can’t imagine a life, a world, a minute, a day where I am not your mother.
And for that, I am forever grateful, and forever blessed.