May
31
2009

  One Part Of The Mystery Discovered

One of the reasons I wanted to have a child was to get that knowledge that mothers have. While I was childless, I could pretty much tell if a woman had kids just by a short interaction (a conversation in line in a store, for instance) and not because it was mentioned. It was more subtle than that, it seems that mothers have a different way of interacting with the world. I got the impression that they "knew" something that I didn't, and couldn't know until I had a child of my own. After a few years of infertility I stopped obsessing about it, and wrote off whatever the "mystery knowledge" was as unimportant, that while it would be interesting to be in on it, it really wouldn't ruin my life if I never found out.

As recently as last week, I was still wondering if I'd find out. My experience of parenthood is very different than Terry's. I'm way more detached emotionally, and this is even after I've gotten over my post-partum-depression-y days. I recently read that some study showed that antidepressants interfere with the ability to get that feeling of romantic love. So I'm not sure if I don't have that feeling towards William because of my own neurological/pharmaceutical defect, or whether it will come later (anecdotally I've heard it's extremely common for women to not feel overwhelming love for their baby until they're a few months in).

But today I think I figured out a big part of the mystery of motherhood-- poignancy. Children add a lot of poignancy to one's life. Not having lived with a child during my adult life, I never grokked how quickly they change, and how permanently. While William is behaving pretty much exactly as I expected, big picture, there was one little thing that I didn't expect-- how cute I would find it when he was newborn when he'd keep his head perfectly still but his little eyes would be moving back and forth, looking all around. And I wasn't prepared for how quickly that behavior would go away. He started moving his head when he looked around, and it was no longer quite as cute, since it made him more like the rest of us.

Now when he does some new cute thing, I appreciate it more, since I now realize the behavior might not last long at all. And that's poignant. Knowing that all the endearing little things kids will do are ephemeral is heartbreaking in a way.

I was puzzled last week when a retired neighbor was talking about her 42-year-old son, and how when he came to visit with his kids she looked at him and wished he was small enough again to crawl into her lap. C'mon, he's 42 years old already, and you're remembering what he was like as a toddler? But now I see what's going on there. There are so many wonderful moments you can have with your kids, but you know they'll change and you'll never get the behavior again in the same way in a few weeks, or a few years, so you keep it in your memory since that's all you'll have of it in the future.

Having tender moments with other people's kids isn't the same, since you don't expect to be able to repeat the experience. But living with the kids, you do repeat it, probably a lot of times, so you miss it when it's gone.

And for the childless, as least in my case, there's just not that much in life where poignancy is relevant. Sure, it's poignant when friends move and you know you won't be able to hang out with them every Friday anymore, or when your favorite restaurant is closing, the one where you went on your first date with your husband, etc. But there's nothing to bring poignancy into your day-to-day life.

And I can also see why this would not be discussed much. What can a mother say about it? Of course you hear about whatever cute thing their child did recently, which is sweet, but a little dull just hearing about it secondhand ("My little darling did the cutest thing this morning, blah blah blah"). But what remains unspoken is the mother's fear that it won't happen again, or that it will stop happening before the mother is ready for it to stop. But to add that to conversation would just be paranoid ("My little darling did the cutest thing this morning, blah blah blah, and it breaks my heart that she might not want to do it again tomorrow"), since you're worrying about something that may or may not happen. Except that mothers KNOW it won't happen again. Maybe it won't stop that day or the next, or even in a year, but it definitely won't last forever, so it's not really paranoid.

So now I am curious to see if I start to have a different type of conversation with women who have kids.

After I got married-- soon after the wedding, when I was still a newlywed, my married woman friends started discussing all kinds of things in front of me that I had never had a clue about before. Things I thought were shocking at the time, but now after nine years of marriage I have a greater appreciation for the unexpected challenges of marriage. And an appreciation about why you don't even hint at the problems to unmarried friends, lest you make them wonder if getting married is a good idea after all. They'll find out for themselves in time.

So I wonder if a similar thing will happen now that I have a child. Whether my conversations with women who have kids will be different than they were before I had a baby. What sorts of things do mothers discuss only amongst themselves because there's no point trying to discuss it with a childless woman? So far the only thing I've noticed is that mothers of infants (myself included) like to talk about baby poop. And the reason to avoid talking about it in front of childless women is because it is both gross and boring if you're not personally changing diapers a dozen times a day. No magic secret to that one.

I hope there's something more grand and mysterious to discuss in the mom's club, but maybe it's all about prosaic topics taking on new meaning. I'm sure I'll find out in time.

Marragie and fatherhood have

Marragie and fatherhood have been the two hardest and most rewarding things I have ever done. I really enjoyed your post.

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