MAMMA’S DIARY – DIARIO DI MAMMA
Being a mother is a struggle. Most of the time I feel like I’m drowning. Once in a while I get my head above the water. No sooner than I manage to take a breath when another tidal wave comes straight at me. When my son was a baby, everyone would tell me that life would get easier as he aged. After all, he would sleep through the night and go potty in the bathroom. That’s all true. My son still gets up at night once in a while but it’s nothing like that first year.
What they forget to add is that the actual parenting gets harder. Now, at 6, he’s finding his voice–and using it against me. He wants to watch videos of kids playing with toys he will never have or already has. I say, “No!” He says, “I hate you.” He would rather play with his cousin Alex after school than do his homework. I say, “No!” He says, “I wish you weren’t my mom.” Even though I know these words are merely growing pains, they still break my heart just a little bit every time.
What Comes Next
My boy is growing up. He is testing me, trying to figure out his limits and mine. Mostly, he’s trying to gain some independence. I’ll admit I’m loathe to give it to him. I find such comfort in holding him close and keeping him little. Everything is still new to him. His eyes glisten. And those dimples turn up with every ear-to-ear smile. While the world outside is unjust and darkness is closing in on us, he brings in the sunshine. Our place is filled with light. This love I hold for my baby in my heart is my salvation. He is literally my everything.
Therefore, when he dishes up an “I like papa better than mamma,” line, I lose my temper. I yell or cry or both. Sometimes, I put myself in time out behind the locked bathroom door. Or I take a walk in the garden. In these quiet moments away from my child, I think about the long arc of justice. I too must have made my mother cry. It is only now that I recognize how deeply and profoundly she loved me. Now, I realize how much I took for granted those moments with her from childhood. And I see how mean I might have been. Surely, I told her I hated her. I always took it back. But once the words escape your mouth, your mother knows what is lurking in your mind. She knows the raw emotion. There’s no turning back really. My only option is to roast myself in my own guilt about how I treated my own mom, about how things are going with my son. For the moment, I hate myself.
How to Move Forward
In the silence, I hear my heart. I take a deep breath. Then, I envelope myself in the nostalgia of having a newborn, who needs you for everything. I relish the memories that dance in my mind – my son breathing, deep in sleep on my chest. Or what about that first smile? How about when he finally began to speak to us? He had delayed speech and didn’t start talking until he was about 4. Should I even be allowed to get angry at a child with delayed speech who is verbally attacking me? Probably not. This is all my fault, I think. I convince myself I’m too hard on him. Why can’t I be the one handing out chocolate Kinder eggs and playing Mario Kart with him? Why does my husband get that job? Guilt continues to wash over me like muslin rolling over a body in a coffin.
Before long, I miss my boy. It’s only been a few minutes, yet I feel like we are so far apart. The distance weighs on me like a hot iron pressing on my chest. What the hell am I going to do when he’s off to college? Now, I can’t resist.
So, I return to him. Tears are rolling down his cheeks. He is red in the face. “I want you mamma. I didn’t mean it,” he says. And I can’t help myself. I can’t stay angry or even sad. “You’re the love of my life,” I say as I lift him up to me. As I rub my cheek against his, my stomach settles, the world stops. For that second, everything is truly all right. I wish to the depths of my soul that I could hold this pose forever.
The truth is my son and I will be repeating this pattern of give and take, war and peace for years to come. Our arguments will evolve. As my grandmother used to say, “Little kids, little problems; big kids, big problems; married kids, impossible problems.” My boy will have to seize his independence. And I’ll have to give it to him, even if reluctantly. Guilt and nostalgia will come and go, but they can’t stop me from raising him to be a good person. Still, they will torture me along the way. That is motherhood. That is for what I’ve signed up, for what every mother has signed up. Our reward is a full heart and a light spirit despite a heavy mind.
Di Meglio is the author of Fun with the Family New Jersey (Globe Pequot Press, 2012). She also has written the Our Paesani column for ItaliansRus.com since 2003. You can follow the Italian Mamma on Facebook or Twitter @ItalianMamma10.