My eldest son blew through me like a hurricane for nine long months, intent on getting to his final destination—which was, namely, anywhere outside of my body.
Not one to be easily confined, he clued me in early to his preferences. Sick for roughly eight of those nine months, I wondered what had overcome me. And how someone the size of a raspberry could wreak so much havoc. As I wretched in the ladies’ room and wondered how I’d make it through another meeting without nausea winning, I tried to remember how much I wanted this little guy.
And I so did. Want him, that is. But the loss of control threw me. “Good God,” I said. Often.
I had left my parents’ house years before to move to a bigger city–in part because as the youngest of six daughters, someone in my house always thought they knew better than me. At a certain age, that becomes a bingo game you know you’ll never win. I moved on to freedom in the Big City, at least for 11 years or so. And then someone the size of a raspberry took over. Guess what? He too thought he knew better than me.
He thinks this often, to this very day. He frequently storms out of my house, ranting about knowing what he is doing. He doesn’t. Know what he is doing, that is. Few headstrong 18-year-olds do. I try very hard not to point this out on a regular basis. Sometimes, it requires a zen beyond my capacity and I find myself in the laundry room, violently shoving blankets that probably don’t need washing into the machine. Hey, you have your ways—I have mine. At least no one is harmed in reactionary laundering. Not yet, at least.
The Universe tried to clue me in. It really did. In dreams that now seem prescient, I held my newborn baby boy. He roared, with the head of a lion. You may laugh, but that’s closer to the truth than I can tell you. He has been roaring ever since.
During my pregnancy, I was able to stomach very little. What I did get down was usually tuna or watermelon. Yes, I know that’s not exactly what doctors now tell pregnant women to eat. But, it’s what my tiny dictator would allow. And I laugh wryly as I think of my eldest’s personality. Despite a closet filled with many options, he generally has always worn only four or five shirts. His favorites become well-worn; the rest always hang unused. I guess in clothing—as in prenatal foods—his tastes are distinct. He tolerates little outside of those margins.
After I ate, his father and I would watch my stomach for entertainment. It looked like aliens were duking it out in there. He flipped and rolled in the most uncomfortable ways, 21 ½ inches in a belly not even close to that long. I guess he was doing a little remodeling of the living quarters.
When I became pregnant with my youngest, I prayed for an easier time. It came. Sick only for the “normal” first eight weeks of pregnancy, in my dreams of him I could not tell if he was boy or girl. Only that he had a gentle soul. I rarely got poked or prodded by my tiny tenant. He seemed to know he was just renting and was fine with the accommodations. “Thank God,” I said. With a sigh and a smile.
I knew he had a penchant for ham sandwiches and spicy chicken long before he entered this world—not because I was too nauseous to eat anything else but because of mild cravings. Those were so much more in line with his personality. This was no hurricane. He was a gentle sea breeze rolling into my world. And he still rolls that way much of the time.
I love these boys immensely and equally but relate to them differently. My eldest still likes to blast in like a hurricane, dictate terms, keep the parameters of a relationship per his specifications. And my youngest still needs to be coaxed to put himself in the equation. To make his needs known. While I pride myself on being consistent, their differences call for different sides of me to show up at the table. “Show me, God,” I say. Every day.
For those of you who think you’ve “molded” your child, I’ll stay mum. You can stop reading now before I go there.
Ha. Molded. As if we are master craftspeople who create a soul, instead of being handed one from the divine ether. I have seen many friends think surely their children will be model citizens because they’ve read all the right parenting books. And gone to church. And avoided dyes in their food. And attended mommy-and-me yoga classes, with frequent apple-picking sessions at the orchard. And never raised their voice with their spouse in front of the children. And worked. Or not worked. And played Mozart. Or not.
Most of us don’t want to admit that much of this thing we call parenting is a crapshoot. Stop by any book club and listen to mothers critique those they deem misguided. “I mean, I’m sure she’s trying but they really need to discipline that boy.” “Well, what can you expect when . . .” I won’t even finish. You can fill in the blank. You’ve probably heard it—or said it—before.
I’m not advocating for throw-up-your-hands parenting. I’m just ruminating on the souls who decided to enter my family. The lessons I have tried to teach them. Love. Truth. Laughter. And the lessons they came to teach me, whether as a hurricane or a gentle breeze. Patience. Consistency. Vulnerability. It is a two-way street. Anyone who thinks it’s not is either very lucky and unchallenged by their children, or very misguided in thinking they can run roughshod over those children’s spirits.
The parents I love—the ones I just want to hug—are those who accept their children’s souls. No matter how different. It’s not as hard as most of us make it. Even if at times, it’s not pretty. Or they’re not. Or we’re not.
Show me, God.
Often. With a sigh and a smile. Every day.
