Wednesday, October 12, 2016

to be known

As I'm journeying through my first year as a mother, I find that my thoughts as I go through my day, as I lay down to sleep, as I first begin to stir each morning are predominantly for the breath and well-being of my William. I sometimes forget to eat lunch or pay the bills or even shower, but never William. 

I know him. Possibly better than I've ever known anyone (although that doesn't mean he doesn't often surprise and confound me, which is kind of the best part of knowing someone... it's an ongoing education). I know what he smells like and the myriad of sounds he makes when he's happy, sleepy, grumpy and every other dwarf. I know his increasingly competent movements and the way he crawls at full speed after the cats, and how he clutches and grins and focuses on the funniest things. 

It's an odd job, really, being a mom. Knowing your child so intimately. To be known is such a beautiful thing. I've had deep, meaningful friendships and I have enjoyed the depth of a wonderful marriage, but this is something else entirely. It's a new brand of connection. As I watch and enjoy everything about William, I find myself wishing that he could know me, too. It sounds almost like a tragic plot device that these 9 months have been the best of my life, but William won't actually remember any of them. He will never know me in this young, new-mom phase of my life. A few years from now his first memories will begin to take residence in his mind, and he will know and remember me as his momma. His weird old mum. I will take up my sword and shield for him daily, protecting and loving and guiding while sacrificing a certain something; something that isn't truly revealed to him until much later in life. 

I've never appreciated my parents more than right now. I feel like as an adult I have the honor of getting to know them as individuals and friends as well as parents. I can better understand who they were to me then, and who they are to me now. Now that I'm a mom myself, I can better imagine my mom caring for us four crazies at home for all those years. I'm taking a few steps in her shoes, and replaying so many days in my youth and wondering how they must have affected her. I'm imagining William going off to college and wondering how my leaving may have been harder on my parents than I ever knew. It's a funny cycle of life that these realizations are so belated. 

I wonder at my role in William's life and in the lives of my future children. How will I possibly balance the discipline, comfort, love, pride, fear, adoration? I think often mothers feel lonely, misunderstood, underappreciated. I think it's because normally when you invest in an important relationship, and spend 90% of your time with another human, there's a significant exchange there. But as a mom, it's one-sided. Raising a baby means pouring your heart and soul into this wonderful creature who will not know your favorite color or your greatest fears. They will not know they've ruined your favorite shirt or care when they spit up all over your hair. A good friend would never do that. 

Raising kids into childhood means you may stay up all night worrying or spend weeks planning a party or contemplating the details of their hair color, freckles, lopsided grins and personality and they may look at you bewildered one day, like, "hi food lady, what's your name again?" They may give all the credit to daddy for things you did, or completely forget your birthday, or much rather spend time with their friends than with you. As their mother I will daily do the work, make the choices, kiss their sleepy foreheads, (sometimes) hold my tongue, run the errands, say my prayers, and give them my heart to squeeze or crumple or bounce around. It's not an exchange; it's a glorious generous heart-filling character-building life-changing servant leadership. It's hard and it's weird, but it's the best of life. Even now, as I lay him down to sleep each night, I hold him close and pray and cry over him because I've never loved anyone so darn much. I have had moments of uncertainty, overwhelming love, spikes of panic and swarms of gratitude and faith. Such tender moments of self-discovery and bonding that he will never know nor remember.

I have made the comparison before that becoming a mother has been like taking my old self - my thoughts, my humor, my dreams, my heart - and dipping them in chocolate. I'm still me, but my life is sweeter and richer with William in it. Being his mother is and will always be a layered, nuanced thing that I love and am baffled by. It's a little bit scary. It's a lotta bit magnificent. I know that my sweet boy will love me, in different wondrous ways at every stage of his life. Right now he thinks I'm pretty much the greatest thing he's ever laid eyes on, so I'm gonna hold onto that when the going gets rough. When I feel lost or buried, I will lean evermore on those who know me best: my husband, my family, my dearest friends. To be known is crucial to life, my friends. It's the sharing that makes beauty what it is.

I look forward to knowing my perfect, darling son in all of his intricacies forever and ever, even when he claims, as I often did as a teenager, that I have somehow "scarred him for life." I have the great job and joy of knowing him from atom. That's right, William Boyer, I know you. I have the greatest vantage point there is. So here's looking at you, kid - every day for as long as you'll have me. You are the greatest thing I've ever laid eyes on. 

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