Monday, July 17, 2017

The Ambivalent Love of a Mother

Ambivalence[1] is a state of having simultaneous conflicting reactions, beliefs, or feelings towards some object.[2][3][4][5] Stated another way, ambivalence is the experience of having an attitude towards someone or something that contains both positively and negatively valenced components.[6] The term also refers to situations where "mixed feelings" of a more general sort are experienced, or where a person experiences uncertainty or indecisiveness.

Thank you Wikipedia for your definition.

I'm not even sure how to broach this topic, but it's been rattling around in my head the last couple days and I need to post something other than book reviews on this blog. I don't even know if I can adequately explain what I am even feeling, but here goes.

Almost two and a half years ago, this little bundle made me a "real" mom. I now had a live baby to hold in my arms and play doll with. It was exciting after the hard times of the previous year and a half. And a rather difficult nine months on top of that. But sometimes, I wondered: do I really love her? Where is this pitter-patter, jump for joy, hold my baby close feeling that I thought I should have? Where is this I don't want to lay you down, I want to hold you forever feeling? Would I even miss her if she died? These thoughts would go through my head and I would wonder, do I really love my little girl? And what is wrong with me if I am struggling with this? Why am I not just giddy at the idea of being a mom to her?

The first year passed and it was good. I loved her, I told myself I did. I took care of her, but I was tired. She took a lot of care. And she was a good baby, but it felt like she needed a lot of entertaining. But she had a good daddy, she really did. Her mom sometimes felt like she single momming it, but that was more my fault and my attitude than anything her dad did. I still struggled with wondering how much I loved her. 

And now another year has gone by, another baby has gone to be with Jesus and my heart is full. She is two on this picture and she is sick, but she is my joy. That time between one and two has solidified the fact that I do really love this little girl. She plays by herself, she plays at my feet, and she loves to "help" me. I don't really feel ambivalent in my love anymore. I still stare at her sometimes and get tears in my eyes over the way God has blessed us with this amazing, healthy, little girl. I stare at her and listen to her talk and wonder what in the world we are doing as parents and how we think we even have the right to try and parent. I'm still growing up myself. She still has the best dad ever and she has him solidly wrapped around her finger. She talks constantly, gathers big piles of books to look at and has been a little obsessed about playing with "baby brother's toys". 

But now baby two is on the verge of making his debut: is it going to be the same thing? Am I going to look at him and wonder if I really love him? Am I going to have the pitter patter in my heart, the joy in the middle of the night, the "I can't live without him" feelings? I don't know. I somewhat dread the first year because I know how it was with Amber. But I'm better now, right? I know how quickly that stage passes and what fun it can be, right? I'll grin and bear it, right? I'll hold the memories tight in my heart, right? Someone tell me!! I need to know it's okay. Or isn't it? 

I feel a little vulnerable with this post. I look at moms around me, my friends, and they make mothering seem so natural, so a part of them. And somedays I still want to just walk away and go to town and sit down at a coffee shop or even McDonald's without a care in the world. And yet, I remind myself, that day will come soon enough. In four years, she will be off to school and a whole new life will open up for her. And then I get excited and a little bit sad all at once. So is the ambivalence a part of being a mom? Is it the same thing we discuss about marriage, that you don't always have those feelings, but you choose to love and do the right thing in spite of it all?

And my answer to that is, yes, I think so. I think if my little girl had been taken from me in that first year, she would have left a hole so big, it could never have been filled in completely. I think I would have cried buckets of tears and probably fought off some guilt, (I've already had to apologize so many times to her for an improper attitude or improper discipline, etc) So yes, in the midst of feeling ambivalent, I think I still made the choice to love, at least most days.

And that is what I want to continue to do, for my children, for my husband, for those around me. Ambivalence is a feeling and it will come, but the choice remains mine. And I want to choose rightly. 

And now just some fun stuff: that was a well-spent 75 cents. She calls it her "puzzle" and I'm sure if you were to ask what color it was, she would say green. Instead of rose-colored glasses, she lives her life through green-colored glasses.

She is wondering these days if she should "be excited" or not. And yesterday, the prospect of a four-wheeler ride to watch Daddy get his paperwork was met with much hopping up and down and running and jumping.

I am amazed how much she catches. She can pretty much pray "God is Great", a lot of "Our Father, which art in Heaven", and sing snippets of songs like Jesus Loves Me and Behold, Behold. She also has a book or two that she can recite pretty much from memory. I stand agape and in awe and in fear as well. What am I teaching her that I don't even know I'm teaching her?

It melts my heart, when after getting disciplined, she will look at me and say, "I'm sorry, Mama."

And yes, the teacher in me has bought her a preschool program that I am excited about starting with her. It will wait until life has become a bit more normal for us, after the baby and maybe even after our trip to New Jersey. It's more for the mom at this point in my endeavor to be intentional and in order to make sure I spend time with her after the baby. She is used to my full attention now and I want to make sure she doesn't feel left out after "little brother" comes. And because her mom loves stuff like that. 

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