I remember when I was just starting out on my own. When I was off attending college 3/4 of a continent away from home and family or when I had moved back to Seattle but was living in an apartment, I suffered from repressed separation anxiety. In college, I tried to surround myself with busy-ness, crowds and loud friends. I didn't want to think about how I was managing away from the security of my home and away from the comfort and love of a family.
At home, my family knew when I wasn't feeling right. They knew when something was bothering me or when I was sick and they tried to make it all better. They actively cared about how I was doing. At a far away city, on my own, most people wouldn't even notice if I didn't show up to class, or if I was feeling down, let alone take the time to care. It was a daunting feeling, being physically and emotionally isolated from home. I knew I had to forge my own place and my own home, but the task left me feeling anxious and a little scared. So I repressed it. I tried to forget. I was mostly successful except for those quiet lonely times at night. Right before my head would hit the pillow. The emptiness and loneliness and lack of guidance would threaten to eat me up. What was I to do with my weekend, let alone my LIFE?
I felt this way in law school a little bit too. I even felt this way when I got married. When I got married and I moved in with my husband, it hit me like a brick wall that there was no going back to the comfort of my childhood. The comfort of always having my parents there to guide me and console me. I had officially shut that door. I was a married woman. My parents were only a telephone call away, of course, but I still felt isolated once again. I was no longer a part of my childhood "household." I had grown away from the person I used to be. It was me versus the world. My relationship with my parents had officially changed. While my mom would always be my mom, I didn't see her as the same mom that rocked me to sleep and read me stories and made sure the kids at school were playing nice. She was suddenly the mom of a grown up (me) and I could no longer run to her to hide from the harshness of the world.
The first week in our first home, I felt a little out of sorts. Really? I'm a grown up now? But I still feel vulnerable and I still feel like I need the wings of my parents to warn me about staying out to late, eating right and to leave the front porch lights on for me. Overnight my "family" had turned from a big, loud, nosy and caring family into a quite family of two married adults. It was a great adventure but I felt homesick.
When Jacob was born I struggled a third time. It was hard to accept the fact that I was someone's mother now. I was responsible for another human. Just like my mom had all the answers and the power to make me feel safe, now I was expected to be able to do the same. But I didn't have any answers. Life, the world and the unknown was just as scary to me then as it was back before I became a mom. Now that I was officially someone's mom, I had to fill my mom's shoes. The hardest realization for me was that just as I was living by the seat of my pants and making things up as I went, so had my mom all those years! All the times when I thought she knew everything (obviously not my teen years) and when I thought she could protect me from everything, she actually couldn't.
The realization that my mom was just as human as I was and that becoming a mom DOESN'T automatically give you divine, supernatural powers was both unsettling and comforting. All those years I had been relying on just another human, capable of making mistakes. My childhood "rock" was not infallible. On the flip side, that meant that while my mom likely made mistakes everyday, just like anyone else, that didn't detract from how I felt about her. So, as a mom, I don't need to be perfect in order to make my kid feel loved and safe. It's not about the reality of your capabilities or perfection as a parent at all, it's all about how you make your kid FEEL. How you show them you love them. How you let them know you always will care.
Wow. Parenthood is nothing short of amazing and complicated.