Operation Caffeination

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Free to be Me

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“There was something so valuable about what happened when one became a mother. For me it was the most liberating thing that ever happened to me. . . . Liberating because the demands that children make are not the demands of a normal ‘other.’ The children’s demands on me were things that nobody ever asked me to do. To be a good manager. To have a sense of humor. To deliver something that somebody could use. And they were not interested in all the things that other people were interested in, like what I was wearing or if I were sensual. . . . Somehow all of the baggage that I had accumulated as a person about what was valuable just fell away. I could not only be me -– whatever that was -– but somebody actually needed me to be that. . . . If you listen to [your children], somehow you are able to free yourself from baggage and vanity and all sorts of things, and deliver a better self, one that you like. The person that was in me that I liked best was the one my children seemed to want.” – Toni Morrison.

I am 22, and my personality is still flexible. I am not, perhaps, as completely moldable as I was at 19, when I gave birth to my first child. I feel a change in my bones, a stiffening, and I know in my heart that my relationship with the child that I am currently expecting will be different from the one I share with his or her older brother -I have grown bolder, more confrontational, better prepared to make a greater assertion of My Self but with less room for that Self to regenerate itself into gentler, more palatable forms.

I experience a deep sense of ambivalence when I consider these changes in myself; on the one hand, it is hard for me to turn my back on the popular parenting lie so accepted in my community, that it is vital to provide complete equality to your children in order to avoid sibling rivalry. Raised on the biblical stories of Cain and Able, Jacob and Esau, this threat chills me. Although I recognize the roots of this myth as fallacy (to treat two people identically is to not know or love either of them at all), it is hard to admit to myself that I could not provide this kind of stability for my children even if all of our lives depended on it. I have not reached that plateau of personality that so many experts consider the definitive trait of all good mothers; a phrase about correlation and causation runs through my mind.

On the other hand, though, I feel a surge of joy and gratitude toward my children as I realize that they are actively turning me into the mother that they will need me to be, not just here in the moment, but for years, decades -for the time that we enjoy sharing this planet with one another. Although I hate the saccharine sentiment about the young mother growing up with her children, there is a certain amount of truth to it. Just as surely as I am raising them, they are also raising me –raising me to a new level of awareness, a new plane of existence from which I can finally forgive old hurts, accept new joys and make progress in a way that would not have been possible if I had journeyed on my own.


Written by GRSeim

January 2, 2011 at 5:54 pm

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