As I look back, I realize these words comprised a prayer through the decades. A prayer I’d utter—sometimes softly, sometimes through gritted teeth, sometimes with raised voice. But a prayer nonetheless. Staccato, pieced together like a messy patchwork quilt, over days and hours, weeks and months. Over eldest and youngest. Over my own evolution as a mother.
47 Comments Add yours
They bless you, you bless them, life is good, Kay.
It’s so funny how these things play out. When I was pregnant, T was a soccer player, kicking balls into goal all day long. As a child, he was athletic, but not hyper like he was in utero. I didn’t have any morning sickness per se–I was just starving all the time and craved anything orange or citrus–carrots, oranges, peach juice, grapefruit–but couldn’t bring myself to eat beef, which is pretty much the opposite of who I normally am. And I ended up with a child who was a super-SUPER picky kid but now his favourite food is butter chicken. But remember what Mark Twain said (or something to this effect): “When I was 15, I thought my father was the stupidest man in the world. When I turned 21, I couldn’t believe how much he had learned.”
I sure am hoping my eldest channels Mark Twain! Seriously:). And I hear you on pregnancy taking over your body so completely. I could smell and taste like a bloodhound. I thought for sure you were going to say after all the orange food, your son was a true ginger:).
I love the way you describe the different personalities of your boys and how looking back those different souls were evident even in the womb 🙂
Thanks, Andrea. I’m not sure everyone gets such extremes, but I certainly knew who they were from the get-go:).
Ah Kristine… a mother after me own heart!
Doesn’t it amaze you that you created these both with the same ingredients, ahem, and their take-over of their 9-month lease can be so very different? Mind you, in my case, I can’t say they were all that different, and not to be mean, but what is morning sickness and cravings?
Once they came into the world, one thinks…”I got this”. I so DON’T got this! It’s a crapshoot all the way! Like your two, my two boys are night and day. I have both a hurricane and a not-always-so-gentle-but-very-different breeze. They each have their own way and yes, you can’t act the same with each because they are so different.
Fun stuff this parenting, eh? You do laundry, I cook. Whatever works… mind you, mine may be more dangerous as it does involve knives… as long as they keep out of the kitchen when they breathe my air, they are safe 😉
Aw man–you got away sans morning sickness and cravings? Sheesh. Lucky duck. Cooking–ah yes. I have been known to be particularly vicious with the carrots on the chopping board, from time to time. I’m thinking you don’t want them connecting your cooking with parenting frustration. It’s so good, they’ll be pissing you off just for the soup and cupcakes:)>
Three times, no less – course, the first one was filled with way more other stuff so it balances out, kinda, sorta.
Buahaha! True dat. Let’s keep that manner of dealing with frustration on the down-low. Mind you. Many a time my frustration was taken out on the dishes…
Yes I’ve overheard ‘those’ conversations many times.
It amazes me how many people attribute “good” children solely to their own parenting skills, versus a bit of luck, a bit of skill and the right situation.
Kay, you’re so insightful, love your take on this. My middle son’s birthday is today he’s 50, wow, almost can’t believe it because I still see him as a small kid. I always believed that, you try to do the best you can and you have no control over anything but the hope that, by the grace of God, everything that you tried to instill in them has stuck.
I am a firm believer in the grace of God. And thank you for the kind words! I can believe that in a matter how old they get, you hold them in your heart as they were when a small child. And I think that’s one of the reasons a mother’s love is so awesome :-).
Loved this! The wisdom, the authenticity, the humor, and all your prayers along the way. My prayer for the past several years has been, “This won’t be forever. It will get easier.” And at some point, it always does.
Thank you ☺️. Very kind words and I’m glad this one resonated with you. Your prayer reminds me of the saying about the days being long but the years being short. So very true, right?
Beautiful post, Kristine, and so true. We are given those little souls to guide, not to mold. And it continues with the grandchildren, if my experiences with them are any indication.
Oh, grandchildren! I am not in that stage of life for a while, but Mark mentioned his in his reply–and it really does sound wonderful:). More time, more patience, less work, more magic to share.
That’s true, but I still worry over them and the challenges they face as they grow up. Once a mother, always a mother, right?
Absolutely:). I totally get it.
My mother freely admits she enjoys returning the grandchildren 🤗
Thank you—glad this one resonated. And welcome🙂.
Reading this, I realized some more similarities.
My mom also said my elder brother was constantly rolling, kicking and punching when before birth. He was & still is pretty stubborn.
Me, I was chilled and didn’t cause a lot of discomfort. Maybe there are more similarities.
I have no parenting advice to offer you, other than me and my brother turned out to be good men. Eventually.
And you both turning out to be good men is encouraging! Man, the world could really use good, involved men right about now. Isn’t it funny that you both exhibit the same basic personalities she perceived before you were born? At least you weren’t both stubborn as mules:).
