I watch Jada Pinkett Smith get fierce on camera about what it means to be a mother in this world. How we put ourselves last. About how we are expected to put our children first, our husbands second, and ourselves last. I watch her daughter listen contentedly. I think about how her daughter has been trained to be on camera, listening to her mother. There is another woman listening, too I think it is a grandmother. She is intent on hearing Jada speak.
Everything Jada says is true. How we have our children and we are passionately in love, in love like we have never been before. We gladly put ourselves last. Our husbands are passionately in love, too. But maybe they are perplexed at how in love their wives are with these children. How quickly I cast my own husband aside, holding tight to that first baby.
How I still lay awake at night and think about my babies, now tween and teen, and how Chris fits in the picture of all this unconditional love.
Meanwhile Jada’s voice raises with her earnestness. How she had to learn to put herself on her to-do list and take care of herself every single day before the day is over.
Yes, I’ve learned the hard way that I have to do this, too. I have learned if I don’t take care of me I get mad at my daughters and Chris. Mostly I get mad at Chris because he’s not me. Which is ridiculous. Thank God both of us don’t lay awake and listen to make sure the children are asleep. One of us needs to sleep deeply. Because in the morning, Chris pops out of bed and makes us all strawberry pancakes. While I try to catch up on lost sleep.
Meanwhile, Jada talks. Her voice gets loud just like mine does. She is mad at the status quo: how women are expected to give everything up for their children. If we lose ourselves in child rearing, what do we do when the children seek independence?
Oh man, all I know is my children have not been trained to be quiet on camera while I tell them how hard motherhood is. They know how hard motherhood is because I tell them so (Darn it, I shouldn’t do that!) and I often I put myself last. And then I lose it and they know mom will disappear for all of Saturday. I go work at a coffee shop. Get my haircut. Walk to the library. Walk around Green Lake. Then I come back home and hug my family.
Jada is done talking at the camera and her daughter and the grandmother nod and say “Yes! Yes! Yes!”
We are never done figuring out balance in our lives. Once those children are birthed, baby we are amazed and confused. How to live with this much love and still reach for our goals? How to make sure our children learn to live well enough and reach for their own dreams while we live well enough and reach for ours?
Minute by minute, day by day, we make our way in the most important relationships in our lives. How do we take care of each other while loving each other fiercely? Probably by watching the dogs we love. They immediately figure out that the new living room carpet we bought is the perfect place to breathe deeply. Indu takes two pieces of her food to the carpet, places them there, and rolls all over that spot.
Yes, yes! Eat on the carpet. My blog has lost all sense of reason. That is what having children is: getting lost in love, and then figuring out how to live within that love while loving yourself too. Where’s the camera? I’m going to post a video of my dogs explaining this to us. One will be fetching a tennis ball and the other will be playing with a stuffed animal. But it will make perfect sense because no one will be talking.
Happy New Year! I promise my next blog will make more sense than this one. It’ll have a beginning, middle and end. But there won’t be a video of Jada Pinkett Smith in it.