I didn’t have kids so I could yell at them to pick up toys, and books, and to put on their shoes before the school bus comes.
I didn’t have kids so I could be a rule enforcer; a disciplinarian; a giver of timeouts.
I had kids to build blanket forts with, to hug, to read to, to snuggle with, and nurture, and love. I had kids to share my life with, and create a family with, and be here for.
Being here for you means sometimes being the bitch.
Being a good mom means sometimes feeling like a bad one.
Being the mom I always dreamt I would be means also being the mom every child rolls their eyes at and hates for a week, or a month, or a year.
I didn’t have kids to become a caricature, though. I don’t want you to think of me as you grow and mostly remember these parental attributes that make me feel unlovable. I don’t want you to remember Mommy lost her temper because the house was a wreck—again; I want you to remember I bought all these toys in the first place so we could play with them, together.
I want you to remember my voice making ridiculously bad character accents as I read over the tops of your downy hair; I want your perfectly imperfect memory to be that I was good at it and made your stories come to life as we sat cuddled on the red couch.
I want you to remember how we played dolls, before I got upset when you wouldn’t help pick up.
I want you to know I know how awful I can be sometimes, and that more than doing my best, I scold myself more harshly than you ever could for any loss of temper, any hugs left behind to dishes, and every second I miss of your childhood because I was “busy” being a grown-up instead.
I want you to think I’m the best mom ever, even when I’m not, because all moms want this. I want you to see how much I love your dad, even when I’m tired and grumpy by the time he gets home from work. I want you to feel the love that built this family and our home, even when this big-people stress you feel but don’t yet understand hangs next to your baby pictures.
The truth is, I didn’t have kids to turn into the sitcom mom everyone laughs at and kind of loves and kind of hates. But I did. The truth is, when we dream of having kids, we have no idea what we’re dreaming of.
It’s better than in my dreams.
The way my heart fills up when you call me “Mama”; this tenderness that spills soft tears from my eyes when I see you blow out birthday candles; this passion I feel as I want to both protect you from the world’s inevitable harm and help you navigate it, too—these real-life experiences are better than this writer’s imagination of what I thought being a mom would feel like. These real-life moments of raising you and watching you grow are also more painful, hard, and demanding than I could have predicted.
I want you to grow up thinking you had the best mom, but that’s not what I want the most.
What I need is for you to grow up knowing how completely—and earnestly—you are loved.