Sunday, September 7, 2008

"You're Such a Good Mom"

Yesterday, I was on the beach with Pace (who had refused to take her afternoon nap) while Mapple Dapple was napping. I had been planning on this particular hour being my time to just sit in my chair. My time to not be either covered in sand or holding a child in the ocean, and I was skirting the issue hard. "You're making such pretty castles on your own! You're such a big girl, you don't need Mommy to play with you..." It wasn't working. Then, in my head I heard someone say, "You're such a good Mom." I remembered with guilt that I was very pregnant and playing with Pace (who was flipping out because she couldn't get the sand off her fingers) in the sand when I heard it. It seemed like it was so recent...who had said that? I played the words again, and suddenly I felt that ache that has come to be too familiar these days as I recognized the sweet voice. There is something so jarring about hearing a voice that seems so real and recent in your mind, only to realize how utterly far away they are now...

Mom and I did not start off all that great in the "mother encouraging her daughter who is a new mother" category. For me at least, there were times as a new Mom that I questioned the innate nature I had always assumed I possessed. How could I be so frustrated with my own baby? How could anything that cute still make me want to scream (as loud as I could) in frustration? Was something wrong with me? Was I evil? Then I would remember my own Mom. The woman who would blow up from time to time during our childhood, and I would think, "There is where I will find solstice! She will understand! She will assure me that I am not crazy!"

So I would call her, time and again I would call expecting an understanding ear only to hear, "Abby, how can you get so frustrated with that precious baby? She's an angel child!" And every time I would hang up feeling like I must be evil after all. Then one day I was having a particularly frustrating time, driving down Hwy 280 with Pace screaming her head off in the backseat, not because she was hungry or tired or needed a diaper change (I had handled all of those things moments before); she was just crying because she wanted to be held. At that particular moment Mom called, and I made the mistake of answering.

"Abby, what in the world is Pace crying about?!"

"She's mad because she's strapped in her car seat and she wants me to hold her. Can you just ignore it? What were you calling about?"

"I don't know how in the world you can let that baby cry like that. I'd just have to pull the car over. I couldn't bear it!"

"Don't you think I hate it too? What do you want me to do, risk our lives by swerving off the highway, so that I can get off on the shoulder of the road with traffic whizzing by, take her out of her seat, which would calm her down immediately, but then have to put her right back and listen to her cry even harder? Or do you just want me to B Spears it down the interstate with her in my lap. She may be crushed if we had a wreck, but at least she wouldn't be crying."

"I don't know Abby, but there's got to be a parking lot around there somewhere. I just couldn't stand it."

I got off the phone, so angry and hurt I could spit. Why did she always make me feel like a negligent mother? Then I heard a little voice asking me if it was really her fault. Wasn't it me who was always calling to tell her about the moments I was stressed. How often did I call just to tell her the sweet stuff? Did I ever make her see that 90% of life with that little baby was blissfully happy...there was just that other 10%...and that was what she was always hearing about. So, I did pull off the highway, into a quiet neighborhood. I took Mom's advice and just sat in a big soccer field and loved on Pace until she was completely content. Miraculously, she didn't even cry when I put her back in that car seat. I guess I'd waited long enough, that she forgot what she was so mad about. Then, I called Mom back. I had decided to tell her that she was right about calming Pace down, and then paint the picture of the beautiful morning we'd shared. She was glad to hear there was no more screaming, and then I told her about the time we'd spent that morning, just Pace and me, in mine and Jeremiah's big bed. I told her about how I'd put toys just out of her reach and she had rolled over. I told her about how we smiled and cooed at each other for who knew how long. I told her that if life would fade away, I could watch Pace develop all day long, and never stop smiling. Then I paused, and do you know what she said?

"Abby, I just worry about her rolling around on that big bed of yours. Its so high and those hard floors--she would break her neck if she rolled off. I just don't think its a good idea how you're always playing with her up there."

I lost it. Flipped. I told her about how I could hardly stand to talk to her anymore because she was always making me feel like a bad mother. I told her that I needed some encouragement and support...to know that I wasn't a bad person because I got frustrated with my baby. Who in the world was I supposed to confide those types of things in if it wasn't her? And (I'm just being honest with you) I told her that, believe it or not, I was old enough to remember when Kendall (my sister) was a baby, and I knew she hadn't always been Mother Theresa either!

I braced myself for the retaliation. To say my Mom didn't take criticism well would be the understatement of the century. She didn't take it at all--ever. But for the first time in my life, she was completely penitent. She apologized. She told me that she talked to all her friends about what a wonderful mother I was, and she had had no idea she was making me feel that way. And y'all, she never did it again. I'm not saying I didn't notice her biting her lip from time to time, but she stopped all the nagging guilt trips and she started encouraging me.

So, last summer when I waddled my pregnant self back and forth to the ocean with buckets full of water and got covered in sand as I taught my 2 year old what building sand castles was all about--I was feeling like a good mother. I was sitting just in front of Mom's feet and I heard her say, almost to herself, "You're such a good Mom" and I knew that this time her heart was sincere. She wasn't biting her lip or trying to build me up for the sake of our friendship--she meant it and I was deeply grateful. And as I sit here tonight, unable to sleep because I feel the need to get this story down before I lose it, I know she's so thankful that I remembered.

16 comments:

Aubrie said...

Abby... each time I spend time with you and the girls I think, "You ARE such a good Mom." I'll find myself glassy eyed and brow furrowed staring and studying just to take it all in: the way they look at you, the way you look at them, and the way others around us look at all of you together. In those moments, I quickly send up prayers that someday I'll be able to do even a fraction of what you do each day. Also, in those moments, it is obvious to read and decipher the smiles and head tilts of each onlooker as they think, "She's such a good Mom." In fact, watching you is sometimes it's downright intimidating. Thankfully, it only takes me a minute to turn that intimidation into pure admiration laced with a heavy dose of inspiration.
I'm so glad you had a good time on your trip. I was thinking of you.

