Tuesday, March 23, 2010

How Mothering Is Like Taking Care Of a Cyber Pet. (Not Really)

   My interet browser has a "gadget" that is a virtual hamster in a virtual "cage". Inside the cage is a water bottle and a wheel, along with Hammy, of course. I've chosen to locate this bit of cyber square footage in the upper corner of my browser's homepage. The better for me to see it. Did I mention that it's interactive? Oh yes, indeed it is. This simple little "gadget", this non-essesential add-on to enhance my web-surfing experience (which I only added because it looked cute at the time) has become yet another responsibility for me. Look back at the items in his cage. Do you see 'food bowl' there? No. His programmers didn't include that. And Hammy gets hungry. Oh, he does. At first I just ignored him, but that only made things worse and now whenever I log on, he's there waiting. Paws up in the air. Sniffing. I feel obligated to go over and click a spot inside his cage to drop a food pellet. Then another, and another, and another. More and more until I feel I've compensated for my serious lack of virtual pet ownership. I can't navigate away from the page until I've clicked on the wheel to make him run, thus easing my mind and turning his beady, judgemental little eyes away from me.

  The way I see it, I can look at this whole Hammy Issue in two ways. First, maybe I'm a bit neurotic. It's a cyber gadget. Delete it already and it goes away. (Does it? Does it really? Responsibilty shirker). Or second, this says a lot about me as a mom. (Doesn't that sound better? Has a quaint therapy ring to it, yes?) I like choice two and since it's my page, I'm going with it. As in all things, you may choose your own thoughts, but know this...until you've stared down that sad looking, hungry hamster, can you really know?

  All through this journey of motherhood, I've been like absolutely any first time mom who just happened to gestate and birth more than one baby at a time: exhausted and winging it. It's true. I started off with the best intentions. I had all the books, and I tried (I really tried) to do it all to the letter. And then somewhere in there, 'Life' happened. Babies were up needing to feed every 2 hours. I didn't sleep for two million nights in a row. There was spit up everywhere. And poop. Oh.....oh the poop. Where was it not? "In their diaper", is the correct answer to that one because I swear to you it hardly ever got in there, even when they were wearing it. (I wonder what the genetic odds of have monozygotic twins who both specialize in super-blow-outs are?) After awhile, I realized that what mattered wasn't a clean house or even smiley, non-crying babies, for that matter. What mattered most were the things I could control: my ability to love and care. They had lots of those things. Always. How is it that no matter how bone weary you are as a parent, you can always find some extra reserve somewhere in you to pull from for your child? When you cannot even care for yourself, you can reach into some unknown vault and withdrawl enough wherewithall to comfort your child and care for him/her/them. I stand in awe of that principal. Absolute awe.

   As I've mentioned before, the beginning days were a hazy blur of one moment spreading into the next, until everything jumbled up and (voila!) the girls turned one. Since then the roller coaster ride has continued, and as a family we're all "Arms Up In The Air" enjoying the ride. The independence that they've gained has given us a freedom to go out and do so many things as a family. I've had the opportunity to do what every parent loves to do...the thing you dream about doing during the weeks and months of pregnancy....relive my childhood. It's been fantastic. Playgrounds, riding on shopping carts, and throwing toys up in the air just to see how they fall and land when they hit the ground. Spending whole days in pajamas, camped out in the family room playing and watching tv; just because. What an awesome, awesome ride. Nothing compares to watching your child experience something new, something that you used to love, for the first time. I find myself holding my breath, anxious to see if they'll like it too. 'What if they don't?', I worry. 'What if they think it's lame?'. Or worse, 'What if they think I'M lame because I used to like this!' (Shudder. Better save that one for when the hormones start flaring. 'Til then, I'm in denial.)

   Every moment has been glorious, and I know it's only going to get better. But even in light of all these precious new adventures we're going on together, I still find myself sticking to the tried and true methods of my 'Go To' mothering technique: giving love and care. For me it's all in the little things. I still go in every night to give the last kiss to those sweetly sleeping lips, and sometimes ruffling a few proverbial feathers while pulling the blanket just a bit higher to make sure they're warm enough.  Whenever I am able to corner them into some snuggle time, there's still a spot on their foreheads that (honest to pete) smells like a baby's head, and you'll find my nose nuzzled against it, sniffing away and thinking about the days of yore. And no matter how busy our day is, and no matter how crazy it was and how many power struggles I won (or more often lost), I relish the moment each night when my girls wrap their arms tightly around my neck and pull me down to their shoulders, saying, "Mommy, I'm gonna keep you." In these fleeting minutes, I find myself looking at my babies once again. For all the priceless family moments we've been granted (and for the many more I pray we'll be blessed with), sometimes I wish for all the world that I could go back to those days when I was surviving by just winging it. By flying by the seat of my unmatched and unlaundered pants. Adrift in a sea of dirty spit up rags, bottles that needed steralized, and poop. Everyday having the privilige to look into the faces of two of the most trusting and loving faces, both completely oblivious to the chaos they had brought to our lives, but certain that every single moment they were covered in love and care.

  How does this mesh with Hammy? Okay, so maybe it was a stretch. But I think in some way it shows that no matter how easy something could be, like deleting a simple gadget, or getting used to my two tiny babies having seemingly "grown up", the instinct part of me will always search for that innate way to love and care. Whether it be by clicking a mouse and dropping some pixel-composed food pellets to a cyber hamster that only really matters to me, or by trying to sift through the piles of "I-Do-By-Self" to get to those fragile moments where my hugs and help are wanted. I still can't believe how much motherhood has changed me, or how much it's brought to my life. But I wake up every morning with a "Thank You God" on my lips, and drift to sleep each night with the knowledge that they're "going to keep me" in my heart.


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