Twenty years ago today, I began my morning by giving birth.
Michael is my youngest. Unlike his older brother whose birth (28 months earlier) went on throughout an entire day and included being sent home from the hospital to wait—Michael arrived so quickly on January 20th that I didn’t have time for my epidural.
And this little distinction might possibly be the most fascinating part of mothering.
Don’t get me wrong, because I’m still learning. But it’s been my experience that discovering the uniqueness of each of our children is mind-blowing. And not just ‘accepting’ these differences, like we accept our fate
or accept the bad weather
or accept that we have to pay taxes
but staying utterly curious and interested to learn more about them.
Which is completely different from having a vision for who we want them to be.
Ah, it’s a humbling process and it never stops. Being careful not to “brand” our kids with our own unfulfilled dreams and allowing their inner selves to keep unfolding before us. It’s the drawing-outside-the-lines kind of parenting and it will challenge us to stretch our little egos until they feel like cracking. Which is not necessarily a bad thing.
But if you’re a mother or father I don’t have to tell you this. You’re living it too. And maybe you’ll indulge me while I remember a few things on this special day.
Patrick running up and climbing on my hospital bed and being excited and curious when I gave him a brightly wrapped present—was it a Spiderman figure? I can’t remember now—but I said,
“Look-it Patrick. This is from your new little brother, Michael.”
His brown eyes got big as he held the present and he said, “Really?!” before he tore into it. Truthfully, he wasn’t too interested in seeing this new brother who must have seemed quite boring just laying there swaddled in his cotton blanket.
But I considered it a great first impression. Who wouldn’t love a toy-carrying brother fresh outta heaven?
I used to joke that for the first year of his life Michael thought that Patrick was a colorful, entertaining cartoon. Michael with his easy, calm demeanor, and big blue eyes- lit up at the sight of Patrick. He would sit in his baby stroller laughing and kicking his legs while he watched his brother in his play group or running around at his Gymboree class.
Later when Michael started to talk, his Rs sounded like Ws and he could be hard to understand at times. Patrick quickly got into the habit of being a translator and often amazed us with his ability to understand EVERYTHING Michael said. It was inexplicable, like their own personal language.
Although I found his speech idiosyncrasies flat-out adorable.
I remember being in a Nordstrom’s bathroom with him when he was about preschool age and when we came out of the stall there was a line of chic looking women from the cosmetic department dressed in black, standing at the long mirror applying lipstick. It was utterly silent when Michael asked me in his husky little voice, “Mom. Why do girls pee outta their butts?”
It was the one time I was SO relieved he was hard to understand.
I remember Michael always called me, “Mom” and Patrick called me “Momma.” And he still does, even at age 22.
“Hey Momma, what’s sup?” is a common text I see.
I notice they seem opposites in their temperament but they laugh at the same things, and have similar tastes in music and food.
“Just get me what Michael gets” Patrick will say when it comes to ordering food today. And visa versa.
One is more fiery and rebellious. The other steady, with a steely determination. When I’m with them now I notice they are both what I’d describe as socially astute when it comes to understanding people and dynamics.
Recently I found myself driving in the car with Michael when I was exasperated with his brother about one thing or another. I saw Michael smile and shake his head. “Mom, it’s so funny to listen to you guys go at it. He’s just like You… that’s why you guys butt heads.”
And even though privately I thought, “god I enjoy this kid.” I laughed and acted shocked.
But later it occurred to me how that comment was the closest that one brother will ever get to criticizing another. It seems outrageous to admit this, but I can’t remember ever hearing one brother saying a mean word to the other. They just never fought.
And though I’ve always attributed it to their age difference, now I see it differently. Now I understand it as a kind of loyalty. And I admire it.
They make me crazy with worry. They do dumb-guy things, keep sloppy rooms and they are a steady mirror of my deficiencies, reminding me how to let go.
To stop clinging.
And to stay off any preachy pedestal because their lives today remind me of my own rebellious, wild self that needed to go. To experience precious independence so that I could fall and get back up many times on my way to becoming ME
And not someone else’s version of ME.
Our kids are a living, breathing reminder –everyday-- of the importance of choosing one’s own path in life.
And the importance of not giving a damn what others think when it comes to your kids.
Are you happy with your own path? Because we don’t get do-overs through our kids. This is their chance, their own journey and it’s a hard truth to face. One that has me occasionally repeating a mother’s mantra for college age kids and above,
“Leslie.. get over yourself.”
Which I’ve learned, is almost a-perfect-kind-of-love.
Today I am not a mother. I am a bottomless ocean of love with skin. And I am blown away by the gift of my children.
Happy Birthday Mike-Mike.
I don’t know why… but I feel so sentimental about your 20th birthday