I recognize my flaws, most of the time. I am not the neatest person in the world. I have a high tolerance for clutter. I am not always careful of other people’s feelings with my words. I procrastinate.
I am VERY sensitive to noise, to smells, to temperature and humidity changes. I hate being hot, I don’t like to be touched unless I am prepared for it. And even then, PLEASE do not touch my nose. I cannot be responsible for the consequences if you do.
Because of these idiosyncrasies, I never thought of myself as mother material. Kids tend to be touchy, they are loud, lord knows they make smells that could drop a horse. Teenagers are frightening on all these accounts, what with the MUSIC and the BO. Except that is usually the period of life when they do not want to touch either, so on that score they would be almost tolerable. But given all that, I thought it would be easier to just not be a mother, and I didn’t walk through this life with this burning desire to be a mom. I was fine with the idea that I would not procreate.
My own mother was, and still is, a very caring, loving mother. In her “get it done” manner, she showed me what it was to be a capable and self sufficient woman. Even though she didn’t work full time for much of my life, and my father was the primary bread winner if you will, my mother was the one who kept it together. Made things happen. And I learned a lot from her whether she was purposefully trying to teach me anything or not.
Being the kind of kid I was, I didn’t always make it easy to be affectionate. I was, as I recall, pretty good at managing myself from an early age, and wasn’t a cuddly kid. I remember seeing a family in church sitting a few pews ahead of us, and the dad had his arm around a little girl approximately my age, and thinking “AGH” and shrugging involuntarily.
But as a mom myself, I find that my barriers are invaded. I get demands for cuddles from the living room when I am in another room doing something. My first instinct is to say “In a minute, when I am done with _____.” But lately I have been reminding myself that this time is short, and as kids grow, they don’t just grow up, they grow away. If we are doing our jobs right, we are preparing them for the essential moment of individuality, of separateness. So I go in and I cuddle. Even if it is just for a moment. I get all up in his business and I try to ignore the fact that he already has begun to smell like the bottom of a gym bag in a boys locker room, and I cuddle the hell out of him. I kiss his head, I muss his hair, I generally just get in whatever contact I can as often as I can. Because some day I know it will be awkward. He won’t want to hug or be kissed on the head. He might tolerate it, but he won’t seek it out. And that is sort of the way it is supposed to be.
But just as I didn’t make it easy for my parents to show me affection when I was kid, I will probably find a way to make it difficult for him NOT to show his mother affection later. Recently I asked Cooper if he would always at least let me give him a kiss on the head. He looked at me with this funny look on his face, as if to say “Why are you asking this” but then he shrugged and said “SURE (crazy woman whatever you want.”
It’s funny how things change you in ways you cannot even begin to imagine. My mother molded me and taught me even when neither of us may have been aware of it. When someone jams the copier, they come looking for me to help clear it. When a baby bird was dislodged from its nest under an air conditioner in a window in our building, I was sought out because apparently I know about baby birds. But really, it was because that’s what I do. I problem solve. My child has forced me to crack open those walls a little, to cuddle and hug, to be kinder to myself and to embrace the moment. And it’s all good.
But really, don’t touch my nose. That quirk I will take to my grave.