Friday, April 20, 2007

Who needs whom?

I found myself marching into the office in a great rush from the far furthest reaches of the pay parking at the university today. The damn competitive dancers and their parents had taken up every last spot in the close lot. I was well on my way to being late for this meeting, which I would have to leave early to attend a medical appointment (good news! I have 'snapping hip syndrome and have to do physio!) and I was feeling behind in my work generally because I'd made two trips to the hospital this week--one for the x-ray of my hip, and one to pick up a cd of said x-ray. To go to a meeting in any case meant that that was time taken away from ... grading? research? course prep? Gah!

I have been feeling like an academic laggard all week, and this hot march in, bearing the big computer bag and a bigger bad mood, just did me in. I called Pynchon on the cell to vent (good thing we have a 'couples talk free' plan.)

And so I vented. And out came this: "You know, when I get all angry and disappointed in myself or this job or our crappy house or whatever, I like to think about Miss Baby. Because she's perfect. We did that right."

So. Who needs whom now?

I mentally slapped my hand over my mouth in horror. Here is the slippery slope! The one where all the sting of my (self-)thwarted ambitions is soothed by the transfer of all my mental energy to my daughter. Uh-oh. It's only natural, I'm sure, to be amazed that I grew something with all the right number of fingers and toes and pushed it out of my own body. That I fed and watered this little being so that she grew. That she brings me joy simply by being herself. But oh dear heavens I don't want to find myself setting my self-image by her behaviour. Then I become that mother. As if she needs any more pressure on her developing little self, this selfish need of mine for her to be perfect so that I know I'm not irredeemably flawed. I felt this earlier in the week, too, when word of the school shootings saw me home from work early, desperate to hold my baby girl close close to me, to feel the love and the purity and the innocence. So that I would know the world was not irredeemably flawed. What a burden for her to bear for me!

In a stunning reversal of months of habit, I needed her today more than she needed me. Huh.

Things change almost faster than I can process them. Tonight, for the second night in a row, Miss Baby refused the Magic Boobie: I guess the weaning is going a little better than planned. Nothing but a bottle of formula would do. It's clear this process upsets me more than her.

Here's my job: to help my baby grow up the way she needs to. To give her the guidance and the freedom follow her path. Not to clean up mine. I know she's just a baby, but it's a lesson I'm sure I'm going to need to keep learning.


Beck said...

That's almost eerie that we both had the same revelatory moment today! I want my children to be happier in their childhoods than I was, and so I place a lot of pressure on them that way. It's hard to remember that they will be themselves and not The Better Me, but none of them look much like me at all, which helps.

Mimi said...

Me too (re: childhood) and me too (re: looks nothing like me).

Jenifer said...

Yes, our children are not a do-over of our own youth. I just left Beck's and this is all a little weird...

I know exactly what you mean. I was an only child and while I was not smothered by any means I did feel that telescopic mother stare from time to time.

It is kind of like the parable, If you give a person a fish, you feed them for a day. If you teach them how to fish, you feed them for a lifetime. ... At first all we do is stuff them with fish and then at some point, slowly you start to teach them a bit. Then eventually, they have the skills and don't need us quite the same way.

I am all over the place tonight, but I so get what you are saying.

slouching mom said...

As a mom of older kids, I am here to inject a cautionary note that I am sure you already know.

The problem with having even a piece of our self-worth in our kids is that they eventually end up leaving.

And then what?

I am trying to be as mindful of this as I can be.

Omaha Mama said...

Wow this hit home for me. I get upset with myself when I realize that I would much rather buy clothes for my daughter than myself because she's so darn cute and I am still chubby and frumpy. I don't want to burden her with any of my own issues. I think of that often. That I need to get to place where I want to look cute again too (and nurture other parts of myself as well - I'm not all that vain - but you get the picture...)

Mad Hatter said...

So right. So right.

NotSoSage said...

Ah, yes, you've hit on my biggest fear, too...but here's the rub (because I got too much of that growing up.) Sigh. :)

gingajoy said...

I desparately need to avoid this too, especially as I think a lot of my issues with my mother stem from this.
But I do think that revelling in our children, and seeing home and what we have achieved there as a safe harbor is ok. I've not thought about how that can veer into pressure though... hmmmmm.