We’re in Hawaii this week, on the trip that Steve’s company gives its employees and their families every year. It’s a nice perk, and much more manageable now that Bini’s almost six and can swim like a fish. Our first trip with him was rough — the three of us in one hotel room, coming to terms with our much-diminished freedom and trying to maintain a nap schedule.
The trips have become a yardstick of sorts for me — noticing how other moms mother and how I stack up. It’s hard not to do: there are hundreds of us, in the pool, at mealtime, at the beach. And the moms judge each other: who lets her kids eat too much sugar, who lets her kid bop other kids with beach toys, who lets her kids have too much screen time. I’m sure the moms judge me. I know I judge myself all the time. I know how I’m different, and what I do “wrong.”
I am not a sweet mom. I have a soft heart, but I wouldn’t call me gentle. It’s just not my personality. My attempts at “mom voice” sound forced and inauthentic. I can be brusque, I can be stern.
I am not a patient mom. I remember reading “The Day I Stopped Saying ‘Hurry Up,’ on Hands Free Mama. A bunch of my friends had reposted it on Facebook and were vowing to be more tolerant of their children’s lollygagging. I’m all for honoring my kid’s personality, but sometimes, he needs to get his damn shoes on and go to school.
I am not a crafty mom. Well, unless you count cutting up old Zappos boxes into the shape of surfboards. (Hey, that’s what he wanted to do.) I tried doing a couple of crafts with Bini, but to make it look like the picture on Pinterest, I had to step in and that seemed to defeat the purpose. I love coloring and drawing with Bini, but I don’t see any paper tube trains in our future.
I am not an easygoing mom. I don’t believe that the inmates should run the asylum, so I’m a hardass about rules. Bini says I’m “mean,” which is one way to interpret it. I believe in structure and consistency, and I’m strong willed. So is Bini. We butt heads a lot.
I yell. I was raised by a father who yelled, so I just thought that was normal. I’ve tried to tamp it down, mainly because my yelling was turning my kid into a yeller. But I can remember times when I screamed myself hoarse, like the time Bini drew all over the underside of my beautiful honed-granite counter with a Sharpie.
I am a mom who needs her space. I know moms who are attachment parents, those who won’t hire babysitters and who selflessly sacrifice daily showers so they can be attentive to their kids’ needs. These moms used to make me feel horrible about myself, because I’m just not like that. I need time to take care of myself or I’m just not a very good mom.
But, for all of these bad mom attributes, I have a few things that I like about the way I’m raising my kid.
I am silly. Bini and I find it hilarious to have butt-cheek-squeezing contests. I taught him how to tape his nose so he looked like a pig. I’m queen of the spontaneous dance party. I make up games. I make up songs.
I play wall ball. Bini came home one day this winter and said that he was bad at wall ball, this strange variation on handball with little-kid rules. He was trying to play it with the big kids (first and second graders) and he kept getting out. So I bought a playground ball and we practiced most days, in the garage or up at the school. When I asked him if his friends knew his mom practiced with him he said no, that he wanted it to be his secret superpower. That’s one I’ll cherish when I’m on my deathbed, I think. I was my son’s superpower.
I have turned my son on to music. Music is something special between Bini and me. We have our own playlists, filled with stuff that we listen to together and that’s just ours to share. Bini loves Queen, Daft Punk, Linda Ronstadt, Led Zeppelin, Michael Jackson and Earth Wind and Fire. Bini has his own little guitar (which he wields like a natural) and he plinks at the piano with a surprisingly good ear. He loves to dance.
I am trying. I am only too aware of my maternal deficiencies, so I’ve worked hard to learn how to be better. I got help for my own issues. I go to support groups for adoptive parents. I ask questions and pester experts and I reach out for help, all the time. I love my child, and somehow, he’s turning out awesome, despite my screw ups. And every day, I get a chance to try again. That’s all I can do.