Never in my life would I have thought I’d call having a baby liberating. For the first six months, I felt like a slave to my precious and helpless little infant as the primary source of liquid nourishment. And now that he’s a toddler and eats any food in sight (with only five teeth!) I still lament being stuck at home from 6 PM on – chained to the kitchen sink or the couch out of pure exhaustion from chasing and cleaning up after him.
But I am making motherhood sound so grim. In the past year and a half, I’ve learned so much about myself from becoming a mother. While I have certainly stretched the limits of my capacity to love, my child has also given me the freedom to be silly, relax, let go of the idea that everything needs to be perfect – a license to chill, so to speak.
Every time he grabs my face with his clammy, chubby hands and brings it so close to his that our noses touch, my heart melts. I also squirm a little bit because the way toddlers love to mash food in between their fingers is revolting, and now it’s on my face…but the point is, I can now set that aside and be present for us to bond.
Sometimes he tries to shove his tiny dimpled finger up my nose, or reveals his two gapped buckteeth, like tiny tic-tacs, when he throws his head back and belly laughs. I can’t help but forget about everything else and get wrapped up in his sweet silliness. I play along to his ruckus music making and find myself coming up with the most asinine voices to try and make him laugh while we read – anything to get him to curl up in the triangle of my lap as I sit with him cross-legged on the floor.
I’ll admit, this didn’t just happen overnight, it took time to let go and follow his lead – and to trust myself that I wasn’t going to ruin or scar him by inviting a little bit of disorder into our lives. My mother still continues to remind me, “You know you can just let things be messy for a little while and it’s no big deal.” I holler back, “I know I can, but I just don’t WANT to, mom!” So I force myself to revel in the chaos, find the fun in the disarray and cherish the memories in the mess, even if only for a half and hour at a time.
I’ve learned that the number one rule in raising a kind, compassionate human being is modeling those same values and just using a dash of common sense.