Friday, January 20, 2012

How Motherhood Turns You Into a Sentimental Sap

As we write this, we are going back and forth to check on a sleeping child, to savor the last few breaths of the wonder that was six years old because we're just not ready for the seven year old we will see tomorrow.  
Happy birthday, mini.  May you one day know the joy of having your insides shaken up every day.

Recently, someone asked us to to describe the experience of parenting and we didn't quite know where to begin.  There's the honest, yet cheesy answer about loving another little human being more than you ever thought you could.  Then there's the more honest answer, which usually has the words "exasperated" and "smack" somewhere in the same sentence, along with [insert favorite expletive].

Hmm. None of that tells you what it feels like to be a parent at all, does it? 

Perhaps this is closer: imagine, on a daily basis, at random unpredictable times, someone took out all your insides, shook them up, threw them on the street, stomped all over them, and then put them back in your body in the wrong order.  We're talking heart in your stomach.  Emotions where your brain used to be.  Memory, coordination, overall executive functioning, all constantly needing readjustment.  Your ability to sleep through the night thrown out the window, even in lands far far away.

You second-guess everything you say or do.  All confidence and previously acquired knowledge hovers somewhere around your nether regions as if you're some kind of alien life form re-learning how to be a human all over again.  You're constantly being challenged to be a better person, identify your values, rethink your ideals, keep your promises, do good unto others, do what you say.  You feel like someone is always watching you.  Mostly, because someone is always watching you.
Exhibit B: Female finger, post parenthood
Exhibit A: Female finger, pre parenthood

You do not recognize yourself.  You fight off all inner alarms screaming "alert! alert! domestic hell ahead of you!" and go to places like the Container Store and Buy Buy baby anyway, even if they are so overwhelming that all you want to do is run the other way.  You ignore all introverted tendencies and forcefully, even publicly take on any teacher, lawmaker, or adult that gets in the way of what you think is best for your child without giving it a second thought.  You wonder how you let a little 2, 3, 4 year old boss you around and how you ended up wrapped around their cute little finger.
Exhibit C: Child's finger wrapped around adult's.  That's what they want you to believe, peeps. 

You hear yourself say things you'd never have thought would come out of your mouth.  Words like "what do you mean, you don't need me to wipe your poop anymore?" and "I'm going on that sleepover with you!" come out of your mouth so fast you don't have time to clap your hand over your mouth before you think to yourself "whatthefuck. who said that?"  You get so used to reciting "get your hand out of your mouth" at the end of every sentence that you start saying it unconsciously to grownups.  (Worse, still, this doesn't bother you.)  You can't stand it when your child is always hanging off your arm, yet when you are walking around without them it feels like one of your arms is missing.  You are so sleep deprived you want to cry, but at the same time the thought of sending this little person off to sleep away camp or (gasp!) college gives you panic attacks.  Speaking of crying, you do a lot of this.  You cry anytime you hear about a kid anywhere getting hurt, you cry anytime your kid says something endearing, you cry anytime you watch oneofthosesappyfuckingendofschoolyearvideos, you cry when your child wishes you a happy Mother's Day in earnest, and you cry at all those commercials with babies in them because watching all those babies reminds you that yours is not a baby anymore and then that thought makes you cry, which just makes you wonder who is in your body and what someone did with the real you.  You know, the one who was not the soft, sentimental sap you see before you.

That, peeps...that...we think, is a much more accurate description of what it feels like to be a parent.

*Note, if you're interested in an even better description of parenting, click here.  Could not have said it better ourselves.


Wendy said...

Your post made me cry a bit too. It's hard loving someone so much because any time they are sad or hurt you feel sad and hurt too. It's true that you don't always want your child hanging on you until they are not hanging on you and you miss them. Happy birthday to your daughter! I hope I can meet her sometime!

Poker Chick said...

Thanks, Wendy. Me too.