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.


Lara Neves said...

All so very true.

Right now I have ToddlerWhirlwindNeverObeys. She's a toughie. But sometimes, when she's tired, she's ToddlerSnuggleLove.

And I've been the Wicked Witch way too much. I'm working on it.

It is nice to see when our kids are turning out okay, isn't it?

Kristina P. said...

This was so sweet.

I have to tell you, being with my adorable 4 month-old niece this weekend warmed and melted my cold, dead baby-hating heart.

Unknown said...

Loved this.
It isn't easy , this parenting thing. But all the dark and messy is worth it , isn' t ours to control I guess. But it's hard.
And the love is always so much stronger. So much more.
Congratulations on all counts. On being a mother regardless.

Unknown said...

I am THRILLED for your big boy! Give him a big hug from this total stranger who is just so darn proud of him.

And this was one of the cutest things you've ever written. I don't know if you were going for "cute" but when you riff off of Baby Tenderlove - and do it so brilliantly - you wind up with "cute"!

Wait til you get "BigBoyHomeFromCollege" and "DaughterWantsToServeAMission".

For all the silliness I spout over motherhood, I gotta say: This gig just keeps getting better.

Dedee said...

Hmmm. Right now I have ChildWhinesAlot. And KidsAfraidOfWork. And DaughterSillyHead. And HusbandMakesMeLaughAndThereforeKeepsMeSane.

Life is good, isn't it.

Luisa Perkins said...

You ALWAYS make me cry! This is an awesome post and should be published in a magazine.

I'll copy Eowyn. I have:

and TeethingDarling.

Fortunately, I also have PrinceMenschyMensch to help me wrangle them all.

Kazzy said...

I think they totally got Mama Tenderlove. What are you talking about????

It is so incredibly rewarding when you get to see your kids grow into adults who finally start to get it. You are a great and patient mom.


Heidi said...

Sublime. You are supertalentedmomwhoseloveknowsnobounds.

Stephanie said...

You are so right, which is of course no surprise at all. Thanks, dear, for continuing to put beautiful words to things I feel.

Kimberly Vanderhorst said...

So often you bring me to the point of tears with your writing (often beyond). What an encouraging and uplifting post. That really is what it all comes down to.

InkMom said...

Love this!

Tammy Lorna said...

Loced this :)

Jessica Stock said...

I LOVE this post, and I'm going to link to it if I ever have a moment when somebody isn't spitting up, hungry, crying, fighting . . . Good to hear a voice of hope from the other side :)

Melanie Jacobson said...

I am reveling in the yummy scent of brand new baby. I'm also drowning in the hugeness that is brand new baby and everything I must help her grow to be. It's good to be reminded that there will be many, many moments of lovely wonder in all the craziness.

Hm. I need to especially remember that with my two-year-old. Sigh.

Heather of the EO said...

Ah lady, I love this. SO much wit and wisdom in this post. thank you for being YOU. I can't wait to see you. Very soon!!!!

Annette Lyon said...

You had me laughing and crying both. It's all so, so true (Teenage Mutant Hormones? That's my house).

Motherhood--what a ride.