I recently had a small “mother moment”. A moment that left me feeling slightly ashamed and wishing I had been better and bigger as a person. Let me clarify, this type of moment is more than just your usual everyday: “damn I shouldn’t have shouted at the kids this morning ”, or “I’m the worst mother in the world because I just bribed my son with Smarties to get him to take a nap with me today (true)”. No, it’s a moment that hits at your core and reveals something about yourself you’d rather not see.
I have had plenty of these moments as a mother, but this particular one came on my son’s first day at school. I was waiting with a mixture of excitement and nervousness as all the little preppies came streaming out. And there he was, my gorgeous Dash, his shy smile slightly wider at the sight of his mum today. “It was great Mama!”
But then his teacher came up and told me that Dash had really missed me all day. She had asked him what he liked to do, to distract him I guess, and he had said “computer games”, so she had let him play a maths game on the computer and it had really helped. She was now suggesting I let him play some at home to encourage him. But, as ridiculous as it sounds I felt panicked. My internal monologue went something like this, “damn, why did he have to say computer games, why couldn’t he say drawing or building cubbies outside or playing imaginary games, or chasing butterflies – not dreaded computer games,! Now she is going to think I’m the type of mother who lets her son play video games. I don’t want her to think all he does is play computer games, I want her to know that he is creative and wonderful and……” …and on went my internal critic.
In that moment I was not concerned that my son was sad all day, nor was I noticing how caring his teacher was being. All I could think about was myself, – how his comment would reflect on me. I wanted him to be different in that moment. I didn’t want him to be Dash in that moment. And that is what I am ashamed of.
The reality is that my son does love computer games. He does love a lot of other things as well, but at present he would play them all day if I let him. But this doesn’t fit into my image of him or the type of mother that I want people to think I am. I was shocked to realize that at some level I don’t fully accept Dash for Dash. I sometimes wish he were slightly different. At kinder while all the other kids were drawing smiling faces and flowers and sunshine, Dash was drawing spies shooting each other and I wished he wasn’t. When his kinder teacher told me last year that he was into concepts that were too adult, instead of feeling proud that my son was really bright and inquisitive I was embarrassed and wished he were like every other kid. But Dash is Dash. And Dash is amazing! He is so intelligent and funny and challenging and kind and serious and gentle and creative and, among other things, very into computer games. And he is his own person. I think as parents we often fail to see this. We view our kids as extensions of ourselves, and thus think they can reflect badly on us. But they aren’t, they are very much their own person.
Seeing this aspect of myself, this smallness, has made me realize how much I worry about what other people think and how this causes me great anxiety. In reality I think it is myself that I don’t accept a lot of the time. And so this small moment has really become such a gift, helping me become a bigger person and a better mother. It has truly shown me that the cliché is true, our children really are the best teachers, but only if we are willing to face these moments within ourselves.