On the job mom training
I never played with dolls. I didn’t have tea parties or strollers. I didn’t dress them up and feed them. The only feeding of dolls I ever did was with a certain doll that had a digestive system and came with little packets of gel powder. You’d add water and make pink goo and feed it to the baby, pump the handle in the back, and wait for proof that what goes in must come out.
Then I gave her a haircut that would make you think she had a lawnmower for a beautician, and she ended up in the bottom of my toy box.
There were other dolls that people gave me, thinking that surely a little girl would hone in her mothering skills and enjoy them, but I didn’t. I didn’t have mothering skills. I had other skills. I had rock collections and rode my bike with no hands.
Being an only child, I always considered myself the daughter my parents always wanted and the son they never had.
So when I got married and my husband told my parents that he wanted to have six children, my parents held their sides in laughter and I felt my hips getting wider and my world closing in.
A bit down the road we were expecting our first kid. A young mother-to-be, I thought I should really start reading what to do because I had no clue how to take care of a baby, let alone actually be a mother.
A friend sent me a book. “This is what helped us.”
Someone recommended another book. “This will totally save you.”
Relatives told stories, gave advice. “You’ll never find this in any book.”
But I was pregnant during the summer and had garden work to do, a lawn to mow, dinner to make, and was completely exhausted. There was no time for reading stacks of books with diagrams on how to swaddle a baby and work out gas bubbles and the best way to establish a sleep schedule. (I probably should have read that chapter.)
I read very little and when my daughter was born, I had never changed a diaper that wasn’t full of pink goo. When that first time came, I just did what came natural to me and a lightbulb went off: I think I’m actually wired for this job. Motherhood was inside me all along, whether I knew it or not.
My hypothesis was confirmed as I nursed her and rocked her to sleep, and skills continued to develop every day. I already knew how to love this child unconditionally and with every inch of my being for the rest of my life and when she was hungry and tired and how not to run into the coffee table and how to put her toys, dolls and all, back in the toybox. I just didn’t know it.
Happy Mother’s Day!