Domestic Bliss Report

Motherhood is hard work. If we don't stick together, we'll all fall apart.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

On surrender

That's what motherhood is all about. From the moment one is pregnant (especially if it's a surprise), one has signed over to forces outside anyone's control.
Leaving aside modern science, most of us don't choose the genetic makeup of our child. We can time things to encourage one sex over the other, but that's about it and it's not a given. Eye color, hair texture, full height--these traits are beyond our ken.
We cannot control how each pregnancy will treat us. Morning sickness, varicose veins and their location, stretch marks, gestational diabetes, pre-eclampsia--their occurrence and severity are unpredictable. We read labels of every medication in the cabinet to see if it's safe or, if we know in advance, cease taking it.
We cannot foretell how or when delivery will occur; I think even scheduled caesareans have some potential for surprise.
Then we watch our child develop, attentive to clues as to what kind of person they are. As my sister has said in a rare moment of wisdom, "You don't get to choose what your kid needs therapy for." We watch them smile, laugh, roll over. We try to get them to sleep through the night, we wait for them to crawl, get teeth, walk, talk. And we have no control over when.
We worry about these things like we could change them: "Johnny is eleven months old and doesn't have teeth yet?" We wonder what the child is being fed. "Bobby was walking at ten months old?" And we are impressed. Like these things are a barometer of the mother's expertise or devotion.
There is not a teacher on the planet who can tell which child rolled over first, or walked, slept through the night, teethed, or potty-trained. Not one.
[What can teachers tell? They can tell which child is read to at home. Which child watches way too much television. Which child is permitted too much junk food or misbehavior without consequences. These are things we can control, which is something of a relief.]
But back to surrender. We can't control so much about motherhood; it's rife with lessons in humility and letting go. Once one recognizes it's not all about you, and it's not all UP to you, the rest of the task becomes that much easier.

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