I am always doing
that which I cannot do,
in order that
I may learn how to do it.
Eleven years ago today, Jacob was born.
I was 21 years old. The company I worked for had gone bankrupt two months earlier and I had no insurance, no job to go back to. I was now officially a mother, a job that I was totally not qualified for. I had not experienced “parenting” in any sort of traditional sense, in fact had sworn never to be a parent myself lest I fail a child as entirely as I felt I had been failed, and, as a bonus, I had zero experience with babies.
I held my own baby, this tiny, fragile thing, in my arms; and watched the nurses with quiet terror.
Did they know my secret- that there was no way I could be a good mother? How could they not see? How could they possibly release this newborn into my care? I bluffed my way through until it was time to be released from the hospital and then a new fear grabbed hold- how would I manage when I arrived home?
I think back to the girl I was and I can still physically feel the echoes of that fear- so intense that it is forever seared in my consciousness, my nerves scarred for life.
My heart aches when I dwell on the months and years that I second-guessed myself, when I felt that I was the worst mother on earth, when I was afraid that others would discover this about me. I distanced myself from former friends to reduce the odds of discovery. I was certain that I was wrecking my children, that I was not the mother they needed.
I wish I could tell that girl to take it easy, to not worry about what it meant to be the perfect parent, to enjoy the baby years that passed by so quickly.
I wish I could show her what an admirable and remarkably well-adjusted child Jacob has turned out to be: with her slightly twisted sense of humor and love of reading, with his father’s natural athleticism and solidness and capability. A child who likes to experiment and discuss, a child who can be ridiculous and silly and infuriating one moment and a wonderfully supportive big brother the next. A thinker and a dreamer, and with an easygoing confidence with people that he certainly inherited from neither of his parents.
A child to be proud of, and oh, less a child each year.
My son, who led me down a road I didn’t intend to travel, who taught me so much about myself, who both softened my heart and inspired me to be strong. Who restored my faith in my own worth and in the goodness of other people. It is for his sake, for Maverick’s and Cassidy’s sake, for the sake of everyone’s children that I am determined to leave this world better than I find it, in whatever small and big ways that I can.
I think of it as a gift as well as a duty. But don’t worry- I gave him a normal gift too.
Happy birthday, bud.