It has occurred to me that I can’t go on writing dreamy musings about the beauty of motherhood forever. And not just because the paying market for freelance writers is ever dwindling. As it turns out, all those annoying mothers who quipped, “little people, little problems, big people, big problems,” are in fact, right.
My people are growing, and their fears, worries, and challenges are growing too. Parenting has evolved from googling “What is the cheapest baby monitor that still works?” to figuring out how to calm the fears of a child who thinks his schoolmates will laugh at him if his pants aren’t cool. I rock him and promise that they won’t laugh at his pants. At least not this year. Next year is kindergarten and I can make no guarantees.
I have a littlest one in tow now. She reminds me how parenting began, when I was someone’s entire world. It is a startling thing, to be loved so intensely. My husband may have promised to love me all the days of my life, but he doesn’t sob when I walk out of the room.
In the first few months of a child’s life, they cannot even comprehend that their mother is a separate entity from them. Instead she is a constant source of food and warmth, available whenever called upon. Slowly, they start to turn their heads and realize their is an entire world out there apart from their mother’s embrace.
And when that happens, they start to love their mother a little less.
My older two children don’t love me with the same enthusiasm as my baby. Yes, they run to me in tears when their favorite toy breaks, and snuggle onto my lap whenever they can steal a few moments alone. They have informed they plan to live with me their entire lives and only go to college for three days a week.
But in fits of frustration and disappointment, they have also told me they hate me, that I am the worst mother in the world, and so on and so forth.
This isn’t just some sad side effect of growing up. No, it is the sacred duty of mothering – to make your children love you a little less.
I have no desire to push my children away. I would rather hold them tight and safe forever. But that is not where they are meant to be.
Their true loves lie outside of this home. And so each day, ever so gradually, I must guide them away and into a wider world – one where they will learn about daffodils, soccer, aerospace engineering, yo-yos, and international relations. They will enter a world where they might begin to understand why I so emphasized kindness and respect. Because here their future waits.
Now that my role has transitioned from milk provider to teacher, my flaws are no doubt becoming more apparent. I yell too much; I fold under stress. But that is not why they love me less – they do so because I gently nudge them to their greater lives.
In time, they might appreciate me more, or understand me better. But they won’t look up at me with the same big doe eyes of a child who needs nothing more than to snuggle on his mother’s lap. I won’t be the one they run to in moments of triumph or trouble.
It is all by design. So children, love me a little less tomorrow.
And I will love you more.