My "Mom-ission" Statement
In October of 2000, my life changed forever. Turned upside-down actually. Huge upheaval.
My beautiful daughter was born and in those first several months I felt like I was walking through a thick haze of dark gray, slimy sticky gooey clouds while juggling a slinky made of over-cooked linguini. Oh, and the ground had turned into quicksand.
This exquisite little unsuspecting creature had no clue that her mother didn’t have a maternal bone in her body. I felt like a “fish-out-of-water” in the beginning. It didn’t help that I had to recover from a C-section while dealing with the inability to produce enough milk to feed my newborn, and an unsupportive husband who thought I was crazy. Did I mention I had post-partum depression? See the link below “Postpartum Depression – My Story and What I Did to Fix It”. Regardless of my struggles, I knew I’d better get some skills before my daughter caught on to me.
But besides all that, I had never felt this type of pure and uncontaminated love before. It was a soothing - wrap you in a warm blanket - kind of love that was all-consuming. I couldn’t take my eyes off her and showered her with hugs and kisses all day, every day. I was amazed by her beauty and this love I felt was so completely whole and undiluted. It was, at times, overwhelmingly terrifying as I realized the naivety of a child is a commodity in this harsh innocence-claiming world.
However, my role was clear. I not only was supposed to love her, care for her and teach her, I was also supposed to protect her. From the first moment I saw her I vowed to do anything and everything in my power to protect her from this scary and flawed world. Queue my most ferocious version of a 10 foot tall, up on her hind legs, momma-bear!
The beginning was rough, I’m not gonna lie. I wasn’t having a lot of fun. I was afraid to go to the store by myself with her for the first few months. It was winter time anyway but I had no idea what I was doing and I was afraid of so many things seen and unseen. Watching the news was scary as I heard stories of people’s children being abducted from their bedroom, or while riding their bike, or from a Wal-Mart shopping cart. I had nightmares that one minute she was in the cart and I stepped three steps away to grab a large pack of diapers, turned around and she was gone.
January 2001 – T-Day. I had to mentally prepare myself the night before for our first solo excursion to Target. I decided that no matter what, I was following through with my plan. The best time would be between her morning feeding and her nap. The next morning it was snowing – not a blizzard but enough to be annoying. But it was now or never; so bag over-flowing, I packed up all the necessary supplies in preparation for any unexpected baby emergencies, bundled her up, buckled her in the reverse-facing five point harness car seat, and off we went. During the 7 minute drive, I was able to talk myself out of my usual fears and by the time we arrived I was ready for our first solo mommy/baby excursion.
I arrived at the store parking lot, put the car in park and beamed with pride that we made it safely. Then panic set in as I realized I have to walk all the way over to the cart corral, grab a cart, and bring it back to the car to load up my baby. This meant I had to leave my baby in the car… alone… for at least sixty seconds while I fetched the cart. I turned the car back on and moved it closer to the cart corral.
I loaded up the cart with the gigantic diaper bag – leaving barely enough room for anything I wanted to purchase. After thoroughly disinfecting every square inch of that cart, I clamped on the car seat. One more check to make sure I had everything and off we went!
With a skip in my step, I entered the doors to Target so proud of myself that I was able to put aside my fears and take her out for our first solo trip. Grinning from ear to ear, my eyes met with the sweetest looking older woman who promptly told me “That baby should be at home, where it’s warm; not out in this cold weather!” Terror immediately shot through my body but without showing it, I responded with “Oh she’s fine” and I hurried to the infant section, grabbed some baby formula, quickly got back in the car and drove home.
The depression had a hold on me but luckily I found a doctor who helped me and with medication, the dark cloud eventually lifted. Following through with my "Mom-ission" I was now able to have fun while fully focusing on being the best mom I could be with no excuses!
We eventually got into our groove and every day since has been an awesome adventure. Visiting friends, museums, parks, movies, plays, libraries, theme parks, zoos, swimming, art classes, dance, and reading, reading, reading.
