The truth is, I am not the mother that I hoped to be. I am not even the mother that I determine each day to be.
Every morning, my darkened house is broken into by the light of the sun, shining, even through the distance between us. Its golden fingers sneak through the gaps in curtains, its glowing feet, move impatiently, just outside of each creaking doorframe. Closer and closer it comes, illuminating everything in its path, a lamp being shone across a model train village, until finally, it crescendos. Like silent cymbals, the dawn finishes its breaking, the most polite of burglars, stealing only the shadows that remained.
It is then, sitting in the audience of that silent symphony, that I dare to dream. In the quiet presence of fleeting darkness and all-encompassing light, I plan my day.
I tell myself that today, I will be kinder. Today I will be fun and funny, all day, not just in bursts. I won’t get angry over spilled milk and loud objections to chores. I will not feel undone by the constant stream of discarded toys on the staircase, will not grit my teeth at the side-winding parade of possible paralytic danger that they pose. I will Pinterest and play, cook flawlessly, and without silent complaints. I will clean, like I am having an out of body experience. I will clean, and enjoy it. I will be the love child of Monica Gellar and Cinderella, singing and lovely, as I work my mannish hands to the bone.
I tell myself this, or at least picture it, while I sit on the couch, coffee in hand. My family still upstairs, peacefully sleeping.
And then they wake up, and so do I.
Would you like to know a secret? Not every day, but most, I feel as if my best is not good enough. I try, dear goodness, I try. But often, I feel as if I have failed to hit the mark on some unseen Mommy Measuring Cup. I pour my tired body into bed, exhausted, hoping that what I have accomplished will still be Enough.
But will it?
Didn’t my own mother do her best? Didn’t she try to carve out a beautiful life for us, with the only spoon she had been handed? Didn’t she scrape and save, sew and mend? Wasn’t there always more reasons for her to be stressed than I have, always more month left at the end of her money?
Then didn’t I forget her hard work, dismissing it as not good enough, before going off to college, to make my own life? I did, and I know I did.
Sometime between second grade and fourth, a chasm started to crack between us, opening wider and wider each year. Then blowing irrevocably open, a not so grand canyon between us, worsened by the dynamite of my rebellion.
Parts of me that were meant to remain soft, were hardened. My own hurts rang in my self-righteous ears, and what could have been worked out, became impossible. Where my heart had been tender, bitterness and crags of resentment now filled the landscape, making any effort on her part perilous. I held my nose so high in the air that it is amazing that I never caught any birds with it.
I deserved better, I would do better, I would be better.
Now, I am five kids in. Sure, we have more, seemingly, than I did growing up. But I didn’t just want more, did I? I wanted, well, I guess I wanted perfection.
I look around, (isn’t comparison a killer?) and see so many mothers who seem to just have this. They are the Mommy versions of Usain Bolt, sprinting past me. Their perfectly coifed children quoting Tolstoy in the mall, while my three year old tries to scratch the skin from my face because I wouldn’t buy her a millionth stuffed animal. Women who never eat carbs, and who use all the time that this must save them, to do things that amaze everyone.
I don’t want to be them. Well, not really. I want this life, with this man, with my own children. Face scraping and all, my own free dermabrasion. They are the very best things that have ever happened to me. And even if I feel at times like I am not everything I should be, or could be, I am still so grateful to be their Mommy. I’ll keep trying, and fighting for them, and cleaning the toilets I detest. Someday, when they have children, I hope they will see me with perspective. And I hope that even before then, they’ll know that I did my best.
While I may never be the mother, or person, that I dreamt as a young girl that I would be, I hope to always be the mom that my children really need.