This year I realized I have been a mom half of my life. I vividly remember the deer in the headlights panic when my child was about three weeks old. The realization that I was not babysitting and no one was going to pick her up had me asking out loud who the hell let this happen. Me, large and in charge and I wanted a recount. I no longer had to ask for permission in regards to this child, I was chief cook and bottle washer. Her first birthday came and I could now actually touch, taste and especially smell what 365 days meant. Internalizing how time does pass in a blink kicked my desire to parent effectively into over drive and proof a little knowledge is a dangerous thing. My poor kid is an example that sometimes there is such a thing as too much love. Like when your veterinarian tells you to stop feeding your dog people food or give them too many treats because you could love them to death. Yes, I just compared babies to dogs, we only want the best for both. The one difference is dogs don’t speak back, giving them a slight edge over raising a child.
As a city mom, I sought out the best nutritionist, the best chiropractor, best developmental specialists and the best pediatrician. I was so pro active I just about Mommy and me’d myself into a stroke. I soaked her crib bedding in vinegar for 2 days then washed them in baking soda. Only because of the off chance she might have allergies, at the time what I considered a horror. I switched to all anti-fragrance products in an abundance of wasted caution. After watching Meryl Streep on Phil Donohue I joined “Mothers and others against Pesticides”. Shopped in organic markets only and made all her food . I was supplementing her home made applesauce with powdered vitamins three times a day. The entire floor of apartments always smelled like little house on the prairie, so I was told. I can hear the groans ladies and you are not wrong. Looking back I wonder what I would change had I gotten that special amnesia it takes to have another child, lasting only until your water breaks. I reflect if I would be so fanatical. Resoundingly, no way, no how. I made myself crazy, a zealot all for naught. A child drips from every orifice it has for years and whose sole purpose is to get over on you. I realized quickly I had bigger fish to fry.
I was raised in what I refer to as the “how does that make you feel?” generation. While I understand as an adult that society was evolving to reflect the importance of emotional health in children, I was given too many options. I learned early how to manipulate my parents by talking about my feelings. I searched for inspiration to how I was going to parent my child and run my home. I found it from the most unlikely source, Imelda Marcos. I was going to run a dictatorship and shop for fabulous shoes while doing it. As my child grew older I learned why we don’t negotiate with terrorists. I refused to be turned into Monty Hall. I decided not to pay for good grades. I realized as a kid I could steal more than I could ever earn making straight A’s. School was her job and if done well her life didn’t skip a beat. I didn’t give allowance because you don’t get paid to participate in the running of our home, I don’t. It is done from a place of love and respect. If she complied and needed money it was given to her. She cooperated and I am now ahead of the curve, thanks Imelda. When she turned ten, she asked to be given a larger parameter while out on her bike. I told her it was against the law to not know where your kid is. Did she want me to go to jail? Conflict resolved and I am not the bad guy, life according to Imelda prevails again.
I knew I had picked the right home girl when we entered the teenage years. The smell of a teenager could be bottled and used to torture enemy combatants. A smell that makes you wish for water boarding over one more request for a cell phone or worse, a boy friend. The over the top, the sky is falling drama lasts for years. I was going to need the same stamina Imelda had to keep an entire nation oppressed. I was ready for the challenge, sorta. Would my reign survive? Would there be a coup? Like Imelda, only time would tell. I am happy to say I made it and my reign was still intact, collateral damage to a minimum. My child loves herself and treats herself accordingly. She created access to all the options the world has to offer. I was still able to speak in complete sentences. We both win.
I spent years thanking my mom for not killing me. She wanted a princess and instead she got a scrapper, her words and they still make me laugh. The mutual love and respect I had with my mom I now have with my daughter. It may have been hard fought, but it has come to be what I hold dearest. She will be an even better mom than me. As long as it happens after law school or I will want that refund. My biggest source of entertainment is messing with my child. If it were an Olympic sport, I would take the gold.
Twenty five years later, I am packing up all my shoes and running like the wind. I over threw myself, ending my own regime. In search of a place to land to live out the rest of my life in peace. Oh, that’s right, unlike Imelda I still have my home. It is my child who left to start her own life. Now that is what I call success. I managed to one up a world class dictator.
Happy Mothers Day to all who love a child unconditionally no matter how they made their way into your life. We are leaving the world a better place than we found it. Shouldn’t that mean more than one holiday a year? Not really, watching your child live their life to the fullest is genuinely the gift that keeps giving. The biggest diamond in the world can’t top that.
The picture is my daughter when she was six years old.