Monday, May 14, 2007

Mom-in-Waiting

"Daddy is a dad," Bub informed us the other day, "and Mama is a mom." (He has wonderfully round o’s, especially when he sees my husband on the computer and announces solemnly, "Daddy is fixing the blo-og.")

Despite its tautological structure, Bub’s pronouncement is not without meaning. It took me a long time to start feeling like a mom. I remember the first stirrings of momhood – they occurred when Bub outgrew his infant carseat at four months of age. Shlepping around the infant carrier had made me feel sore, exhausted, heavy-laden – but hoisting a wee baby-man on my hip was different. I could hold the baby with one hand and unlock the front door with the other, possibly even carry a few bags of groceries at the same time. My arms and hips felt strong enough for this job long before my faint heart did.

Picking Bub up at daycare evoked feelings of momhood too. Seeing him crawling on chubby legs towards the boisterous two-year-olds who were tumbling in and out of sandboxes, I recognized in him the kid he might become and started to perceive dimly that the woman who gave birth to such a boy-child must be, herself, a mom. In the moments before he saw me, I would hover at the back gate, enjoying that simple feeling of love, unmixed for the moment with exasperation or stress.

Somewhere along the line, momhood entered in and made itself at home. I became a mother three-and-a-half years ago when Bub was born, but I didn’t become a mom until much later. The Pie helped. She seemed to know instantly that I was her mom and to accept me as such. Where Bub had been rigid, cross, averse to babyhood with all its indignities, Pie melted against me, recognizing my chest as her head’s truest home. She still does that, nurses a cold by burying her curly head in the crook of my neck or dropping it dramatically on my shoulder.

I feel like a mom, now – so much so that I’m surprised, at times, by how much of parenthood I have yet to experience. When I look forward to my kids getting older, it’s usually because of the stuff I won’t have to do for them anymore. But every once in awhile I’m reminded that there are so many things about parenthood that haven’t even begun. Beach vacations, with little ones toasting marshmallows in their pyjamas. School buses, hopscotch, Santa Claus. I can get all choked up sometimes, contemplating how fleeting the elementary-school years will be, and then I catch myself up short and realize, they haven’t even started yet, woman – get a grip.

Some of the parenting rituals I look forward to the most I’ve done already in pantomime form. Halloween costumes. Rides at the fair. Trips to African Lion Safari. I buy candy at Easter and Halloween and then eat it myself; I get a little thrill when Bub says "Happy Mother’s Day, Mama!" even though he’s just parroting his father. It’s like our family is in a play, with hubby and I taking on the roles of prompter, ventriloquist, and puppeteer while the children remain happily oblivious to our incomprehensible antics. We’re artfully acting out the family we imagine ourselves becoming, meticulously posing the children on the merry-go-round even though we plan to exit the ride before it starts (there’s no point in scaring the poor children). Wait a year or too, we seem to say to the carousel horses with their mournful silver manes. We’ll be back.

32 comments:

DaniGirl said...

Oooo, pretty new blog! Very nice!

This weekend, I felt a lot of that vertigo of slipping time. I looked at my five year old and could feel him growing away from me by the minute. Lately, I've felt something quite close to panic over how quickly they are growing up. It's like a roller coaster, both exhilerating and terrifying at the same time.

slouching mom said...

Love this thought:

We’re artfully acting out the family we imagine ourselves becoming, meticulously posing the children on the merry-go-round even though we plan to exit the ride before it starts (there’s no point in scaring the poor children).

So true, and such a perfect image.

Jenifer said...

You have tapped into my head again! Becoming a mother and being a mother are two different things and you have put this into words in the most lovely and touching way.

I felt exactly like this and now want those moments back and I stare at this very big six year old girl and her quickly catching up three year old sister. Now we are whizzing around the merry-go-round and I so desperately want it to slow down.

Your family is mine just a few short years ago...and while I am happy now too I do yearn for those days just a bit.

Lovely post.

kittenpie said...

For me, it was the day pumpkinpie began to throw up in her high chair and instead of rushing to the sink to sympathy retch, I stretched out my hand and caught it, ladling vomit hand over hand onto her tray, where it would be easier to clean up. Where did that woman come from?

I am beginning to devlop the same sense of how fast it will go all of a sudden. Scary.

Kelly said...

The Blo-og looks great. Love the color.

The sentiments are pretty dang nice too. I find myself pining for my eldest when she was a chubster I could carry around. She's all limbs and angles now. My toddler still possesses the stuff of babies, but she too will abandon this lovely stage and grow up.

There is so much to look forward too, as you so aptly describe. So much fun. It almost takes away the sting of sadness I have thinking about their growing.

Terri B. said...

Happy Mother's Day!

Yes, becoming a mother and being a mom are two different things. I've never had the experience of becoming a mother (no birth story), but I can clearly remember realizing that I was a mom.

Beck said...

My oldest child recently turned 8, which caused me to walk around in this state of wistful despair because 8 is a kid. Not a little kid, either. And then rushing up to meet us - 10, 11, 12...

Mouse said...

I found certain words hard to wrap my mind around too. "Son" was one of them--I could say Scooter was my "baby" just fine, but "son" implied so much more of a relationship and meant I must be a "mother." Funny how those words give me no pause now.

