Playing with Blocks
My toddler is pulling me from my chair, she wants me to build a castle. I want to finish my work. She pulls me with all the force her two-year old arms can muster and I give in and get up… like I always do. We sit and gather wooden blocks. Stacking them, one by one, in a box configuration, she picks up each one and says, “I want you to put this one, mommy!” So I take the block and place it ‘right there,’ as instructed. I’m trying to be engaged, trying to imagine what this must mean to her. I remind myself that this is important for her development. Tell myself that she’s learning math, sorting, and spacial reasoning; she’s picking up on social cues, learning to take turns. I try to remind myself that this should be as important to me as it is exciting for her.
But I couldn’t imagine anything more mundane.
After a moment, I feel desperate and try to sneak away… she has the iron will of her mother and will not be ignored. I reengage, by force, and tell myself: this is what good mothers do, and you’re a good mother, so do it. We spend twenty too many minutes building caves and castles, bridges and steps. We have the duck and owl fly about, the dog and cow race. I am bored, but her smile keeps me. Or more so its this internal critic pursing her lips and wagging her finger, wearing her freshly pressed apron and smoothing her ever-together hair. You know the one. She shames me for not loving this moment, tsk tsk, she shames me and so I stay. I stay and stack blocks.
After a while, still hoping to escape, I contemplate turning on the tv to distract her, something educational, unless she screams, then whatever she wants… but I know its better for her to have imaginary play. I’ve read all the articles, bought all the books, so the tv remains silent and I struggle to play.
This is what motherhood becomes. Once the warm moment of Hallmark infancy disappears, it becomes games with blocks that bore us to death… and resisting the urge to become the mother we all criticize, even though we know, deep down, we are already her. And when the doctor asks how many hours of tv, we say maybe one a day, when there are days when its three or four or six… days when we never turn the damn thing off.
There are days when we leave them to their own devices. Hours entertaining and attending to themselves. There are days when we ask how school went, then regret having asked. When we put out the paints and glitter, then run to our rooms and hide. When we just order a damn pizza and call it a night.
This is the motherhood no one talks about. We’re ashamed to admit it and too embarrassed to empathize. We post perfect pics of happy kids and brag about their good grades, funny quips, developmental milestones, and athletic triumphs. We brag because were proud, because we want everyone else to be proud, to admire our handiwork (they are, after all, the most amazing thing we’ll ever be a part of). And, too, we brag because we need to remind and reassure ourselves that the little monsters aren’t so bad sometimes. Sometimes they’re sweet and thoughtful and downright wonderful. Sometimes.
And that’s ok. It’s ok that we don’t truly live up to the image we portray. It’s ok that they’re not nearly as perfect as we try to convince the world they are. And it’s ok that we don’t always embrace and adore our motherhood. It’s perfectly fine that sometimes we resent it, we dread it, we hate it. Paradise doesn’t lie at our feet because we are perfect mothers who love our jobs. It lies at our feet because motherhood sucks. Its painful, miserable, underappreciated and sometimes feels completely unrewarding. But we do it anyway, and we do it, quite often, with an undeserved smile.
Your worth doesn’t ebb and flow with how many craft projects you post on Facebook. By how healthy their lunches were today or how many sporting events you’re cheering them through. No. Your worth was set in stone the moment they were conceived. You earned the class of ‘most deserving of your children’s love’ the moment you held that exhausted creature to your chest and welcomed it to the world. Or when you welcomed that child into your heart and home. Or because you remember and mourn the child who was lost or never born. You are an amazing mother. Believe it. Say it with me, I am an amazing mother. I am deserving of respect and worthy of love. I am better than good enough, I am fantastic, I am amazing, and no one could do a better job than I’m doing right here today. Understand, we are all amazing mothers, and that internal critic wagging her finger and pursing her lips? She’s a lie. A ridiculous work of cultural fiction. She’s the fairytale designed to make you hate and second guess yourself at every turn. She’s a fraud and she’s got no place in your motherhood story. So the next time she scolds you for your messy house or unbathed kids, for your sheer aversion to story time and arts & crafts, for just not loving your job enough, you remind her that Paradise lies at your feet because you hate playing with blocks, you absolutely abhor it, but some days you keep on stacking anyway.