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Musings: Normal No More?

Yael Machsman

Time, I thought, did not fly by so fast. He is 20 and, doggone it, it took me 20 long years to get here

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

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W ell, it’s official. There’s something wrong with me.

I was normal once. I remember those days fondly. The births of my first several children brought me unmitigated joy.

My oldest was born before I’d been married two years, but I did not take his arrival for granted. Earlier medical issues had augured a long and bumpy quest for motherhood. So I treasured this bundle with every ounce of my being. With his thick dark curls and huge eyes, not to mention his learning to smile responsively before he was a month old, I thought him the most brilliant, beautiful child who ever lived.

As his siblings arrived in quick succession, my pride and joy only grew. Each baby brought a surge of the fabled primal love a mother is supposed to feel. A lone stay-at-home mom in a sea of working women, I was inordinately proud of my growing brood — and my dedication to being their full-time caretaker.

And truly, they were unusual. When other mothers kvetched of sibling rivalry or homework struggles or bedtime battles I clucked appropriately, but silently, I was smug. My children never fought. They never needed help or prodding with their homework. They practically put themselves to bed. Clearly they were superior. And by extension, so was I.

Two decades passed slowly in a blur of diapers and feedings and laundry and cooking and shopping and messes and life. And suddenly, I wasn’t just the mother of a few young children anymore. My older children had grown up; the younger ones were proving needier. Now I found myself spending hours daily on homework and baths and bedtime. On top of that, I had a difficult, colicky baby.

And then, it happened. My oldest was flying off to the Mir. All around me at the airport mothers dabbed at moist eyes and blew leaky noses. In a pack, they threw out clichés in solidarity. “Good thing I wore sunglasses.” “Time flies by so fast!” “It seems like just yesterday we cut his hair!” They leaned on each other for support. But I needed none, had none to give.

My heart flooded with guilt. Time, I thought, did not fly by so fast. He is 20 and, doggone it, it took me 20 long years to get here. I had worked hard at my task, and, I thought, done a pretty good job of it. I was — gasp! — ready to move on.

Was it the fact that I’d spent more tangible hours with my children than most mothers that made me so oddly prepared to let go? I wondered. And — what blasphemy was this? — I actually felt more relieved than grieved. 

(Excerpted from Family First, Issue 585)

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