I consider myself a very present mother.
I don’t mean that I have this whole parenting thing down, because I most certainly don’t. I don’t mean I sit and play with him constantly, because while we do play, he’s happy independently playing and I give him the space he thrives in. It also doesn’t mean I watch him like a hawk, he’s always in sight but I do cook, clean, or read a book sometimes and my eyes are only two.
My definition of present as I mean it is I am very attuned to my son. I am in a state of marvel that he’s mine. I truly genuinely enjoy the moments with him, especially the cute ones that grab your heart and squish it like when he walks around in his father’s shoes, or picks up a book squealing with delight. I even am present in the tougher moments when he won’t sleep, or his tummy hurts, or he’s just in a bad mood. In those moments I am no where else but there, in that moment.
It’s been a rough few days, tissue and tears rough. Nothing life or death, but just difficult, and involving phone calls and inconveniences and worry and frustration and helplessness that’s taking up a lot of mental head space. Mental head space away from Waleed.
For Waleed ofcourse, life is gravy. I envy the days that I had at his age, when surely my parents managed stressors and worried but as a toddler I was blissfully unware. [Ofcourse I was also unaware that I was unaware]. I’m doing everything I should. His physical needs are met, his naps are on time, we’ve played hide and seek and had piggy back rides and trips to the park and I read to him all the stories his heart desires.
But inside, in my heart, that precious mental head space, I’m not present.
As I hide Pooh for him to find, I think about the things plaguing me. As I spoon out his food, I consider the options. As I change his diaper, singing songs and chatting, I worry the options won’t work. I’m physically doing but I’m not mentally doing. I’m giving him myself, but not all of myself. As far as I can tell, this is the first time this has happened.
When I was nine, my brother Ali, five, wanted to play with me. I still remember sitting on a lawn chair in our patio immersed in a book I just couldn’t put down. Play with me, he begged me. When I’m done, I told him. You’re always reading, he cried. I watched him leave and shrugged. Now? I don’t remember the name of the book. But I remember the moment I was not present for my brother.
This isn’t the same thing, but in some ways it feels that way. The way I smiled at him half distracted as he stomped about in his Abu’s boots. The way I let him watch an hour of Sesame Street not for its educational value but so he could be absorbed in something while I addressed other things. The way I gave him a Cliff Bar when he fought me on his lunch because at least he could eat it by hand and I could attend to other things.
I’m always there for Waleed’s bedtime rituals, but today? Today I forgot. And when K called me to Waleed’s bedroom because he was going to sleep and didn’t I want to give him his goodnight kiss? Waleed wrapped his arms around me and kissed me twenty-five times, and I left feeling like the worst mother in the world. He loves with everything he is, why couldn’t I have done the same? He may not know it, but I do. And considering there are people who would lay their lives for my stressors if they could have their child, being distracted as I am hurts more.
I know guilt is part and parcel of motherhood but somehow telling myself this isn’t helping. I feel like I’ve done a really bad job these past few days. I feel like God gave me the moon and I’m focusing on a misplaced pebble. One day these stressors will be a distant memory as will my son’s childhood and I know what I’ll regret between the two. I am so blessed to have him, and today I felt like I was redoing the mistake I made with my brother those many moons ago, I will forget these stressors but not the way I wasn’t fully present.