We celebrated my oldest son’s fourth birthday today. By we, I mean him and I and more than a dozen of his friends, because his little brother is still recovering from a stomach bug and his dad agreed to stay home with him.
What I mean is, I have been a mother for (pretty much) four years. It’s hardly enough to count as “experienced,” but when I look back at that New Mom me, I know I’ve come a long way. I know what to do when my kid pukes in the car. I know that this birthday experience was just one trial in the long, unproctored and ungraded test of parenthood. I know that there really isn’t one book out there that has all the correct answers for any one parent.
As his birth date approaches, I feel stuck as to what to say.
I want to brag about him – he really is amazing! – but I’m finally feeling the crush of the unspoken pressure of social media, the one that’s annoyed by bragging mums. (Probably especially by me. This kid is seriously great. He’s been mountain biking! He can recognize all the numbers up to 100! He can count by twos and build LEGO stuff meant for kids 6-12 years old BY HIMSELF! Did I mention he’s turning four?)(<-See?)
I’m feeling the strain to recover my voice. Where have I been? Who wants to hear? Is this writer’s block? But am I legitimately a writer?
I’m feeling the guilt of being an insufficient mother to this beautiful child. There’s also the gut-curdling vulnerability of admitting it and confessing that, way more than I’d like to admit, I’m far from the calm, connected and patient mother that he deserves.
Then there’s shame of being judged for not being upbeat, or funny, or helpful in putting this out there. It rides next to the shame of being so uncomfortable in large group settings – like today’s party – where I find authenticity to be really difficult and miss opportunities to connect with people who I really find interesting.
P.S. My big little guy is turning FOUR! Wha? How? When did this happen?
Does anyone else get this?
I am looking forward to a proper intimate family birthday celebration later this week. I’m eager to overcome this pesky writer’s block; that bugger Self-Doubt plagues bloggers everywhere once in a while, talking us into keeping quiet so we don’t run the risk of, perhaps, embarrassing ourselves.
ANYhow. Four years in and I’m feeling comfortable but uncomfortable enough to cringe when other moms tell me they don’t remember adults’ names, but they remember to which kid you belong. Whether this is good or bad for me may depend on the context of my husband’s military career. It’s fun for the kids here, now… but we’ll have our next orders by the end of spring. Will they mean starting over from scratch? Again?
To my son I promise that the post on his actual birthday won’t be about me. As transformative as motherhood has been, he deserves to be celebrated for being just who he is. Because he really is the greatest.
If you have tips for maintaining your identity while raising small children, I’d love to hear from you in the comments below!