Two souls entered my life too – one who took up residence in my womb and was resilient enough to stay there for nine months when two before him were not. Needless to say, Erik’s arrival in my life was a miracle to me.Two and a half years later, his father and I divorced. My second child was two years older than Erik – she came into my life as my stepchild in my second marriage. Erik was 5 and Luce was 7 and they couldn’t have been more different. One wanted the night light on at night; the other didn’t. One would eat only sandwiches for lunch at school; the other hated sandwiches. And those are just minute details. It was hard at times, but just this weekend Luce,who is now in her 30s, and I spent the day together. At the end of it, she said “I know I don’t tell you often, but I love you very much.” I guess that’s proof that somehow, we made it through.
Oh, I’m sure you welcomed him with great joy. I’ve had friends who have miscarried and it’s a pain I wouldn’t wish upon anyone. Sandwiches:). I had to laugh because mine were similar–one only ate pizza crust, the other cheese. One liked cake frosting, the other the cake. I love that Luce expressed her love to you. I think so many kids feel it and don’t say it, even into adulthood. At least not the way we’d like them to. I don’t think I ever really thanked my parents enough. Beautiful that she could give that to you.
I suspect that some of your readers (also parents) that read your post today breathed a sigh of relief when considering your dual experiences with two souls of different personality styles. Parenting ain’t no joke. If parents aren’t able to love their children just the way they are, they will forever be in a quagmire — my opinion.
However, being kicked while in the belly is one thing, being kicked around outside the belly is another all together. Thankfully, I just adopted the one. He’s does the best he can, but struggles. One thing I know I gave him as take-away was the ability to survive. Good thing too, since he’s still attempting to do just that. I love him anyway!!!
I agree on the quagmire bit. I’m glad you love your son despite his shortcomings. I realize the love stays even when they’re less than lovable to anyone else. But, like you, I do set firm boundaries. Sometimes they’re trounced, other times not. But I’m consistent and it sounds like you are too. A marathon, not a sprint, right?
Yes! A marathon, not a sprint! 🙂
I bow to a master craftswoman dear lady. Us males, never having touched that side of life, can only give ‘assistance’ by fainting in the delivery room or the after affects of changing those unbelievably delirious and colorful nappies, feeding, burping and the odd story book.
But alas both sides must start from scratch each time because, as you have said, each has their own temperament, journey and ‘tests’ for us that they bring with them 😀
In hindsight, and as you also said, it builds all of us, even if the washing machine’s warranty is voided in the first few months 😀
Great post Kristine…and just a thought…how do you think you will be as a much wiser grandmother? All I ever see in them is a smile, but not just any smile but one that says…well, you know, everything! 😀
That’s why I do my research before buying the washing machine:). Heavy-duty, baby. And as a grandmother? Sheesh. Let’s wait a bit, shall we? But, I do think I’ll be ever so much more fun. Particularly since I hopefully won’t be working quite so hard to be the breadwinner. I’ll just be the spoiler:). I love that your grandkids look at you the way you described. That must be the best feeling in the world.
I don’t know, I think it might be because they know what they can get away with 😀
Lovely, lovely meditation on parenting 😀 Apparently I was a model child in utero and my parents obviously expected more of the same. But out in the world, I was the dough that overflowed the cookie cutter, or stuck to it in awkward places. My son’s been a bit the same — easy pregnancy, wild ride for the last 21 years. I’d like to think that the difference is that I have tried to let my boy shape his own cookies — however chaotic that process is proving to be.
Thank you! Kudos to you for letting him shape his own life! It’s hard sometimes, right? I mean we have to set parameters but we can’t bubble-wrap them so they never experience anything.
…and balance has never been my strong point. Something the boy-child has pointed out on more than one occasion 😀
Oh, they love to do that, don’t they? We do learn from them also, that’s for sure . . .
Yep. Mine is studying stuff at Uni that I studied once upon a time, and it’s so cool having these great conversations about Hitchcock movies and Soviet-era film editing.
Oh, I bet it is! I guess I didn’t know you were in film studies. I bet you love having that common bond with him. It’s so great to begin to have more adult conversations . . .
Long time ago — when having a liberal arts education was still recognised as the good thing that it is.
I think that may come back in vogue, with advanced technology able to take over so much . . . being able to think like a human–to feel, etc.–will be seen again as a necessary, good thing.
I hope so — for all our sakes.
My son came along second, and he surprised the hell out of me on a few occasions. I assumed that I knew what I was doing after dealing with his big sister, but he had other things in mind. I got the distinct impression that my two children were born with distinct personalities (souls) right from the get go, and my wife and I adjusted our approaches accordingly.
Yes! And I think that’s what many of us signed up for. We just don’t remember it:). But what a stretch assignment, eh?