I was a great parent before I had kids.
Who knew my firstborn was going to practice base jumping from our rooftop into our pool on a bike when he was ten?
Why would he eat a live grasshopper at 14 “just because”?
I didn’t know he was going to get older and try out ear expanders or self-tattoo or hitchhike to Oregon for a summer.
I just didn’t see it coming.
With the smallest peek under the stunts we knew about, there were a multitude of others we wished we didn’t know about, but in hindsight, explained a lot.
There was nothing in my Mommy Tool Kit for it, and putting the Foot down and throwing the Rule Book around and chasing him with a straight jacket was futile.
When your child is young, you have no way of knowing whether his latest stunt is a trend or a one-off. Is it something you can discipline out of him or has it been hard-wired into his brain at birth and you need to step back and watch it unfold? When do you push? When do you accept?
There was a period of about five years when I went into deep mourning over my beautiful, healthy, gifted, intelligent and talented children.
It had finally occurred to me that no matter what I did, they were going to be exactly who they were born to be. That the genetic and atomic lot had been cast at conception.
And that just because I did “X” and “Y” did not guarantee me a “Z”.
Principles and proverbs are not promises.
I suppose parents who have a diabetic or downs syndrome child go through this period early on. There’s a moment when it dawns on you that things are definitely not going to be what you were expecting.
And all of my kicking and screaming and denial and praying isn’t going to change it.
Thinking it was temporary is what delayed my acceptance of what is permanent, and made the pain in my heart worse than it needed to be.
I was not mourning my kids after all. I was mourning my own inadequacy.
I got one thing right: having five kids forced me to surrender words like “perfect” and “under control” and “of course I know what I’m doing”.
But it wasn’t pretty.
I could never mourn aloud, knowing that the blessings my children held far outweighed the additional things I wanted for them.
There’s no support group for “coming to your senses”.
How selfish of me, to wish my own concept of who he should be onto a person who already was.
Saying good-bye to the child I was expecting and greeting the child I have with open arms has been a long journey for me, and I’m very aware of how crazy that sounds.
He, on the other hand, has always known himself. When he wanders away from his family into a crowd, his terrified parents call him “lost”, but he himself never feels lost.
He feels okay, exactly where he is.
He is not shy, he’s thoughtful. She is not particular, she is discerning. He is not rebellious, he is trying to understand a world gone mad.
They are all deliberately going about this business of living, and teaching me to reframe my views of all of it.
I think that, if any of this perception is true, the only things actually left to me as a mother are the passing on of my concepts of knowledge and wisdom, to do with as they see fit, and as much overwhelming and, yes, frequently volcanic, love as I can aim at another human being without exploding with the volume of it.
My children know me.
I hope that as they know me better over the years, they will also accept and forgive my own “me”-ness, knowing I would never deliberately cause them pain, either, as I go about the very blundery business of living.