There are so many things I wish I had known about motherhood before I had children, but I guess it’s just true that you can never fully grasp it all until you are there. If there was one thing I wasn’t prepared for, it was everything my kids would teach me about myself. Not just how many hours I can go without sleep, how “hangry” I can get, and the absolute longest I can go while listening to a screeching toddler from the confines of a carseat before wanting to pull all of my hair out, but who I am. Like, who I really really am on my deepest level.
It started more when my daughter was born, seeing it all in her. I didn’t see it as much in my perfectly quiet, kept to himself, first child who was later diagnosed with autism at 17 months (I see it now, but I didn’t then. I couldn’t see who he was through the cloud of his disorder). But with my daughter… I saw it from the beginning. It was strange the connection I felt to my kids when they were still in my belly. It was as if I could tell all of their personalities by the way they moved and when and what they responded to. My daughter got the hiccups every single night at 10 o’clock. Every single night I would lay there feeling my belly jump and spasm at every one. When she was born she continued to get hiccups every night at 10 o’clock. It was the same with the personality I felt she had in my womb, she continued to be the same baby I knew she would be. She shocked me. This tiny little person who was such a… well, person.
Each of my children is completely different from the other. They have their similarities, but from the beginning they were just wired a certain way. And that was what changed me, that was what taught me. That was it. We are all born our own tiny little people. We just have it in us. Our personalities, our likes and dislikes, our reactions, they are all just there. Yes, parents can mold and shape us and teach us to cope better and react differently to a certain extent, but so much of who we are is just there. From the beginning my daughter was dramatic, loved to put on a show, shy, a people pleaser, and very internally confident and strong. This is who she is on her deepest level. Everything she does, every reaction, is based on that little personality. My oldest has an engineer mind, is deeply thoughtful, an organizer, and a friend to absolutely anyone. He is also sensitive and cares about the emotions of others. He’s been taking things apart and building them since birth, and has been a true leader. He continues to be that way today and will forever. It is just him, deep down on the inside, this is who he is.
Now my youngest. My youngest has taught me the most. My youngest whose behavior changed so drastically at 18 months that they did a CT scan to make sure he didn’t hit his head and cause an injury. Instead they diagnosed him with terrible two’s… then three’s… My youngest is my most strong-willed. It’s hard to see a lot of these personality traits as “good”, even though what they really are is wonderful, because they are so hard. He may be the one who taught me the most. He is a clown and will do anything to make people laugh. Even as a tiny baby if he did something that made me laugh he would do it over and over and over again. He is impatient, I realized this when he began growling at me when I couldn’t switch sides fast enough while nursing. He doesn’t care if it is negative attention or positive, it is all the same to him. For so long I tried to change things about him to make it easier on me. Things that were hard and inconvenient, that required time and effort ad nauseum. The more I tried to change him, the more he pushed back. And, of course he did, it is who he is on his deepest level.
As I stare into the faces of my children who have my eyes, my tall, skinny frame, my passion and my stubbornness, I see so much more. My children taught me that we are all people, different even from those we share our DNA with. They have inspired me with their individuality and their unapologetic attitude for who they are. Who they are deep down. Who they were born to be. The main thing my children taught me about myself, is the beauty of our seperateness. The beauty that comes from doing our own thing, being who we are, and not feeling bad for it. My children defined me, until one day I had to give them away. They were always with me, until one day they weren’t. Being forced to share custody and having time to myself with no one else to tell me who I am or what to do I’ve had to learn who I am on my deepest level. Because one day I had all of these things, and then one day I didn’t. And something amazing happened when I found myself apart from anyone else. My children found something beautiful in me too. They began to see me as the individual I am rather than just their mom. I saw it click in their eyes. The light bulb that went off when they realized I did fun things while they were away at their dad’s. They loved to hear stories of my hiking adventures, how I rode a motorcycle, what I did at work, see pictures of me dressed as a clown for an event. They think I’m teaching them to be themselves, but really, they are the ones who taught me.