When it comes to parenting, people always talk about that moment. That one moment when a child is born that forever changes their lives and offers a very specific clarity to the world in which they live.
I have never had such a moment.
My daughter was born and there was no magical revelation. No crazy, earth shattering catharsis. There wasn’t even a life- altering, soul expanding, decree of “NOW THE WORLD MAKES SENSE” or some shit.
There was just panic. And stress. And love, of course.
But I thought I was a failure because I didn’t have that moment. Because I didn’t immediately get washed up in some love tidal wave that left me oozing with appreciation and adoration of the thing that just tunneled its way out of my loins. I thought some secret Mommy Mafia was going to rise up from the bowels of the earth, screaming Raffi lullabies in latin, and ripping my kid from my arms as the people from Child Protective Services did the the ChaCha in celebration.
It carried this weight with me until my daughter was well out of diapers. I didn’t have that moment. I wasn’t one of those parents. I failed. Anyone with a Facebook who is friends of new parents will tell you that that moment is fucking crucial for social validation. The “OMG I JUST MET THIS LITTLE GUY AND I’M SO IN LOVE ALREADY” is the most standard and banal of captions coupling baby’s first photo. To not have this moment, or feeling, relegates you to a bad parent wasteland where your selfish mindset is almost always the first thing highlighted.
I spent years thinking that was the answer. I didn’t have that moment because I was selfish. I didn’t put my own child’s existence before mine thus allowing her birth to be the single most incredible lightning bolt to the heart that has ever happened in the history of ever. And that fact alone made me a bad person. And a terrible mother.
Then the clarity settles in.
See, I dropped Billie off at her daycare today. She asked for a hug and I gave her one. Before I knew it- the other ten kids in the daycare surrounded me, screaming desperately for a hug. I’m not one to voluntarily hug strangers’ kids but I know enough about children to know that, if they’re asking for a hug, it’s because they need it. So I start dolling out hugs. Billie stands to the side watching as the kids line up to hug me. The last kid, a little girl, gives me the hugest smile and the most epic of hugs. I tell her, “Happy Friday, beautiful! Have a great day.” The little girl turns to leave, but changes her mind and barrels back into my chest before I’m even able to understand what’s going on. Billie looks at me and says, “I told her your hugs were magic. She needs all the magic right now.” When the little girl pulled away from me she was still smiling but now there were tears in her eyes. I found out later, from the teacher, that the little girl’s been having some “trouble” at home. I doubt Billie was aware of any of that- but she knew enough to know that the little girl needed kindness. And that I could give it.
I realize now that I didn’t have that sudden parental love moment not because it wasn’t there; on the contrary, it was always there. That moment of extreme love and catharsis was present in Billie’s birth and every millisecond thereafter. It was there when she was an infant- sick and vomiting into my shirt as I held her. It was there when I found myself fantasizing about punching a 5 year old on the playground for making fun of her hair. It was there in her first bike ride. See, I’m not the kind of person who relinquishes herself to love easily. I’m the kind of person who doesn’t understand that what she’s feeling is love until it’s burrowed so deeply into her flesh that she mistakes it for a biological necessity. I’m the kind of person who wears her love completely, like skin. It’s not something that just gets magically added to your life in profound light bulb flashes. It’s something that is already a part of you. Something so deep and embedded that sometimes you won’t even know it’s there until you’ve already used it. Something that seems invisible until the light hits it just right.