Pieces said...

I think it is cool that you are anticipating the middle years with your kids. They are so fun! My favorite, actually.

Bon said...

i think the mom thing for me is just finally beginning, a year in, and i'm not sure i'd have ever found the words for it if i hadn't read yours.

the pantomime, though, i know well...the pre-grieving of the narrative imagination, creating scenes and roles and mourning their passing before we all ever even get dressed for the stage.

love the post.

Mad Hatter said...

Little girl pajamas. Panties. Dance classes. Sitting cranky in a motel in Ottawa on a grade 10 class trip. Yup, I'm livin' them all in my head.

As for the becoming, it probably took 3 months. As soon as she started gaining enough weight to be a baby and not a scrawny worry. That's when I knew I was a mom.

NotSoSage said...

Wow. I know a good piece of insight when it tells me something I didn't know I already knew.

This is it.

Thank you.

I read a lot about the concept of anticipatory grief when I was learning about HIV. It's strange that I recognise it again in motherhood.

Girl con Queso said...

Wow. I so get this. What a poetically true post.

Jill said...

Love the new design elements! I like to cooperate.

I say, savor what you have now. It's never so deliciously physical as it is right now. You described it perfectly in your post - the baby slung expertly on your hip - the head of curls on your shoulder. Yummy.

Judd Corizan said...

Congratulations on your award on The Rising BloggerIt is a brand new site that awards posts, not blogs. Your post from April 27, 2007, "Driving Home" won. Since we award posts, not blogs, you might even win again. To encourage your readers to comment on your award, it helps of you make the first comment on our post about your blog, yourself. We ask winners to nominate a post favorite of a fellow blogger. Call it "paying it forward". It is not a requirement. You have won this award because we truly feel you deserve it. Great post, good job!

If you choose to display your winning badge, please email and we will send it.

Thanks!
Judd Corizan
The Rising Blogger

flutter said...

You look mahvelous!

jen said...

this is gorgeous and evocative. the ending in particular.

and i have to tell you, when you use the word tautological in your posts i get slightly tingly.

Lady M said...

Lovely and thoughtful.

Mouse said something similar. When I unconsciously moved from saying "the baby" to "my son" - big step.

c4cara said...

Beautifully put as usual. I know what you mean about 'becoming a mum' (kiwi spelling).
I don't remember when it happened. It just did. Probably with my 2nd daughter when I blew into her socks on cold mornings to warm them before I put them on her little feet and she grinned happily and waved her other foot at me to continue....

Luisa Perkins said...

I have found, after 13.5 years, that motherhood only gets better. But you do miss the scrumptious littleness....

kgirl said...

I was definitely a mother right from the start, but being a mom didn't quite happen until Bee became more than just a passenger in my own daily routine. Now we're a team.

PunditMom said...

Thanks for sharing this. I have felt some of those things to. I was PunditGirl's mother from the moment the orphanage nanny placed her in my arms. But it took a long tome to become her mom and have her feel that way about me. We've worked long and hard to get there -- maybe that's why I'm not ready for the full-time rat-race yet. I'm still filling up my mom quotient.

Karen said...

That was really, really lovely and felt a little bit like coming home.

Lawyer Mama said...

It's so true. I didn't really feel like a mother until I had my second one as well. I'm not sure if it was the increased juggling or the passing of my oldest into toddlerhood that did it.

Saying I was a "mom" or had a "son" almost made me giggle. Kind of like when you first get engaged or married & switch from boyfriend to fiance or husband.

Her Bad Mother said...

I still don't feel like a mom most of the time. I feel like *mommy*, when WonderBaby is snuggled up against me (oh so rarely), but it's more like a temporary crown - like I fleetingly don the garb of 'mommy' (honorary) and then go back to ordinary dress when she's not around, or when she is (as is often the case) disdaining me for Daddy or cats or ducks or whomever or whatever else is on the horizon.

mayberry said...

Oh, me too, me too. I find myself so sad that the baby days are gone; and yet I'm still changing diapers and doing time in the rocking chair in the middle of the night.

Mary-LUE said...

In some ways, I was a mother before I was a mother. You know in high school and college when your friends call you "Mom," you've got some sort of weird mother instinct going on. Still, it was a month before my son no longer felt like a stranger to me. As simple as his umbilical cord stump FINALLY falling off. My relief (I'd heard horror stories of what could go wrong) and excitement just erased the personal awkwardness I felt trying to talk to him.

This was, as usual, an excellent meditation on motherhood, B&P.

Sandra said...

Oh so pretty here. Although posts like this are stunning all on their own :)

Mimi said...

How perfect is this post? If by perfect I mean, 'post that resonates so very strongly with my own experience'?

Mom-hood is a role that writes itself into being as it is performed. Sometimes the 'performer' is the last one to know she's got it nailed.

bubandpie said...

Mimi! You're back! You have been missed.

Gunfighter said...

I have several Canadian friends who have told me that they would be upset if their kid's called them "mom" rather than "mum"

Hi!

Susanne said...

You're describing this very well, but then there also was a feeling, at least for me, that as soon as I knew that I was pregnant I felt like a mother. Like my body knew how to do this without me. And I know that this will stay with me.