A few weeks ago I was at a dinner with my son Sam and some other grown ups. We were chatting and making small talk. I was going on about blogging and writing and how I studied rhetoric in graduate school. I’d like to say that a look of awe came over my son’s face as he saw me—really saw me—as a person for the first time. But it didn’t. He probably wasn’t really even paying attention.
But, it did feel revealing. I felt almost shy. There are moments like this from time to time as my kids get older when I feel like I’m revealing my true personality to them. I haven’t been overtly lying to them since they were babies but it’s kind of like: Guess what kids? I don’t actually super love the Wiggles!
My mom persona for little kids is a lot more enthusiastic and positive (if such things could ever be said about me) than I am in real life. I’m not hiding anything from them. It’s just that in the day to day life with babies, toddlers, and preschoolers my Master’s thesis doesn’t exactly come up. Ever. I also try not to be sarcastic since they don’t really get it. And they have no idea how much I hate some other people or how I nurture thoughts of vengeance, self-pity, and spite. Because I’m trying to teach them not to do that.
They also don’t know very many facts about me. They don’t know I threw my bra on stage at a Robert Plant concert or that canned beets make me want to vomit. They don’t know not just because they don’t care, they shouldn’t care. Developmentally they won’t care. Facts about me are irrelevant to my little children. But slowly it becomes more interesting/relevant to them.
I think the first 10 years of parenting are about getting to know your baby. The next 10 years they will get to know you. Beyond that, I have no idea.
The trajectory of motherhood for me has been this: Starting with pregnancy I began subverting my own needs and submitting to the will of my kids. It’s necessary. If anyone tells you otherwise they are foolish.
Then—slowly—I started to rediscover* myself. I remember when I got iTunes. It had been years since I had listened to grown up music in the car or at the house. It was fun to jump back into music because it’s so important to me. I started making playlists for my kids and trying to shape their musical taste. Now with teens and tweens in the house music is something we talk about every day. You’ll want something to talk about with your teens and tweens.
This rediscovery is not just for your own well-being but for the well-being of your kids. A teenager doesn’t need a happy-talking baby Einstein’s narrator. They need a fleshed-out person to exemplify and relate to. This year we talked a lot and very seriously about the election. Because I don’t have to “dumb it down” for them anymore, I have to tell them really and in detail what I think. It feels weird. I explain things to my younger kids in simpler, more general terms. Now that my oldest son likes to hang out with the adults after dinner and listen to our discussions, I’ve become hyper-aware of the things we talk about. It’s like he never knew me before.
*I use this word reluctantly. It sort of creeps me out. That’s something else my kids don’t know about me.