Being a mother of young children causes me to lose my sense of proportion.
It is like living over and over the moment or the day or week you fell in love for the first time. Every thought took up residence, during the hours of those virgin days, in "what's he thinking" and "oh, that mouth", and it was more than you could barely bear not knowing if he caught your affections or whether they were simply slipping through the cracks in the air that existed between you and him. And would you win him or would you lose him forever? The agony and ecstasy of it all left you at once exhausted and distracted. You fell into bed at night with a mind stuffed with too much wonder. You were full to overflowing and it both pumped and pained your helpless heart. In the the dichotomous key of emotion, those of a mother to a child share the same genus as these.
It was a few days after we had celebrated Lucy's birthday. We were in the car going to I-don't-recall-where. I thought about the preparations I had joyfully made to make the day one set apart just for her.
I had spent six sticks of butter and a whole dozen eggs to make her vanilla (by request) cupcakes topped with pink (also specified) strawberry meringue buttercream frosting. Six sticks of butter! I drove out to the ever ghetto Toys 'R Us and parked next to the other two people braving the weird tunnel entrance and found my way to the back isles to finally find a music box with a dancing ballerina fairy. I filled it with plastic jewelry and wrapped Lucy's-dream-come-true in a box: yellow paper, purple ribbon, pink wand tucked beneath the bow. She was delighted with the gift. But she shunned those cupcakes. A whole dozen eggs! The rest of the family still gathered at the table enjoying her birthday "cake". She refused even the frosting.
The next day, while her sisters napped, I sat on the love seat in her bedroom and watched while she simulated a birthday party for a tiny plastic fairy doll. Suddenly she slumped back onto her kneeling legs as if she had just remembered something dreadful. Then tears and sobs began to explain the exasperation.
"Mom! I wanted a birthday cake for my birthday and--and--a costume party with lots of friends! Now it's too late!"
But--but--Lucy, you had cupcakes with pink frosting. And our family was there! And you LOVED it. You did. You smiled and twirled and even declared it the best day of your life. I won your heart, didn't I? I try each day to do this. For mine is yours already, was already yours secured from the first beat of your own within my womb. Yours! Long ago, lock and key, yours! I want it, that soft sobbing heart of yours. And not just for myself, but shaped, sharpened, and strengthened for the world you are preparing to face.
In the car I told Dr. Gooch of the Confession and my subsequent heartache. I told the tale of how her disappointment was a dagger. He countered: she's five. she can't have everything she wants. you gave her a wonderful birthday celebration. you're. over. reacting.
In so many words. And he was right. And I was. Overreacting. In so many words.
But, isn't that love? Not an everyday reaction. Not a normal run-o-the-mill reaction. But, one that sends you over. Over and beyond the realm of sane. It is to me. That's what it is to be the mother of young children. To me.