Claire was very creative and I always encouraged her to expand her creativity in every way possible. In those first five years we went everywhere and did everything together. I loved watching her grow and learn. I was (and still am) gaga over this kid and I show her every day.
“Terrible two’s?” Pft… never had em’. She was truly divine at every stage. From infant to toddler I was amazed by her intelligence and ability to process information. Car rides were exhausting as she would sit in her car seat and ask question after question. Staying true to my Mom-ission I would give my best answer each and every time. I loved that she was so curious and I never wanted her to feel limited in any way. She was a sponge and I wanted to take full advantage of that.
She caught on so quickly to everything she encountered. (Except Tic-Tac-Toe for some reason) She picked up things she learned from books and places we visited but also developed a keen awareness of life’s little nuances. By that I mean she was sensitive to people’s feelings.
In January of 2004, I enrolled her in Montessori school. There she met a boy and was invited to his house one afternoon. I hung out for a while because I wanted to make sure everything was cool and I felt comfortable leaving my three-year-old with virtual strangers. I was sitting on the deck and her and Daniel were tossing a ball back and forth and Daniel said to Claire “Why don’t you tell your mom she can leave now?” Claire replied “No, that’s okay.” I asked her about this later because I was curious about her response to Daniel. She said she didn’t want to hurt my feelings and that she didn’t mind if I stayed. I was very impressed with her response. She was kind, and an independent thinker which also told me she was confident enough to tell him “No”. Mom-ission accomplished!
We were always on the go and public places were always stressful because I never knew what creepy child-abductor pedophile would be lurking around the corner ready to grab my child. I considered getting a leash but just couldn’t bring myself to do it. Instead, I taught Claire a few important things to do when we were in public, and we reviewed them frequently.
- Either hold onto my hand, or the cart, or the stroller.
- If we ever get separated, stay put and I will always find you. Try not to attract a lot of attention to yourself while you’re waiting.
- Don't talk to strangers.
- Scream bloody murder, kick and flail your arms, if anyone tries to grab you.
We were traveling in Washington DC (2006) and the transit system was really scary for me to navigate. It was fast and confusing and trying to pull luggage, and keep an eye on a five year old was almost impossible. When I found out the doors on the train shut and don’t bounce open if you get an arm caught in there, I was especially stressed. I thought “What if the doors close and I’m on one side and Claire is on the other?” I was so stressed out so I asked Claire what she would do if that happened. She said “I would stay put, not attract attention to myself, and wait for you to come get me.” My reply; “Well all-righty then my little smarty-pants!” Mom-ission accomplished!
Grade school (2008) was a great experience. Claire was reading at a twelfth grade reading level and gobbled up books like delicious chocolaty treats – one after the other. She became a Harry Potter junkie and rendered her entire 4th grade class “addicts” as well. Mom-ission accomplished!
She was a happy-go-lucky child with a very well-balanced demeanor. She was calm, sensible, emotionally intelligent, and wise at the ripe ol’ age of eight . I noticed that through the process of raising this child, I became a student as well. I think every parent should be open to learning from their children because they have so much to teach us if we just keep an open mind.
I went into this whole parenting thing not knowing anything about raising children accept for the example my parents set. I certainly didn’t want to repeat the same mistakes my parents made so I went into it realizing I would have to come at it from a different angle if I wanted to give her the best childhood possible. Educating myself was key so I gathered as much information as I could, observed other parents to see what worked, and keyed into my child for navigational queues.
So far, my Mom-ission statement has been a great guide for me while navigating this daunting role as "Mom". I have since changed my original Mom-ission statement though. "I will show her she has a voice and I will encourage her to use that voice to become a leader and change the world." I have learned that I want Claire to be happy doing what she wants to do rather than trying to live up to some silly expectation I (or anyone else) project on to her.
Next, I'll explain how my divorce from her father took a toll on her in my next post "The Effects of Divorce On A Child"
See my post on “How To Raise A Smart Confident Child” where I talk about the things I did to give my daughter a good start in life.
See my post on “My Humble Childhood” where I talk about my difficult childhood.
See my post on "Postpartum Depression - My Story and What I Did To Fix It"