I am really excited to have Maggie Singleton guest posting today for the second time on this blog. (You can read her first guest post about being married to an enginerd here.) Maggie has a serious talent for finding the extraordinary in the ordinary, and writing about it so sincerely and in such a relatable way that you feel like you’re having a conversation with a good friend. I also happen to know the reason she is able to do this is because that is exactly who she is in real life. A really, really good friend. Enjoy!
My three-year old was trying to mend his “Yego mazagine” the other night. I found him some tape and he immediately began pulling strand upon strand off the roll. Another $2.94 well spent. He then helped himself to the BIG SCISSORS he discovered in our messy drawer. I did not hover. I did not take the scissors away. Quite frankly, I didn’t even bat an eye.
Our oldest, Laura, entered the room and immediately (instinctually?) tried to take the scissors away from him—imploring my help.
“Laura, it’s OK with me if he has the scissors,” I reassured her. “You take care of Laura and I’ll take care of Leo.” (I swear I say that in my sleep.)
“But Mom! He could get hurt. And you never let me do that when I was that little.”
You know, she makes a good point.
“You’re totally right, honey. But…I’m a different mom than I was then.”
Laura—a little dejected yet satisfied with my answer—went off to finish her homework; Leo continued to cut little 1/16 inch triangles off the tape with the BIG scissors, and I was left to reflect on what I had just said. I guess I am a different mom now. Although I can’t really blame Laura for the way she reacted. After all, I’m positive that her first encounter with scissors was a dramatically different story: I’m sure I hovered. I’m sure I worried. I’m sure that every fiber of my being wanted to take the scissors away from her or at the very least guide her fingers to make sure every.single.cut she made stayed on the line I had drawn for her. I can almost see the parachute falling from the sky.
I wish I could say this “scissors incident” is where my old mom-self ended, but that would be a lie. There’s plenty where that came from. Actually, for the first three years of Laura’s life, I called her a barnacle because she was more like an extra appendage than her own person. I distinctly remember being aggravated one particular morning, meeting some moms at a nearby museum for a playdate. All the other moms were chatting it up while their kids happily ran off and played. Meanwhile, Laura was cemented to my leg with no departure plan in sight. I just wanted her to go and play so badly…I craved that time with other moms so much, and I was concerned I might never get it at that rate. I lacked the perspective to know that in a matter of months, my little barnacle would be off and running the minute we arrived somewhere. These days I hold Leo as tightly as he will let me—knowing how fast he will be off and running soon, too.
Watching Laura learn to write provided a great deal of irrational old mom-self behavior too. It hit me when she received birthday cards signed from some of her friends. Oh.crap. At that point, no matter how many times I quizzed her with, “What letter does s-s-s-s-snake start with!?” she showed very little interest in knowing her letters—much less writing them. She was much more interested in caterpillars and worms and making sure I had a chance to hold the creepy beady-eyed beetle she had found in the yard. But alas, when all hope was nearly lost, she began using her quiet time to practice letters. (I guess anything beats a nap.) She penned pages upon pages of nothing but letters. Chapters! And they were pristine. Tell me again why I spent so much time worrying about this? There was never a need to hover and shove letters down her throat. A little time and space was all she needed. These days, with just another year before Leo joins his “sistos” in real school, I try not to keep dibs on his academic pursuits quite so closely. I know it will come in its own time. My momspective tells me so.
Yep, I was a different mom then. I realize now that the mom I was wanted Laura to fly away, but I hadn’t told her how to use her wings. I guess I was worried that they wouldn’t be adequate. Or they wouldn’t look as shiny as the others. Or they would get stuck in a big gust of wind and falter—and I wouldn’t be there to catch her. So I did all of the flying for her.
As she grows and matures, I realize the folly of my ways. Now I just wish I could somehow project my third-kid momspective to the gauntlet of upcoming challenges that will find me as a new mom all over again. Maybe, just maybe, the next time a new situation comes our way, I will let Laura spread her wings for herself—and even more importantly, let her fall from the sky—knowing that despite her wounds, she will fly again.
Maggie Singleton is an author, blogger, editor, and an advocate for women married to enginerds. She’s also always good for picking up your kid from preschool at the last minute when you find yourself in a pinch because you are stuck in the only checkout lane open at Walmart, manned by their most inefficient employee, but I’ll be damned if you’re going to abandon ship only to come back to that hell hole later with your kid in tow to purchase the same stuff that is sitting in your basket at this very moment.
You can find her brilliant book Milk Diaries: a compilation of practical, encouraging advice from the “real” breastfeeding experts on Amazon. Go read more of Maggie on her own blog at Perspective Writing and Editing.