I am a great mom to babies and toddlers. I loved nursing my kids, playing “This Little Piggy Goes to Market” with their toes, tickling their squishy bellies while they giggled, reading them stories, drawing endless scribbles with chunky crayons… and then later, showing them colors and numbers, playing “what sound does this animal make?” games all the live long day.
I was that mom, talking constantly to my children when they were too young to really understand. A trip to the grocery store became a learning adventure: “These are apples! Aren’t they yummy to eat? What color are the apples? See, some of these apples are red, some are yellow and some are green!” Which color apple do you like? Oh, you think we should get the red ones?” and so on.
I loved it, every moment of it.
I intended to be a homeschooling mom, but Drew and I divorced, and I found myself on a different life path. I cried when Lakin started kindergarten and Addah went into Montessori preschool so I could work. I wanted to be the one teaching them all of those new and exciting things.
As luck would have it, they loved school and still do. The love of learning new things has been well instilled in them. Lakin is the only child I’ve ever known who checks encyclopedias out of the library for pleasure reading. Addah would rather draw for hours than play a video game. I give myself the credit for that.
I moved on, adapting to being the mom of older kids. I don’t think I’m nearly as good at this stage of parenting as I was at the early stages, but I realize that our life circumstances probably contribute to that as well. When the girls were young, we didn’t have to worry about money as much. We had a stable place to live, a new car and a credit card or two. We had medical insurance. I ran my own business, and it gave me a great deal of self-confidence. I had wonderful friends that I met through that business. Many of them had kids about the same ages as mine, and I could bounce ideas and feelings off of them without worry of rejection.
Life isn’t as easy as it was back then. Money is always an object and a worry now. David has been at his job for six months, his first stable (i.e. not temporary assignment) job in almost four years. We live with friends, and have for a year now. There are five kids in this household… our two plus their three, and it stays chaotic a lot of the time. Until last week, we have been driving a car that won’t start most of the time, for almost a year.
Things are slowly looking up… but they have been bad, and during the last year of financial despair, it has been hard to be a great mom. I don’t have the patience that I used to. I don’t have the time to sit and do craft projects as often as I would like to. I can’t always stop finagling the budget spreadsheet for long enough to show Addah how to knit or to make homemade lip gloss with Lakin.
Our new baby was our symbol of things getting better. The name Clara means “clear, bright” and the name Edith means “prosperous in war”… and though we had already picked her name before we looked up the meanings, this seemed appropriate to us. Our future would finally be clear and bright, and we would become more prosperous after the long war on poverty we had been waging. We would have the things we have wanted for so long, that everyone else seems to have… a house, a car, a career, insurance. Our new daughter would herald the way of this new future for our family.
But now she’s gone, and we’re left to go on with our plans without her. I find myself mired in depression and uninterested in filling out applications for apartments and subsidized housing, all the while feeling a deep need to be out of our friends’ house and into our own space. All of the things that I envisioned are different now. An entire Pinterest board of wonderful ideas for baby knitting, toddler crafts and baby-wearing slings has given way to plans for our baby’s memorial service and ideas for the shrine I have created for her on the top of my desk.
This is what it’s like to be the mom of a child who will never grow up.
I have wondered so many times if I’m doing a good enough job at being the mom of children who are growing up so quickly, but I don’t want to lose any more time. I want to be the mom I used to be, before life got hectic and unstable. I want to appreciate and celebrate all of the moments, big and small… for the two who will grow to be women and the one who never will.
I just have to figure out how to do that.
“Even if I knew that tomorrow the world would go to pieces, I would still plant my apple tree.”
~ Martin Luther ~