Sunday, May 10, 2009

Just What You Didn't Know You Wanted


Mother's Day still surprises me every year. I know the day itself is coming, I'm just still surprised and a little disbelieving that I actually qualify as an honoree of the day. Which is a little disturbing since my eldest child is closer to 30 than 20.

I have been a mother for over a quarter of a century and I'm still not sure I understand how that actually happened. I mean, I understand the science behind the condition, but the fact that I am a parent still catches me off guard.

Up until shortly after my eldest was born and almost died, I was absolutely convinced I would never be a parent. The role didn't interest me, didn't suit me and didn't deserve me, at least it didn't deserve my ineptitude and incompetence. I'd had a less than stellar role model. And at the same time I was honest enough with myself to know I had not been an easy child to raise. I sure the hell wouldn't want to raise another me.

I have frequently felt so unprepared for the job that even though the closest I ever came to medical school was my high school biology class, I probably would have been better equipped to be the doctor in the delivery process, instead of the potential parent. Even today I sometimes feel my kids would have been better off if I had taken the role of obstetrician instead of mother in their introduction to the world.

While I can admire them, I will never be able to relate to women who's life calling is to be a mother. I've never had the maternal instinct 'pull' that those women have.

But I have learned that while maternal instinct may not be overflowing in me, it seems to show up when I really, really need it. The best way I can describe it is to say I go through motherhood in stops and spurts. For long periods of time that instinct lays fallow, not called on, not needed. But periodically the small reserve of maternal instinct I do have senses danger, trouble or anxiety involving my children and that instinct launches into hyper-drive. Like the 90 lb weakling who gets such a rush of adrenaline they can lift a full size car off a person trapped beneath it, for short spurts of time, when it is most needed, I become Super Mom.

I will never be the mother either of my children deserve. But in spite of my ineptitude both of them grew into amazing adults. Fortunately their Dad is a wonderful Dad for both of them. He makes up for a lot of my parental shortcomings. As they grew and matured I found parenting easier. Now that we can relate as adults, I find being their friend extraordinarily easy.

Mother's Day reminds me of something terribly important. Sometimes you don't know what you are capable of or what you need in your life. When you are this dense, periodically the gods, your dead ancestors, the tooth fairy or whomever you believe in smacks you across the head and in their infinite wisdom presents you with a gift you didn't even know you wanted. When that happens, shut up and take the gift.

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