As I sat at the kidney shaped table during parent-teacher conferences, two questions came to mind.
The first: Does my child’s entire ass actually fit on this teeny, tiny chair that will barely hold one of my cheeks?
The second: Who on earth is this woman talking about because it can not be my child.
The answer to the first question was obvious: Yes, my child’s entire ass does in fact fit on this Barbie-sized chair and mine does not… and any hopes I have that it ever will are never going to be realized.
I was slower to accept the answer to the second question. But after many “Really, are you sure’s” I was convinced that this wise, seasoned teacher was actually talking about my child.
When I left that day, my job as a mother wasn’t any easier and I certainly didn’t hold all the answers to being a “good mom” but I will admit that seeing my child through the eyes of someone else lifted a hefty burden from my shoulders: He’s doing fine. In fact, he’s doing better than fine. Breathe easier tonight. Oh, I also left with a renewed commitment to running more each week so I might be able to fit both cheeks on the chair by the end of the year.
Several months later I sat before another wise woman but this time I was on a couch I paid for by the hour and blissfully housed both arse cheeks. And among the tears and snot and ugly crying that spewed forth from my mouth were words of fear and worry and guilt. And like the months before, the things that echoed back brought me relief and comfort. It was as if I was seeing another side of the same coin, a different perspective.
I said Bossy and she said Leader
I said Inflexible and she said Committed
I said Demanding and she said Knows What He Wants
I said Can’t Sit Still and she said Boy
I said Exhausted, Frustrated, Guilty and she patiently smiled and said Welcome To Parenthood
Neither expert told me I was wrong about my kid. They didn’t tell me what to do to “fix” things nor did they say I was a bad mother. They simply showed me another side to the coin that was my son. They gave me a different view and a new perspective on an old situation. A fresh pair of eyes helped me see that the lens of my own expectations and fears and character flaws distorted the image I saw when looking at my sweet son.
Over the years the wise women have changed as often as the location of these meetings. From pushing swings at the park, to coffee dates during preschool, to meeting for wine and margaritas as soon as The Hubs walked in the door, and even those safely tucked away behind computer screens across the country. We sat together and shared. We found a place to unload all the input we absorbed throughout the day from those around us and, worse yet, the stuff that percolated in our own minds.
This was my village.
“It takes a village to raise a child” they say.
The real truth is that it takes a village to raise a mother, so she in turn can raise her kids.
I used to think this village was a source of hand-me-downs and babysitters. We filled in for one another during dentist appointments and annual pap smears and we helped fill the many many hours from wake up to bedtime. We were carpool buddies and Zoo partners. They were my Village People- minus the porn ‘stache and tool belt. They were the villagers who would star in my children’s memories and fill their scrapbooks… when I got around to uploading and printing the pictures, of course.
But as the years of mothering have passed I’ve come to realize more and more that these villagers were not here for my kids, they were here for me. They were helping me grow up and become a mother, a better mother. Their seasoned advice, hindsight perspective and distance gave me a clearer view of myself and my children which allowed them to be better versions of themselves than they ever could be under my care only. The village that surrounded my family was not solely the source of playmates and memories. They raised a mother.
I hear you. I understand. We went through that. Girl, let me tell you what my kid did. I know exactly how you feel.
This is the language of motherhood and it was these words and these mothers that taught me how to speak it and gave me strength when I was exhausted, or acting like the village idiot. The universality of motherhood, the struggles and triumphs, makes a village inevitable. Unless you consciously choose to interact with no one, you’d be hard-pressed not to find someone who understands or encourages you. Embrace that fact. Surrounding ourselves with other mothers and other women, those both like us and different from us, makes us better women and ultimately better mothers.
So be grateful for your village. Explore it. Introduce yourself to the locals. Chat with them. They speak your language, trust me. And they just may teach you how to see your surroundings a little differently.
That’s just my normal.
Thanks to all my Village People who visited Scary Mommy last week to support me and to those who headed this way from over there. I like knowing my village just got a little bigger.