Monday, May 10, 2010

Beyond Baby Tenderlove

One Christmas my younger sister and I both begged and pleaded for the only toy on the market we wanted that year: Baby Tenderlove. Somehow the name alone evoked every maternal sentiment in our chubby little preschool bodies and we longed to snuggle that sweet babydoll more than anything else we could think of. We were thrilled on Christmas morning when we each opened our very own Baby Tenderlove, ready to rock, feed and put to sleep!

I did not feel that way again until I was pregnant with my first. As the months of expectancy went by, I found myself longing once again for Baby Tenderlove--not the plastic doll, of course, but my own fleshy baby that I could dote on and love the way I did when I was four or five. Dreams of quiet snuggling, humming and rocking to sleep, and deep tranquil tenderness were in the forefront of my consciousness.

The baby came and suddenly I woke up. I got many serene moments with Baby Tenderlove. But I also got Baby CriesAllNight. Baby HurtsToNurse. Baby MakesAMess. Baby SlipperyWhenWet. Baby ProjectileVomit. Baby ExplodingDiaper. If I were writing a marketing campaign for a newborn for new mothers, it might go something like: “Eight toys in one...some of them frightening and dangerous.” I would also add “providing even the wildest thrillseeker with a heart-pounding emotional rollercoaster.”

And it gets better. Because Baby Tenderlove also grows up. It morphs into such creatures as Toddler DestrucoUnit and Kid NeverEverMind...and even TeenTransformer/AngryMonster and TeenageMutantNinjaHormones.

I’m not the only one who was disillusioned in this scenario. I’m sure Baby Tenderlove expected to be born to Mama Tenderlove. Yes, I expected to BE Mama Tenderlove. (I also thought I’d be a cross between Mary Poppins and Maria von Trapp and Olivia Walton.) Instead, sometimes I was Wicked Stepmother (push buttons to hear her wretched voice!) and Distracted-Working-Mother (bang head on counter to get her attention).

But then there’s a whole other toybox called Serendipity...sweet, unexpected surprises. For example, I was not prepared for the wonderfulness that is Baby HeavenScent. Ah, what would I give to bury my nose in the neck of a newborn! Also, I was completely caught off guard, over and over again, by Baby MagicLaugh. There aren’t sufficient words to describe the joy of a baby’s belly laugh.

And now, when I look at our son graduating from high school, tall, confident and handsome, knocking not just addiction, but also the academic world with his astronomic GPA; our daughter in the throes of her freshman year, forming new friendships, wrangling signs of first romance, and wantonly signing up for various sports teams, unafraid to make a fool of herself; and our youngest running off the field, all sweat and smiles, rinsing off his dishes without being asked, sitting close enough to touch when we read together at night; when I step back and look past the messy details there is one salient emotion that is always strongest when everything settles: It’s overwhelming. It’s transcendent and sublime. But it’s best described as tender love.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

I Am Not My Body.

I love this quote: "I am not my body." It reminds me that my true self is so much more than what you see on the outside. I refuse to be defined by the appearance of wrinkles and cellulite. I'm not even blue-green eyes or curly hair or a skinny waist -- because my good parts don't define me either. I am spirit. In a mortal shell. I am a life and nurturing spirits in younger bodies, spirits sent (amazingly) to our home. "Beauty and motherhood are one." That is what I choose to remember, deep inside, today and (hopefully) every day.

Click here to hear the quotes above in their original context-- such a beautiful outlook on life.