Saturday, January 30, 2010

365-65: Some musings on parenting...

Today I'm feeling really grateful for my children. Now, I'm grateful for them all the time, every single day, but today I've been thinking about a few of the things I've learned during my experience as a mother. I certainly don't claim that my experience is universal, far from it, but I don't think it's particularly unique either.

I think parenting has been the most profound, transformative experience of my life. For me, the divide between my life and experiences as a person without kids and a person with kids has been profound. In the most basic way, I'm still ME, of course, but who I've had to become in response to the demands of parenting is very different.

I've had to come to understand my strengths and my imperfections in a very deep and immediate way. I've had to understand that I am both far more patient than I ever thought I was (not being a patient person at all) but also that I'm not as patient as I'd like to be. I've learned more about rage than I ever thought possible, my own rage in particular. I've also learned about joy. (This is in no way saying that I think people who don't have kids, whether by choice or not, don't know love and joy, *at all*.) I've had to be the grown up when I didn't want to be, I've had to be more generous and giving than I ever imagined (and more than I want to be sometimes). Oddly, I've also learned to be more selfish and better at taking care of myself because really? There's no one else to do it. That's a good lesson to learn. Not to say my husband doesn't take care of me, he does, but he's pretty tapped out too.

Perhaps the biggest lesson pregnancy, labor and parenting have taught me though, is how little I control, other than my own responses and process. It always makes me nervous when I hear women who haven't yet birthed crafting extremely specific visions about labor and delivery or parenting, simply because you just don't know what you're going to get, and you don't have control over most of it. I'm a control freak, certainly, so it's been perhaps more challenging for me than for someone who's a more go-with-the-flow sort of person but I had enough close friends (many of my internet friends) who'd already had kids that I think I had started to grasp this when I went through my first pregnancy. The experience of parenting is so, so different from the fantasies I'd had. So much better, so much deeper, and so, so much harder than I could have imagined. Like many worthwhile things in life, I think, it's such hard work.

Parenting has also given me much compassion for my own parents, now that I understand that they were just people, doing the best they could with what they had, as I am. They did a great job, but made mistakes. So will I. That's okay.

I'm thankful today for my children who have taught me so much. That's such a damn cliche but true. Thank you for teaching me to be open to the moment, to understanding more about what I can and cannot control. Thank you for being you, all of you, for the wonder and joy and frustration you bring me. Thank you for teaching me to embrace the chaos and messiness of it all. I love you, my sons and daughter, more than you can possibly imagine.

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