What Happens When

Lately all I see when I see grown people is what they looked like as babies. When I drive through the poorest area in Tallahassee to go to our bank, I see a girl with a stony stare and long legs leaking out of her shorts into orange high heels laced up her calves, and I think, she was someone’s baby.  She cooed and tried to roll over and stopped crying when someone she trusted picked her up. Everyone was a baby. All the world’s hardship and hatred—it was all someone’s little helpless child once.

I’ve met a lot of moms and kids on playgrounds over the last couple months and we’re all trying to get our kids to say “please” more and “no” less. We all say “be careful!” about the same set of monkey bars and we ask if the slide is wet and if they’d rather play with the other kids than swing the whole time. I don’t understand how mothers can be so similar and children turn out so differently.

I know that what I like to do more than almost anything is smile at William so he’ll smile back. I don’t even care when he cries or wakes up every hour and half to nurse at night. Here I am: motherhood. I made it. I would do anything for my children.

And to get here was a lot like potty training.  Everyday I do not believe Clara is potty-trained, yet she will go hours at home without a diaper and use her potty. She’ll mutter  in the middle of dinner, “I have to potty” and get up and go.  There were a few key moments along the way—the very first pee, of course, and the first time she went without being asked. Mostly, though, it’s been a long, three-steps-forward and two-steps-backward process. She wasn’t potty-trained until suddenly she was, and even then, it’s hard to believe that failure + failure + failure could equal success.

Sometimes the real, elusive, ever-loving, ever-sacrificing motherhood never seemed possible until one day and then another day I started to feel it much like when a toddler finally figures out what “do you have to go to the bathroom” really means. Now, when the librarians stroke William’s cheek tenderly and say, “I could take him home with me,” I get it. I get how failing is never the same as trying because trying is often the same as loving. I get how the love of a child or the settling of a baby in your arms ALWAYS makes you feel right.

What I don’t get yet is how babies grow up to have stony stares and leggy legs.  I saw a mom on a playground a couple weeks ago. She was strung out on something but still, she kept slurring to her kid: be careful. I think motherhood is not a place you arrive at and stay indefinitely. I think it’s a place you have to keep returning to, and sometimes, for whatever reason, people—even mothers—stop trying. Eventually though, like potty-training, you try long enough and the effort slides away until the trying is easy and natural and you no longer have to try, to try.

Regardless, it’s good to be here with my dolls and their dolls . . .

September 2012 007

This is what “Clara, can you watch William for a sec while I get a glass of water?” looks like.

September 2012 014

We made something called “Halloween Bark” this week. Mostly, Clara got to help bang things on the counter.

September 2012 015

Sweetest boy ever.

September 2012 018

Clara has eight jigsaw puzzles of animals and vehicles. She puts all eight together everyday, fairly obsessively.

September 2012 019

My mom made Clara this adorable hat and jacket set. Like made it with fabric and buttons and stuff.

September 2012 025

She also made this pretty little nightgown. Not pictured is a pillow I recently tried to “make.” I think one day I’ll have the patience for things like hemming,too, but for now, there’s too many people asking me for chocolate milk.

October 2012 002

Everyone morning Clara has to “nuggle baby” either in our bed or on his play mat.

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