Sunday, January 4, 2009

Who is changing who?

I think that once a person becomes a parent, they start aging in dog years. For every one year of having a child-the parent ages seven. That would make me roughly 114 years old. Unless of course you age seven years per child-in which case I would be 219. By all rights, I should be collecting social security...or at least living in Florida.


No doubt about it, having kids changes your life. In an instant. I remember bringing our first baby home from the hospital. We carried him in, placed his seat on the floor and just looked at him. Now what? I had absolutely no clue whatsoever as to what to do with him. You would think that he would have come with some sort of owners manual. There I was with this 8lb. 6oz. ball of need, and I was overwhelmed. I had never really had to take care of anyone other than myself, and I wasn't always very good at that. I kept waiting for a representative to show up from the hospital saying "We made a mistake-we'll be taking him back now" I was an irresponsible, self centered and flighty kind of girl. How could anyone possibly entrust me with the care of a baby? How could I possibly do this? What was I thinking?


I remembered a story that my sister had told me about when she had brought her first child home. She too was overwhelmed by the enormity of the situation.


She had been up all night with her crying baby. She was tired and at her wits end, thinking, "when is this going to end?" At that moment, she realized that it wasn't. That she needed to accept that this was how things were going to be-that this was what her life was about now. That things would change, he would grow up, it would get easier. She needed to accept and move on. She told me that once she had come to this realization-things got better



That is the single most best advice that I was ever given as a mother.


That first year was quite a learning experience for me. I think that I had the cleanest most fed, washed and changed baby on the planet. I sterilized his bottles, his pacifiers, his clothes. If it fell on the floor, it was washed or discarded. If he drooled on his shirt-he was changed immediately. My poor boy had so many baths, we dried his skin out. I was uber-mom, and I was going to do everything right.


Imagine my dismay, when my curly headed chubby boy of baby goodness started to retreat into his own world. His words, his eye contact,...slowly diminished before my eyes. What had I done wrong? What was I doing wrong?Was it the tuna I had eaten during my seventh month of pregnancy? Had some errant germ broken through my barrier of sterilization? I panicked. I was so afraid that this was somehow my fault..that perhaps my greatest fear was reality-I shouldn't have had a child, I was obviously not good enough to be a mother. Oh it was quite the pity party, I should have had it catered.





It took us two years to get a firm diagnosis for our son. During that time, I forgot about being the "perfect" mother, I stopped stressing out about clean laundry and sterile bottles. The only thing I cared about was my son-him. Not his clothes or his bottles or even his lack of eye contact or language- Him. It was during that time that my sisters advice came back to me. I needed to accept that this was who my son was. That this diagnosis, though helpful in explaining some things, didn't alter anything. I was still his mom-and he, still my son. Nothing in the world can ever change that. Not even dirty dishes. For that I am thankful. We accepted and we moved on.


I think that, 3 kids and 10 years later, I finally may be getting the hang of this mothering thing. My house certainly needs cleaning, there is laundry to do, and my 3 year old is chewing on something that I hope is edible. I think that at age 219 (in dog years) I may finally be growing up.

2 comments:

denise said...

Oh Kathleen, I enjoyed this so much! Reminded me of when I brought my first child home-I immediately decided to cut her fingernails-they were too long.
Do you have any idea how embarressing it is to be 18 years old, single, and walking back into the hospital with your now bleeding newborn baby whom they just let you leave with less than an hour ago? I only chewed her nails off after that till she was seven or eight!;)

kathleen Leopold said...

Denise, how horribly...funny! I look back and shudder at all the needless worrying that I did...if only I had known-I would have saved it for puberty!