This is a repost of the original that I made on FB on Sunday:
Of all the jobs I’ve held in my lifetime, and there have been MANY, being a mother has been the most challenging and the one that has meant the most to me. I liken motherhood to a job, because, truly, it is. Like any job, regardless of any “studying” or “practicing” you may have done, there’s a distinct learning curve you experience when you begin. Like any job, it requires a significant investment of time and effort. Like any job, it has its sacrifices and its rewards. It’s the rewards, however, that set it apart.
I have a confession to make. I was a shitty mom to my first-born child…and she knew it. I was far too young to have a child when she was born. I was immature and selfish. I was completely psychologically and emotionally unprepared to raise a child. Although I did the things that mothers are suppose to do, there was a small, subconscious part of me (that inner child that had never had her own needs met) that secretly resented having to set aside my own needs and wants for those of another. I’m certain Sarah sensed this, as a child will. And she knew I didn’t know what the hell I was doing, too. In fact, as she got older, she often referred to herself as the “first pancake,” because, as inevitably happens with the “first pancake” you pour onto the griddle on a Sunday morning, for some reason it just turns out like crap, regardless of your well-intentioned effort. Sarah certainly took advantage of my naiveté. In retrospect and in light of my aforementioned confession, I guess she deserved to. Right up until that last fateful day in 2005, that girl kept tryin’ to get over on her dumb-ass mama. I’m glad, now, for my situational naiveté, though, and, as strange as it sounds, there’s a part of me that understands why I had to lose Sarah. Losing my first child made me a better mother to my surviving child.
Parenting my first child, poorly, taught me what NOT to do with my second and only remaining child. For instance, I learned that I had to find a balance between holding on and letting go. With Sarah, I tried to exert control over every aspect of her life, with a vice-like grip. It was a battle of wills that I could never win. I was lucky with Jenna. She kind of understood that losing Sarah made me a little over protective. However, as children do, she still pushed us to give her more freedom than was appropriate for someone her age, at times. She forced us to find a balance, and, eventually, we did, I think. Losing Sarah also taught me that our children do not “belong” to us. They belong to the world, and we’re mainly there to help equip them for their role in it. Part of why I was such a shitty first-time parent is not only that I’d had a kid when I was too young, but also that I’d had one for all the wrong reasons. I NEVER would have admitted this at the time, but I was looking for someone to love ME unconditionally. I hadn’t found that in relationships or in my marriage, so, subconsciously, I think I decided to “make” a person that would give me that. Happily, that little person did love me in that way…and more than I’d ever dreamt someone could. Sadly, that’s not what being a parent should be about. It wasn’t fair to Sarah, and it certainly wasn’t enough to heal my deep emotional wounds. Parenting and losing my first child taught me that you need to deal with your own issues before you can give of yourself in the way that a child requires you to.
Most of all, losing a child…losing ANY loved one, makes you value the ones that remain all the more. My child lives nine hours away right now. Soon she’ll be living even further away. The times she is with me are precious. I can’t say that I would’ve fully appreciated these times, if it weren’t for losing Sarah. I don’t know that I would’ve carefully weighed every action, every reaction, every decision regarding Jenna, were it not for my “first pancake” – my first foray into motherhood, my Little Wing.
So, for what it’s worth, here are some truths I’ve learned as a mother. 1. No job will ever give you THAT feeling – the feeling you get when you wrap your arms around your child. 2. Raising a good, self-sufficient, responsible human being is an accomplishment that pales in comparison to any you might achieve in an employment situation. 3. Being a mother WILL change you…for the better, if you let it.
Sarah comes to me in my dreams still, sometimes. Over the years, those visits have become fewer and further between, but the one thing that unifies each of these dreams is the overwhelming need I feel to hug her in them. Every time, in every dream, I find myself wrapping my arms around her tightly. The feeling is so strong that it stays with me, briefly, when I wake. It’s because of those dreams that, when I’m with Jenna and have the chance to hug her, I hug her just a little tighter and just a little longer.
The rewards that come from the hard work, sacrifice, and effort of motherhood are simple yet powerful – the satisfaction you feel from giving the best of yourself to the world in the form of another human being…and, most importantly, the love…always the love.