We’ve had a rough week, kid. My brain is running on empty and I am fairly certain I’ve been getting a new zit on my face every hour. Parenting is amazingly hard. I had a fresh appreciation for that fact when I visited your pop-pop in the hospital last night. After spending the first half of the day with you in the ER, I arrived in the ER that very same night to find your pop pop in excruciating pain, your nanny tweaking a little next to him, and my sanity squished somewhere between his hourly dilaudid push and his half-hourly wince.
“I have a chemistry final on Monday morning,” I reminded my mother as our bleary eyes watched the clock strike midnight.
I received no verbal response, but somewhere between my heavy eyelids I am certain I saw her twitch.
I had a lot of questions. They were neither asked categorically, nor responded to logically. Our collective IQ was nearing that of a chimpanzee.
But I digress.
Last night epitomized motherhood. The events of yesterday unraveled as seamlessly (and as simultaneously) as my existential crisis- the one that began just weeks after giving birth to you. But perhaps the roots of it began sooner. Yes. I can pinpoint the moment. I was 16 weeks into pregnancy and there it was. The sonogram machine. It was printing out these words, and I wasn’t sure I was reading them correctly. “It’s a girl!” read the sono tech. It was those words. Those words planted a seed in me that has rooted deep, like a dandelion. So stubborn. Unyielding. So simple. And so complex. An untreatable kind of mess. That’s what those words left in my mind, and they’ve been growing like weeds ever since.
As mothers of young women we have such a heavy responsibility lying on our shoulders. And at the root of that responsibility lies our obligation to lead by example. To show our little girls how to drive hammers and nails deep into the roadblocks that will inevitably complicate the path to her big dreams. But the role is impossible. Because the ideal is exactly that: unattainable.
Motherhood has been trying on many different fronts. Sleepless nights, frightening illness, and one trying little (yet enormous) personality are on the list, but those are the things we aspiring parents-to-be spend our young adult lives emotionally preparing for. Those are the pieces of the parenting puzzle that we knew where to place when we purchased the package. But lately, I’ve been picking up so many misshaped pieces. And I have never been as sure about anything in my life that those pieces, well, those pieces JUST DON’T FIT the puzzle I bought.
Just six months before you were born a very influential article was published on this very topic. I was pregnant and not adequately confused by the perplexity of the problems it presented as I had not yet become a mother myself. But it wasn’t long before all five (and I think even a sixth) of my senses were perked. I soon applied to a premedical degree program. My dreams grew bigger with every pound you gained, and by the time you were eighteen months I was back off to school. Fact was, I became very quickly aware that I couldn’t stay at home for very long. And it was just as much about you as it was me. I, too, was someone’s little girl. I, too, had a role models that dreamed big for me. They encouraged tenacity. Showed me life’s delicate nature. Encouraged selflessness and civic responsibility. And, so, by logic, I, too, had to show my little girl how to become everything she would ever dream of becoming.
Because I, too, had a mother who dreamed alongside me.
I, too, had a mother who showed me to hustle.
I, too, had a mother who would bleed with humility and sweat with pride.
I, too, had a mother whose enormous capacity for empathy dictated how she lived each day.
But, I too, had a mother that always put every single person before herself. Just as I see so many other mothers do every day. And it’s a wonderfully admirable trait. And one that I desperately hope you don’t inherit.
How are we to break to the top, if we put ourselves at the bottom?
And so I sit here on the eve of a major premedical exam. And on my lap sits a helplessly gorgeous child with a raging infection. And an exhausted father lays in a hospital bed. And it is clear to me that my mind, body and soul belong with my boogery toddler and incapacitated father tomorrow, and not in my exam. But this problem doesn’t go away tomorrow. Or the next day.
And so I depart by pointing out that I just wrote a lot, and explained very little. I have found that motherhood has brought me back to a state of infancy where all I am capable of focusing on for the time being are infinitesimally small baby steps. Caretaker tomorrow, exam-taker later. And I have no fucking clue what direction these baby steps are leading me in. To make matters worse, I feel as though I know a little less each day. But there really is just one little thing that I do know for certain: I love taking these tiny little zigging and zagging steps with you right by my side.