Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Slow down and Smell the Roses

My computer savy sister..who is now telling me what to blog wanted me to post the following. It will take a few minutes to read..but it is good especially if you are a new mom who just wants to get it all done in the day..and is tired of reading this expert's advice..then to find out that another expert says something else..relate?..then read this...

Being Mom
By Anna Quindlen, Newsweek Columnist and Author

If not for the photographs, I might have a hard time believing they ever
existed. The pensive infant with the swipe of dark bangs and the black
button eyes of a Raggedy Andy doll. The placid baby with the yellow ringlets
and the high piping voice. The sturdy toddler with the lower lip that curled
into an apostrophe above her chin.

All my babies are gone now. I say this not in sorrow but in disbelief.
I take great satisfaction in what I have today: three almost-adults, two
taller than I am, one closing in fast. Three people who read the same books
I do and have learned not to be afraid of disagreeing with me in their
opinion of them, who sometimes tell vulgar jokes that make me laugh until I
choke and cry, who need razor blades and shower gel and privacy, who want to
keep their doors closed more than I like.

Who, miraculously, go to the bathroom, zip up their jackets and move food
from plate to mouth all by themselves. Like the trick soap I bought for the
bathroom with a rubber ducky at its center, the baby is buried deep within
each, barely discernible except through the unreliable haze of the past.

Everything in all the books I once pored over is finished for me now.
Penelope Leach., T. Berry Brazelton., Dr. Spock. The ones on sibling rivalry
and sleeping through the night and early-childhood education, all grown
obsolete. Along with Goodnight Moon and Where the Wild Things Are, they are
battered, spotted, well used. But I suspect that if you flipped the pages
dust would rise like memories.

What those books taught me, finally, and what the women on the playground
taught me, and the well-meaning relations --what they taught me, was that
they couldn't really teach me very much at all. Raising children is
presented at first as a true-false test, then becomes multiple choice, until
finally, far along, you realize that it is an endless essay. No one knows
anything. One child responds well to positive reinforcement, another can be
managed only with a stern voice and a timeout. One child is toilet trained
at 3, his sibling at 2.

When my first child was born, parents were told to put baby to bed on his
belly so that he would not choke on his own spit-up. By the time my last
arrived, babies were put down on their backs because of research on sudden
infant death syndrome. To a new parent this ever-shifting certainty is
terrifying, and then soothing.

Eventually you must learn to trust yourself. Eventually the research will
follow. I remember 15 years ago poring over one of Dr. Brazelton's wonderful
books on child development, in which he describes three different sorts of
infants: average, quiet, and active. I was looking for a sub-quiet codicil
for an 18-month old who did not walk. Was there something wrong with his fat
little legs? Was there something wrong with his tiny little mind ? Was he
developmentally delayed, physically challenged? Was I insane? Last year he
went to China. Next year he goes to college. He can talk just fine. He can
walk, too.

Every part of raising children is humbling, too. Believe me, mistakes were
made. They have all been enshrined in the, "Remember-When-Mom-Did Hall of
Fame." The outbursts, the temper tantrums, the bad language, mine, not
theirs. The times the baby fell off the bed. The times I arrived late for
preschool pickup. The nightmare sleepover. The horrible summer camp. The day
when the youngest came barreling out of the classroom with a 98 on her
geography test, and I responded, What did you get wrong? (She insisted I
include that.) The time I ordered food at the McDonald's drive-through
speaker and then drove away without picking it up from the window. (They all
insisted I include that.) I did not allow them to watch the Simpsons for the
first two seasons. What was I thinking?

But the biggest mistake I made is the one that most of us make while doing
this. I did not live in the moment enough. This is particularly clear now
that the moment is gone, captured only in photographs.

There is one picture of the three of them, sitting in the grass on a quilt
in the shadow of the swing set on a summer day, ages 6, 4 and 1.
And I wish I could remember what we ate, and what we talked about, and how
they sounded, and how they looked when they slept that night. I wish I had
not been in such a hurry to get on to the next thing: dinner, bath, book,
bed. I wish I had treasured the doing a little more and the getting it done
a little less.

Even today I'm not sure what worked and what didn't, what was me and what
was simply life. When they were very small, I suppose I thought someday they
would become who they were because of what I' d done. Now I suspect they
simply grew into their true selves because they demanded in a thousand ways
that I back off and let them be.

The books said to be relaxed and I was often tense, matter-of-fact and I was
sometimes over the top. And look how it all turned out. I wound up with the
three people I like best in the world, who have done more than anyone to
excavate my essential humanity. That's what the books never told me. I was
bound and determined to learn from the experts. It just took me a while to
figure out who the experts were....


sarita said...

yep...i agree ...throw all the books away....
use your mom's heart and intution

Sugar said...

I love Anna Q. Have you read A Short Guide to a Happy Life? I think I've given a copy to everyone I know. Thanks so much for posting.

christine said...

Hi Jen. Stumbled on this today just as I was on the verge of a very pregnant and hormonal, my-4-yr-old-is-going-to-push-me-over-the-edge moment... just what I needed! Thanks!