By ReSHONDA TATE BILLINGSLEY
My mother came to visit this week. She fed my six-month-old collard greens and cornbread. She won’t listen to anything I tell her about additives, insecticides, and new studies. Her response every time I complain is, “I don’t need a damn book to tell me how to parent. I raised two children who turned out just fine.”
I love my mom to death, but I can’t wait for her to leave.
I was what you call a nervous mother. I was so scared of making the wrong choice, doing something out of order (at least for the first child). She got the entire house baby-proofed, from the corner edges to the drawer locks to the outlet plugs. By kid three, I was like, “Oh, a little electricity never hurt anybody.”
It’s not that I loved my kids any less, but I guess after the first child, that gene that makes you think motherhood is some blissful, beautiful thing slowly begins to evaporate. You realize that there’s some validity to the three-second rule (if food drops on the floor and you pick it up within three seconds, it’s safe to feed your kids. Hey, I don’t make the rules!) And you also realize that no kid actually ever died from crying.
I’m not the young, virile mother I used to be and my son, well, I have to admit, he has a different set of rules than his sisters did.
“Why does Myles get away with so much?” my oldest daughter asked me one time.
“Because he’s four and I’m forty,” I replied. I’m not ashamed to admit it. I’m tired. Too tired to run after a rambunctious little boy. As long as he’s not burning down the house, or destroying things, I’m good. I just have to deal with the occasional heart stoppers. Like the time he came barreling down the stairs and in a panic shouted, “Mommy, whatever you do, don’t come upstairs,” before turning and dashing back up the stairs.
Now, the part of me that was exhausted after running all day just wanted to say “okay,” and go back to watching Lifetime, but the rational part of me took over and I headed upstairs to find that he’d flooded the bathroom with his Transformer. (According to him, “Bumblebee had to take a dive in the toilet to escape the bad guys.”)
A perusal of our family photo album also shows my evolution through my kids. The first fifteen pages are Mya in every form (first smile, first meal, sleeping, crying, playing). Then, there is a page and a half of Morgan (who was the most adorable little thing), then, since Myles was a boy, he got about ten pages.
I know, sad, right? (Insert the Brady Bunch line, ‘Marsha, Marsha, Marsha’, when Jan screams about her sister getting all the attention). I didn’t even realize how bad it was until we were all looking through the album one day.
“Awwww, is that me, Mama?” Morgan asked.
“No, baby. That’s Mya.”
“Oh, is that me?”
“No, that’s Myles.”
After repeating this scene several times, Morgan finally said, “Where am I?”
I almost told her the truth. Your mom was just trifling, honey. But staring at her big doe eyes, I could only say, “Sweetie, we lost all your baby pictures in a horrible fire. But don’t worry, from now on, we’re going to capture everything.”
Okay, so that was trifling, too. But my baby was pacified and it put me on notice. Now, I snap pictures of her every chance I get. So she might not have baby photos but she’ll definitely have childhood pictures!
This excerpt was reprinted, with permission, from The Motherhood Diaries, a collection of essays on raising kids in the new millenium, by ReShonda Tate Billingsley, the New York Times best-selling author of 26 books. Read more about The Motherhood Diaries and ReShonda here. Visit her website at www.reshondatatebillinglsey.
In addition to ReShonda’s essays, The Motherhood Diaries is full of amazing stories from a long line-up of phenomenal moms: Diary of an Over Achieving Mom (Who Needs a Drink), by Sadeqa Johnson; Diary of a Forgetful Mom, by Raquel Rogers; Diary of a Mom/Dad, by Tanisha Tate; Diary of an Intuitive Mother, by Pat Tucker; Diary of a Special Needs Mother, by Edna Pittman; Diary of a Grieving Mother, by Lorna A. Lewis; Diary of an Abusive Mother, by Norlita Brown; Diary of A Stay-At-Home Mom, by Tia McCollers; Diary of a Single Parent, by Marilyn Diamond; Diary of the Adoptive Mom, by C. Mikki; Diary of a Breast Cancer Survivor, by Crystal Brown Tatum; Diary of Wimpy Mom, by Kaleigh Hadley; Diary of the Working Mom (The Balancing Act), by Marcena Hooks; Diary of an Aspie Mom, by Makasha Dorsey; Diary of a Welfare Mom, by Lichol Ford; Diary of a Depressed Mom, by Jamesina E. Greene; Diary of a Stay at Home Mom, by Deborah Gaffney; Diary of a Praying Mother, by Gina Johnson; Diary of an Unemployed Mom, by Roishina Clay Henderson; Diary of a Mature Mom, by Shelby Alexander Griggs; Diary of a Mom Trying to Conceive, by Felicia Williams; Diary of a Struggling Mom, by Kimyatta Walker and; Diary of a Mom with a Big Heart Disability, by Miranda Parker.