The first post I wrote about motherhood included a hate list.
As Matt turns one, I’m going to do something uncharacteristic – I’m going to list some of the things I appreciate about being a mom.
Smiling at Strangers (or, rather, Smiley Strangers). From the 7-11 auntie to the fishball uncle, Matt usually gets a few smiles, if not a friendly pinch (those cheeks!), sometimes even a song (that’s one happy fishball uncle) whenever we run errands together. Our regular walks around the estate are often a series of stops so some chirpy adult can bleat “Hello babeeeee!” and coax a smile out of him. I’ve gotten to know the domestic workers in my block who also care for young children, as well as a few grandparents. Where elevator rides used to be grim affairs, most neighbours tend to chat when there’s a baby around, or at least comically contort their faces for a smile – and who could resist smiling back?
Family Time. Truth: Matt gets along better with my parents than I do – it’s a good thing! I delight in watching my parents, sisters, nieces and nephews laugh at Matt’s baffling antics. Babies are guileless creatures, and can be rather amusing. Having a baby around may have introduced some new stresses, but it has also injected a light-heartedness and sense of wonder children and family pets seem most capable of inducing in everyday family life.
Becoming a “baby person”. Are you a baby person? I wasn’t. In the early months of my pregnancy, I would stare – glassy-eyed, scarily – at babies, willing myself to fall.in.love. NOW! Month by month, toothy grin by toothy grin, Matt has slowly won me over. Some days, I even experience this squishy feeling I believe they call… tenderness! I go, “Awwww“, when I see pictures of smiley/sleepy bubs and sometimes feel like squeezing stranger’s babies (friendly hug-way, not strangling choke-way). In other words, I’m no longer immune to the awesome cuteness of babies. It makes me feel a lot less Cruella de Vil, and just that little bit more Mary Poppins.
Connecting with other moms. A secret fear of mine regarding motherhood was that it would shrink my world – in my most paranoid imaginings, I would morph into a Tupperware-hoarding, coupon-clipping, teacher-harassing kiasu parent. Some of this is true (Lock ‘n’ Lock sale! Let’s go!), but there have also been effects I forgot to conjure up: new friendships, and the rekindling of old ones. Like hobbyists who “connect” over their shared loves – or football fans who collectively commiserate – I’ve gotten to know other mothers in the past year and have gained from their knowledge, their wisdom, their humour and their encouragement. (Thank you!)
It’s “character-building”. Motherhood casts a constant, fluorescent glare over my worst tendencies, yet gives me the greatest incentive to manage them. A while ago, some fellow students and I were b*t*hing about our PhD journeys – why on earth did we put ourselves through this? One of them recounted how her supervisor advised her to think of the whole – difficult, disruptive, isolating – experience as “character-building”. For some reason, I found that profoundly gratifying. When I became a mother and found aspects of it difficult, disruptive and painfully isolating, I remembered this.
Now, each day that I fare poorly – sometimes, spectacularly so – I’m reminded that children model their parents’ behavior. Imagining a mini-me of Me at my worst is humbling – it brings me to my knees in prayer for the grace to nurture patience, speak kindly, cultivate contentedness, and radiate a cheerful spirit. I fail daily. And so it grows clear to me I’ll have to keep on trying – tomorrow, the day after tomorrow, and all the tomorrows after that.
Happy Birthday Matt! Here’s a video Daddy made for you. (Yes, that’s the only present you’re getting this year. Ha!)