I think it may be possible that a mom’s greatest challenge lies in the contrast of knowing that she will be the biggest source of love and support for her children, as well as the provider of some of their greatest challenges.
I challenge any mom out there to refute the fact that kids push their boundaries, and “test out” new behaviours more with us than with any other person in their young lives. In fact, if I ever painted the picture of some of Audra’s outbursts to her adored grade two teacher, I have no doubt that she would be astounded. Audra’s school personality is exemplary – while the one saved for me demonstrates every possible shade of emotion and behaviour.
My experience has demonstrated time and again, that some of the biggest issues, memories and beliefs start and end with our mothers. I “get it” that we are their safe testing ground. I mean, if we think about it, it all makes sense. After all, for the first few years of life, that mother-baby bond is so innately glued, and mom is the center of that child’s universe – even if she is not the only caregiver. She is the life-giver – both in having given birth, and in having nourished them from her own body – and the love-giver in being the constant preference for all cuddles, comforts and routines. For a relatively short time, the sun rises and sets on mom, including her baby’s perceptions of the world in general, and their world in particular. A beautiful thing – and yet, within this is the formation of most of our earliest memories, our earliest beliefs, and our perceptions of love, loss, betrayal, abandonment, joy, curiosity, fear, anger – and all in the complete safety of mom’s arms.
And that same mom can be a ray of sunshine or a thundercloud.
I believe that we all possess all sides of human nature. And in my experience, they all come out strongly during those early, hormonal, sleep-deprived years. In fact, it wasn’t until I became I mom that I became aware of many of my own less-than-stellar traits – like being impatient, having a temper, and having very high (sometimes unrealistic) expectations of myself. Fortunately, it also brought out some of the positives, like more playfulness, creativity and empathy. How can it be anything other than universal plan to connect two human beings to such a level, while challenging a mom’s level of self control by pushing her to the limits? It must be part of the design that this same loving relationship can provide a young child with his or her first challenges – all while in a loving and safe environment.
Now that Ethan and Audra are older, I see more clearly how my role as their mom provides challenges for them. After all, in my attempts to love them, keep them safe and keep them healthy, I have many rules that I expect them to follow. I (somewhat reluctantly) become the enforcer in many ways. Eat healthy food. Get good sleep. Get outside. Turn off electronics. Do your homework. Practice your guitar.
If I’m not careful, I may sound more like a drill sergeant than a loving mom. Even when it’s all coming from a place of love, I am not naive enough to expect them to like it all – nor to follow it all without question. (although that would be nice sometimes, I really don’t subscribe to the vision of my children as sheep – even if I am one of the leaders) It would be nice to be able to let go of the rules and just let them be. Instead, in my best attempts to be a good parent, I recognize that they won’t always agree with me, nor like my rules or explanations. And I have to accept the fact that they will likely feel every emotion under the sun towards me.
Even though I expect this, I resist being one of the sources of challenge for my children. And yet, I know with a sad resignation that it may be deemed to be so. So while this will likely be a lifelong challenge for me – in my belief and knowing that everything in life has a balanced & equal nature – I have to accept that the challenges I myself unintentionally provide for my children will be counterbalanced by the love, joy and strength that I also provide for them.
Oh, but it is still hard when my nature is to protect them from all pain and hurt. And it brings me back to the realization that a mom’s job is one of constantly letting go. Just like holding my breath as they run, bike and climb for their first times, I cant’ let my fear of them hurting themselves get in the way of the growth and accomplishment that comes from mastering a new height. And so, I guess my only choice is to continue to love them, support them, and be their biggest challenge – and their biggest source of love and acceptance.
No wonder the pain of childbirth exists – it ushers in the balance of joy and exhilaration that comes with motherhood. I guess then, that I have to accept that this heartache of motherhood will also be accompanied by its counterpart of joy and happiness. Perhaps my learning here is that it is all perfect – but we don’t have to be.