There are so many juxtapositions to being a Mom, to parenting. I experience conflicting emotions on a regular basis: overwhelmed, but bored out of my skull. Worried when they are away from me, but desperate for them to go away when we're trapped at home. Madly in love with them, but chronically irritated. Trying to stay involved, but not controlling. Experiencing a tidal wave of affection for them, but when they are sleeping, not when they are clinging to me.
Another one: be true to myself, but accept invisibility. At their age they think I exist for them only. I'm a giver of hugs, a getter of snacks, an answerer of questions. The other day I was talking about doing something with friends, and Finn looked at me, puzzled. "Momma, you don't have any friends," he insisted.
I lost myself in that invisibility for a long time. I thought that putting their needs before mine was the only way to be a good parent. I grew angry, resentful and bored - and then guilty that I was angry, resentful and bored. I thought good Moms don't feel that way, ever. I fought those inherent juxtapositions of parenting - thinking boredom, irritation, anger and resentment weren't supposed to be part of the equation, and that if I felt them I wasn't doing a good job. It was a big part of my drinking: the need to erase the bad stuff, to manufacture a feeling of confidence and contentedness that wasn't always there. I didn't think I was allowed to have a life. Now I know it is essential to know who I am, understand my own fears and dreams, to find my own voice. How can I teach them to be strong, confident, independent people if I don't know how to do it myself?
I don't have to be perfect, I have to be human. I want to show them that mistakes can be a great teacher.
The other day Greta did something wrong, on purpose. Like me, she holds herself to a high standard, and because she's terrified of mistakes she doesn't behave badly very often. She lied about what she did, and tried to get her brother to cover for her. Being 4, Finn blurted the truth out within minutes. Greta fell apart. She was surprised by her own wrongdoing, she didn't understand exactly why she did it. She sobbed and sobbed, and didn't want to talk about it, didn't want to face her mistake, her fear. I understand that feeling all too well.
I told her a story about something I did when I was about her age. A small thing, really - I broke a glass table at a friend's house. We lied about how it happened, saying we heard a big boom, the house shook, and the table broke. For some reason, her parents believed us without questioning it and called the police and the gas company, who showed up to look for gas leaks. We lied to the police, too, now consumed with fear, but not knowing how to back out of it. Her little brother blurted out the truth that night, and our punishment was to go to the police station and apologize to the police for lying.
Greta's eyes were wide as she listened to my story. "You LIED? To the POLICE?" she said. I explained to her that mistakes are a part of life, that breaking the table was just a human mistake. I told her I lied because I was too afraid to admit that I had done something wrong, and in the end we got in more trouble for lying than anything else. That mistakes are okay, that we're human and they happen. I told her running from mistakes, or lying to ourself or others about why they happen, makes the mistakes bigger and scarier. That the truth, even when it's hard - especially when it's hard - will set you free.
Perfect Imperfection. That's a goal I can achieve.