Every moment of the last eight years of my life is shadowed by reasoning and the development of my own opinions. From guns to marine life to high-fructose corn syrup, one has to have an opinion about everything these days. Social media means that everyone's opinion is everywhere, everyday, which is not something that young people born a decade before me had to face. I have always been more quiet and passive in person, especially about politics or controversial issues, but social media seemed to bring out another side of me that even I'd never met before, much less the kind of person I want people to think about when they hear my name.
I became a mother at a very young age. I was married at twenty and we found out I was pregnant three weeks later: a honeymoon baby. I wrote then that I felt like a kid having a kid, and now that I am a whole five years older (sarcasm) my eyes have been opened to what people saw when they saw me: a young girl, barely out of childhood herself, taking on the responsibilities of raising a child; ignorant, innocent, naive, and indulgent. I was, I am, a fairly good mother, but I feel like I've just fallen into the wise, rhythmic role of motherhood. (Not that I am wise, persay, just wiser than I was at twenty, as you can imagine. And never a perfect mother, but one who has a bit better of a handle on things than at the beginning). I feel if I had waited five years (which was our intention, afterall) I would have been a more confident mother. It all wouldn't have been so experimental, I guess I could say. I feel like a woman, now. A mother. That word is no longer foreign to me. Would it have been, had I waited? At twenty-five, if little River Jeremiah had just now graced the world in the same fashion, on the same date just four years later, would I feel confident in myself as a mother? Or is that something that must be learned so matter what age you become a mother? If I became a mother at fourty, would I feel as though I had it figured out, and stuck with a plan, and followed that plan, and never doubt my choices or opinions? I always felt that new mothers who were older than me were wiser than me. That they didn't have the doubts I had. I still think that, really. I've never had much confidence in anything I do and feel the the majority of people I associate with are stronger, wiser, and better decision-makers than I.
Funny how we all have such different opinions about how to raise children, what they should eat, whether they should be swatted on the bottom after hitting their sister, whether we should nestle them beside us as we sleep at night or left to cry to develop strong lungs and independence, whether they should eat red dye number 40 or even wheat and rice for that matter, whether they should be taught there is a God who loves and condemns or be left to figure it out on their own. They are little people, afterall. Individuals. And we have their future in our hands; at least a good chunk of it. What if none of us are doing it right? What if we are all doing it right, in our own way? (Well, not all of us, but you know what I mean.)
I felt so fierce in my opinions when River was a baby, so passionate that I had to shout it from the moutaintops. I am twenty-five now, and I can say that I still feel the same about raising children. My opinions haven't changed much, although I can say that I have more grace for the mothers who choose differently from me and am overall less legalistic in my thinking. Even the things on which I still stand my ground, I am standing there a little quieter, more concerned with my relationships with other women than with how they are choosing to raise their children. Their love for their children is all that concerns me. And there is a lot of love out there. Cheeto fingers aren't a sign of less love. They're just not.
I wonder if I will always lack confidence in who I am as a person, as a woman, as a mother. Although I feel I may be a little bit more organized and my cooking skills have improved (is that the only thing that's changed? And I'm still pretty damn unorgized and I still hate cooking), I am not happy with myself as a mother. I feel that my choices are good ones for my family, but my patience, my attentiveness, my ability to cope in stressful situations, my tenderness -- they could all be improved upon. Will I ever be the mother I want to be? Am I that much different than I was when I was twenty-one and holding my newborn baby boy? I wish I had an answer. I don't. I can read all the articles and books on parenting I want, but it is up to me to change, and I have been unable to thus far.
I hope when they are adults someday, they know I tried hard. I hope they aren't bitter toward me, I hope they don't think I could have spent more time with them, or could have done more things with them. I hope they don't have all these memories of me yelling at them. I hope they are confident and kind-hearted. I hope they feel like I did a good job, and don't roll their eyes when they talk about me, or tell people I could have done better if I'd tried. I hope they are not disappointed in me. That is one of my greatest fears about parenting.