I realized something today as I silently watched from that safe distance afforded one when the other is unaware. I watched as my husband tickled our daughter, her infectious giggles urging him to do more of the same. And as I watched, I knew for sure what I'd never known before.
I don't love my daughter like he does. In fact, I don't love any of our four children in the same ways he does.
And up until now, this fact has scared me. Has convinced me that I am not a good mother. That I don't love enough, project enough, relax enough, offer enough or have enough. I therefore am not enough. Or rather, I am not a good enough mother.
(oh, these lies we tell ourselves...)
We mothers are good at playing that comparison game with ourselves pinned up alongside other mothers -- holding 'us' up to 'them', vis-à-vis the standards we see for motherhood all around us. And that alone is enough to stifle a mother's self-esteem. But when it is our own partner to which we compare and contrast ourselves -- and within the elusive Other we see traits so unlike our own. To which we say, "I don't do what s/he does, so therefore I must not be as good a parent."
It is one of the hardest pills of self-depreciation to swallow.
My Husband is a wonderful dad. He is relaxed and fun. He is the more likely of us two to sit down and cuddle with the children. He loves watching kid movies. He is the one most apt to let the kids make a mess. He is the one whom is least stressed, least uptight and least tidy. He is patient, calm and easy-going.
Of course, I am the exact opposite. And then some.
I am more likely to do everything but stay calm. I am perfectionist to a fault. I am uptight, fidgety and extremely tidy. I am trying to adopt patience as a possibility, but so far it hasn't been working out quite like I'd hoped. Forget about easy-going (not happening...).
But as much as I have wanted to be more like him and adopt some of these fine qualities as my own character traits, I am who I am. And I am more than all this.
I am more than the sum of some of my personality parts.
I am a champion for my children. When any one of my four children is scared or suffering or sad or feeling isolated, I am the first one to sense it. A mother's fifth sense -- discernment and understanding: it is mine to own. So that when my children are frustrated, I am innately in-tune with their thoughts and feelings. And if they are under any kind of emotional or physical threat or attack, no matter the degree, I am the one who knowingly runs to their rescue. I am the one who has held them with protective, fierceness: held the growing body with gangly legs of my six-year old who wraps her little arms around my neck through to the manly body of my boy almost 13. I am a mama bear when it comes to my kids.
I am: the most likely to be confrontational if my kid's well-being is at stake: because I would fight for them. To the death. I go to bat for them on the little and big issues. And you can be assured that if they are hurting, so am I. I will fight to correct that hurt for them. I will do what I have to do.
I am: imperfectly perfect at being the mother my children need. I know my flaws, but I know my strengths as well. And I find my strength in being an advocate, a protector and a warrior as it concerns my children.
I am that iconic grizzly bear mama -- and you will certainly hear me roar.
Is my love exactly like that special love they have found in their father? No. Do I love our four children the same ways as does he? Undeniably, no. But I do love them with intensity and with passion. It's just that I love using a different fact of love than he does. And different is neither bad nor good.
It's just unique.
My friend commented recently to me that she felt she doesn't love her children as much as she thinks she should. And I told that while she may think she does not love them like she thinks she should, she still loves them enough.
Because different also doesn't mean more or less. It just means enough. And enough is just exactly the right amount.