Wild thoughts go through your head when you’re pregnant, scary thoughts like, ‘Why should I cave in to societal pressures and not sprinkle pretzels on top of my pie a la mode?’
Once you have the child, other fears take over, many irrational. When my daughter Amanda was born nearly 14 years ago, I was seized by one in particular. Awakened in a sweat in the middle of the night, it plagued me.
What would I do if her hair grew to a length where it became necessary for some sort of accessory or other apparatus?
Thankfully, by the age of two she wouldn’t let me near her hair. But at one point when she was four and her bangs weren’t long enough to keep in a ponytail, I suggested a double pony and, being four, she went along with it, resulting in kind of a Carrie Fisher, Star Wars look I believe they’re still talking about at Banner Day Camp.
When my son Alec came along nearly three years later, I figured it would be a snap. No hair anxiety. And I could at least appear much more competent.
So I went to work. When he was three, I dissected his throw.
“He’s throwing fine,” my husband said. “Leave him alone.”
But I didn’t care for his follow-through and the little hitch in his stride.
“He isn’t hitching,” my husband said. “He just got big-boy underpants. LEAVE HIM ALONE.”
But I persisted. And by age eight, he was still so conflicted by my earlier attempts at coaching that it took him approximately five minutes to release the ball, which often traveled the length of his leg.
“YOUR fault,” my husband would say, pointing at me.
This pretty much sums up motherhood for me.
Blame and guilt.
But I joke, of course.
I look at my daughter now, about to graduate eighth grade and so achingly close to adulthood, and all I can see is that scene in my bedroom not long after taking ownership from the hospital. Just her and me, the first real time we were alone after my husband returned to work and visitors left, a moment so frightening that I truly wasn’t sure if I could do it solo.
I remember thinking I was not normal, that the baby is supposed to come out and fall into your arms and you are supposed to be crazy in love without a second thought. You are not supposed to look at this person like the stranger she is, someone whose painful sounding cries confound you and turn you inside out.
I stuck in a cassette tape that someone had bought us with all the songs featuring her name. “Hey Amanda,” the man sang, “sing along with me. Shake, shake, shake it, like a monkey in a tree.”
And so I shook, shook, shook it, singing and dancing around the room with my new dance partner, losing all previous traces of cool and self-consciousness. She was a new toy for me, and I for her, and we were feeling each other out. She wanted to cry, I’m sure of it, but she picked an ideal time to stop.
I laid her on our bed in just her diaper, and for the first time really looked at my baby, inhaled her, kissed her deliciously soft skin up one side and down the other, shed my fears and fell, at that precise moment, madly and passionately and forever in love with my daughter.
I look at my sweet Alec, whose heart beats inside my own, who seems to feel my joy and my pain and I, his, more acutely than anyone. I remember the first day of kindergarten, when the children were asked to stand and introduce themselves to the class, the teacher leading the way by standing and saying, “Hello, my name is Mrs. Singer.”
And I remember her pointing to Alec, and my shy little boy taking his turn first, bravely getting out of his chair and proudly announcing, “Hello, my name is Mrs. Singer.”
The adults giggled and Alec blushed and then he slapped his forehead and said, “I always do that.”
What a sport. What a kid.
What an amazing thing motherhood is.