Darby said...

Your transparency is such an encouragement to me!! I love your heart & your transparency. Also, I'm not sure how you got to the beach from Seattle but would you please stop because I know jealousy is a sin... ok?

Kellie Patton said...

I agree with everything Darby just said - you are an inspiration to me! We've all been there and done that (some, {you}, better than others), but the way you put it all in words, never ceases to amaze and inspire me!

Katie said...

Abby,
I am not a big poster on blogs, but I love your amazing gift for writing. As I read about your relationship with your mom, it makes me think of my own mom, and what she represents in my life. Reading your thoughts about being a "good mom" gets me so excited about the future when it is my turn for children and all the ups and downs that always point to Chirst's love for us, regardless if we know it or not.
Thank you for sharing your amazing thoughts and memories. I love getting to read about them!

Caroline said...

I completely understand what you mean about getting so frustrated with mom nagging about something..haha i dont know if she ever talked to YOU about my "problem" but I know she did to Kendall and Taylor and at one point I came to the same point you did and told her how frustrated I was and after that point she never said anything else..She apologized and let it go..Love you and cant wait to see you this weekend..

andi said...

I love it...and YOU ARE A GREAT mom! I think the most important thing is to remember as a young mom, God is glorified in our repentance. I had to tell myself that so many times yesterday! We aren't perfect, can't be and never will be, but to allow Him to make us a bit more like Jesus through the journey....what a blessing.

livingtotellaboutit said...

Oh Abby. Oh, my heart just churned as I read this, because it brought to the surface so many feelings that I had when Britton was born. I really struggled with the transition, and when I would call my Mom for some sympathy, she would literally tell me that she didn't know what I was talking about because she "just cherished every minute" with me and my brothers. I felt angry and ashamed all at the same time. Somewhere along the way I just stopped going to her with my frustrations, and talking instead with my young-mom friends. But it was not at all what I had imagined our mother/daughter relationship would be once I became a mom. I'm so glad that you were honest with Becky and that she took your feelings into consideration and began to encourage you. I just hope I can be reminded of this when my children become parents...

Mitzi said...

You are the best mom. Sometime, I will share regrets your mom and I shared. love you

Kelly said...

Man, have I been there!!!! The times that Reese frustrates me--I can hardly stand her (just being honest here). And, the times when she is an angel, I can't imagine why I ever get mad at her. And, oh the guilt, when I want her to play by herself or when I don't feel like I've been 100% there for her or John. So, as others have said, you ARE NOT alone. Thanks for your honesty---I feel more normal having read your post.

Beth G. said...

I KNOW you are a good mom! This is an encouraging story because I know so many of my friends and I go through this with their moms and sometimes we feel like we are the only one! I am glad yall had a good trip. Hopefully Natalie and Wayne's baby boy will be here soon!!!

ashr7406 said...

This might sound silly, but somtimes its hard for me to remember that your human! In my eyes you do everything right and have the biggest heart in the world and are SUCH an inspiration!! Post's like these bring me back down to Earth and help me realize that we are all in the same boat and can all learn a lot from each other! Thanks for teaching me and many others how tough it can be sometimes even as christian woman! It was so good to hear that you and Jeremiah had such a wonderful weekend! I KNOW the girls were happy to see you when you got back :)

Heather said...

Abby,
You have a truly amazing gift! Your ability to put into words what goes on in your heart is nothing but incredible. I often feel like I've just had a quiet time after reading your posts and can't wait for your next ones! You need to write a book!!! I too, have felt connected to you via Tegan. I know we've only met a few times, but you have been such an encouragement to us and you are such a beautiful person inside and out! I prayed for you and grieved with you from a distance as you lost your mother last year and have wanted to be a better mom to my girls as a result of reading your thoughts! How fun to have sisters! Tegan is the closest thing I've got to a flesh and blood sister, but I am enthralled with the complex and tender relationships sisters have! I would love to hear your thoughts on growing up with sisters and I would love to know things your mother did to cultivate such deep friendships between you girls! Thanks again for your transparency. What mercy this latest post was, a balm for my soul and such an encouragement. I am now bracing myself as my own mom comes in town today! I hope I will be "such a good mom"! Sorry for the ramblings!
In Him, Heather SAchs

Carly Winborne said...

Abby,
We've never met, but I feel like we are friends. I have read this post twice and am moved each time. I just wish I could reach into this computer and hug you.

On a separate note, I once lived in Seattle. Seeing your pictures and reading about your "Abby Day" in the city was such fun! I hope you enjoyed it and got a piece of sunshine rather than just gray sky.

Continue to love on your baby girls! Just like you want to know you're a good mother (and from reading this, I know you must be!) be sure and tell them that they are good little girls! Isn't affirmation such encouragement from the ones you love most?

Carly Winborne

Carly Winborne said...

One more thing, I just realized the comment posted above mine is from one of my college sorority sisters! Please tell Heather that Carly Allen says hello! :)

Gail said...

Abby, You have such a kind, loving heart.I forget to praise my own children and I will do my best to correct that. We just seem to forget these really important things in our busy lives. I am so happy that you were able to express this to your Mom. There is no doubt she is watching you now and so proud of you. You are a great Mom and Wife. I marvel at your wisdom! Have a blessed week for your darling family. In his love, Gail

Imez said...

Best post I've read in two days. I'm so glad I found your blog.