Thursday, September 18, 2008

The Muse: A Mother's Heart

He looks uncertain, a little nervous and yet interested as he looks out the window at the world passing by him. It's a new environment, and even though he can't see very far or focus on much, he knows he's not at home. He knows his neighborhood and the comforts of his home, and this is not it. I watch his eyes grow wide as his hands clench and release, which is normal for his young age and limited control, but this is different. To me it's a sign of processing what's going on around him. I give him my hand to reassure him that I am there and it's alright. We are just going on a trip, and he's not alone. He grabs my finger and holds on tight. He looks in my general direction although it is uncertain whether he is really looking at me or not, but he knows I am there. He knows my voice. At this moment, I am aware of the great responsibility I hold as his mother. I am not just the person who takes care of him everyday and makes sure he is safe, but I am the one who must teach him about the world around him and help him to understand what he sees and hears. It is overwhelming. And at the same time, I am filled with the greatest sense of love and admiration for this little man who has been entrusted to my care. I am empathetic to his situation coming to a world that is so new and unfamiliar, trying to get used to a body that is often complex and uncooperative, trying to understand and communicate with people who do not speak the same language. It is my job to make him as comfortable as possible during this transition we call life.

And yet I find myself doing things that inevitably make him uncomfortable because I know they will be better for him. It is no small or easy thing to place my child down while he screams and cries wanting only to be in my arms, which is where I want him too. But for both our sakes, I must teach him how to sit on his own for short periods of time. This is his first lesson in independence. It is not meant to cause separation anxiety or give him a feeling of insecurity, but rather help him develop his own personal strength and push his limits as to what he can handle. He doesn't know it yet, but he is a very strong little man. It breaks my heart to watch him cry to the point of red face, holding breath, tears and going hoarse, but what is the alternative? Creating a child who must be held all the time and cannot face the world without a hand to hold. That to me would be detrimental to my son, who will have to stand strong and know who he is every day of his life. I want to pick him up, hold him close and keep him safe from all that may harm him, and that is easy to do when he is small and travel size. But what about when he is old enough to be alone at school or when he is a teenager with his friends or at college? What then? If I have not taught him how to be strong and comfortable through his own merits, I have done him a fatal disservice. But it hurts. It hurts to be a mother.

I can only imagine what this is preparing me for in the future. I know there will be many times I must watch my children suffer for their own good, restraining myself from stepping in and removing whatever trial or struggle plagues them. That would be like helping the butterfly out of the cocoon and unintentionally messing with the one thing that makes it possible for them to fly. Their destiny would have been frustrated because I interfered. I can recall many times my own mother had to step back and watch me make mistakes and suffer. It was not easy for her, I am certain. But I had to learn. And so I did. But there are rewards for mothers along the way, which makes the pain more bearable. God was merciful and wise in his plan. How he knew mothers needed smiles, hugs, appreciation, looks of love and tenderness and the happiness of their children. As much as motherhood is for the benefit of the child, it is just as much an essential learning experience for the mother. Every day I am learning about sacrifice and empathy and love. I am learning how to teach my child in ways I never could have understood until now. How often I just look at my son and say to my husband, "I just love him." And I do, even when he keeps me up at night and refuses to take naps and hates sitting in his chair and cries for no reason and pulls my hair and dislikes being put down. I love him anyway, and I am reminded of where he is in life... still learning. Still so young and unfamiliar. Still somewhat uncertain. Whatever frustrations and pride and irritations have crept in are washed away and I am filled with humility. He will learn from me no matter what, but it is up to me to learn all I can from him. And if I don't, I will be missing a very choice opportunity.

It hurts to be a mother. It stretches and pulls and yanks at the heart. It forces me to dig deep every single day to be the best kind of mother I possibly can to give my son every opportunity and advantage in this life to help him reach his potential and not only survive but thrive in an increasingly difficult world. It is the best thing that has ever happened to me and also the most difficult. As there must be opposition in all things, it brings more joy than I ever could have imagined.

1 comment:

Sarah said...

Nikki, when are you going to get that book on motherhood out? I mean, I just love reading your posts when you talk about motherhood specifically because you take the words right out of my mouth when I just don't know how to articulate them. Thank you for that! It is for sure a struggle that will last forever I am sure, but you're right, I never thought of it that way . . . we need the opposition in all things. Thanks!