(or The Art of Saying Thank You)
Being a parent is hard. It is so much harder than I realized before becoming a mom. And I’m not just talking about the disrupted sleep and poopy diapers and projectile vomit and being on-call 24/7.
The first three months are particularly brutal because you don’t get anything back. You have this beautiful, precious creature who is completely dependent on your for everything, every day. And then suddenly, one day, after months of feeding, changing, bathing, comforting, loving, you get a smile – a sign that the baby sees you. Maybe he doesn’t appreciate you (do they ever?) but he sees you and gives you a smile or a coo or even a laugh. And usually that’s enough to keep you going. With that little acknowledgement, your energy reserves are topped up and you can keep going.
When my first-born was an infant, we were regulars at a local baby yoga class. This class served a number of important functions in those early months. First, it gave me a tangible goal on those days – a reason to actually get dressed and leave the house. The class wasn’t until late morning, so there was plenty of time to get both me and the baby ready. It was kind of on par with this advice my mom gave me when he was born (note that this will be a rarity as I don’t have much motherly advice to pass on): make the bed each day. Her point was set one goal each day that you can reasonably obtain, and if you do nothing else, you can point to that and say “hey, but I made the bed.” And, you know, kept the baby alive.
The second reason baby yoga became so crucial for my sanity was that it was a chance to connect with other moms who had children the same age, in a truly supportive and nurturing environment. The class was led by a veteran mother, and she often did as much, if not more, coaching and reassuring as she did leading us through yoga poses. It was a place to genuinely ask “my baby is doing this, is yours?” or “is this normal?” or “should I be concerned?” or even “what do I do?” We all learned from each other as we got to know these new creatures in our lives. We all helped and supported each other at a time when we often felt overwhelmed and helpless.
It was the reassurances of my fellow yogis that gave me a confidence-boost twice a week. I would leave each class reinvigorated, thinking “I can do this!”
One day during my first maternity leave I met a friend for lunch at a local cafe. As I sat at the table, with my newborn snuggled in his car seat, waiting for her to arrive, I struck up a conversation with a table of women sitting nearby. After they finished cooing over my baby they remarked at how impressed they were – that I was out to lunch, nicely dressed and showered – all with a baby in tow! I remember how impressed they seemed and feeling kind of baffled by it. I think what they really were trying to say was “you are doing a good job.”
Our pediatrician once told me, directly, “you are going a great job” and I nearly burst into tears. Really? Are you sure? Because most days it does not feel that way. Most days it feels like I’m just barely getting by.
And so the baby gets older, and he sees you alright, but still doesn’t connect all that you do. Sometimes I think my boys believe in this magical fairy that cooks and cleans and tidies up. No matter how much we try to instill in them a respect for their environment, I eventually cave and clean up the toys and put things back in their place and throw away the accumulated detritus. Never did I imagine that the phrase “Mom! I need you!” would become so grating.
I spoke to a neuro-psychologist at a conference a few months back, and expressed my frustration at how my boys can be so well-behaved at school and activities and friend’s houses, and yet be so appalling behaved at home. She had a very straightforward explanation: home is safe. And it’s true. Home is safe for all of us, and sometimes that’s just part of the problem.
There are some days when all four of us descend upon home at the same time, unleashing a torrent of all that we’ve held inside as we’ve been good students, good friends, good employees, good people. We all drop the personas and expectations, and the way we really feel, comes spilling out. I know I do this, eager to get out of my work clothes and shake off the politically good behavior required at work. Why should I be surprised that my kids do too? It’s just hard when we have overlapping bad days, and our authentic selves start hurling against each other.
It makes sense to me and I wouldn’t want home to be anything but safe… but, a few more “thank you’s” would go a long, long way…
Thank you for feeding me.
Thank you for doing the laundry and folding the clothes and putting everything away.
Thank you for picking up my toys.
Thank you for providing me with educational and extracurricular opportunities.
Thank you for taking out the trash and the recycling.
Thank you for taking care of the dog too.
Thank you for going to a job you don’t love so that we can have the things we need and some of the things we want.
Thank you for getting up with me in the middle of the night to scare away the monsters under the bed, even though I know it will make you really tired at work tomorrow.
Thank you for getting up at the crack of dawn because I am hungry.
Thank you for wiping away the dirt and grime from every place I’ve touched.
Thank you for wiping away the tears.
Thank you for doing your best to always keep me safe and healthy.
Thank you for teaching me manners and to be a good person.
Thank you for being patient with me even when I am being unreasonable.
Thank you for doing your best to make sure I want for nothing while also trying to instill in me a sense of appreciation for what I am lucky enough to have.
Thank you for chasing after my dreams, even if they change with the seasons.
Thank you for putting me first, often sacrificing your own wants and needs, desires and dreams.
Thank you for just letting me be a kid, and for shielding me from adult-world reality for as long as possible.
Thank you for creating magic and make-believe.
Thank you for listening.
Thank you for being a playmate and a friend when I need one. Thank you for being a parent when I need one. Thank you for knowing the difference.
Thank you for being my mom.
We – the mothers living among us – need to take the initiative to tell each other “you are a good mom,” “you are doing a good job,” “thank you.” We need to hear this so much more than just one day a year on Mother’s Day. I think the world would be a happier place if we all did this. Don’t you?