I still think about her sometimes. The mother I wanted to be. The parent I thought I would be, even though the woman in my mind has a grace and femininity that I could never feel at home with. Nevermind that.
I will tell you about her, but only with the understanding that you will not hold her against me. I am offering you this portrait as a gift, that is all.
I built this woman out of love, out of my own love for my future children, out of all the hopes I had for them, out of the promises I would offer them, out of my readiness to impart life lessons and good health.
To start, tiredness is not a core character trait. Presumably she tires at the end of a long day, and in the newborn days she may even be tired most of the time, but it never becomes a part of who she is. She is always herself, no matter what.
Her life’s energy is made of love and warmth and generosity and patience. She looks at her babies with compassion. She weathers their storms. She understands how hard babyhood, toddlerhood, childhood are. Her tone of voice is never affected by her children’s tantrums.
She wakes up early. She cooks breakfast. This does not take up all of her energy.
She creates perfect environments for her children, encouraging them to play independently, but joining in when they like. She smiles and laughs. She is not bored. She is present. She does not wish she were somewhere else anywhere else. She does not need her smartphone or a book to keep her from rushing them along.
The mother I wanted to be relishes time at home with her children, of course, but she is also an extrovert who takes on the outside world as any good adventurer might. She is a proud pusher of strollers, juggler of societal pressures, navigator of in-store tantrums, dole-out-er of The Parenting In Public voice. She does not accumulate a list of places she can no longer bring herself to suggest to her kids. She does not have anxiety.
She plays with her children outside every day, because she knows how important that is. Her children run, and chase, and explore. They dig, they climb, feel the sun and the rain on their skin and in their hair. She is not overwhelmed at the prospect of getting two children dressed at the same time, she is committed to an easily implementable Sunblock Routine, and she has a Healthy Snack Plan she can count on. The sun does not make her tired. Running does not make her sleepy. Bugs and dirt and yesterday’s puddles do not make her uncomfortable. Other people’s children do not make her nervous.
She manages to feed herself before irritability sets in. This may be her greatest feat.
She rose to the challenge of having a second child. She became more. She became more than one person. She divides her comforts effortlessly, offering immediate physical comfort to the baby while focusing her conscious attention and emotional support on the toddler. As the baby grew up she was able to negotiate competing needs without feeling like she was being ripped apart. When they talk to her at the same time, she patiently assesses urgency and responds in kind. She does not want to yell. She does not lose patience simply because she is being asked to do the impossible. She understands they have no choice but to ask. She understands the joys of siblings and does not feel like she is failing both children because she can never truly meet their needs. She doesn’t worry that she can’t even pretend to guarantee to protect them both.
She speaks French to her husband, and mixes languages with her children.
Her home is the perfect balance of Order and DIsorder. There is enough disorder to say We Love Life and We Value Childhood and We Recognize The Importance Of Having Ex-Things For Children To Discover And Repurpose And Destroy. And yet it is not a burden. The disorder is contained and accessible.
She is not afraid to have people over. She is not afraid of birthday parties.
She is love. She is bigger than life. She is pure. Her weight doesn’t change. Her posture is excellent. She is an ocean of patience. She is a mountain of stability. She doesn’t mind standing up even when she just sat down. She thinks that if one time is fun, one hundred times in a row is still fun. She parents through the night and still gets enough sleep. She is happiness.
She doesn’t judge me, of course. It’s not in her nature.
But her children. They must be so happy.