Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Child's Play

I used to LOVE playing with Barbies.  I mean really love it.  I played Barbies with my sister for probably longer than most girls do.  I'd make her SWEAR not to tell anyone because she was two years my junior and I, at 14, really should have moved on to more mature things.  

I have 4 girls now and ironically enough, I kinda hate playing Barbies.  It's just so... so... boring!  I sit there and think of 1,000 "better" things that I could be doing at that very moment.  Plus, the girls get very bossy with their Barbie plots and there is no room for dialog improvisation.  It's a very tight script.  

But, you know what I thought about today?  It hit me after I was driving home from taking Tink and Rella to their first roller skating class with a group of my mom friends and their kids.  

It suddenly dawned on me that this "Stay-At-Home Mommy Life" has become so much my norm that I have almost forgotten how badly I wanted and waited for it.  I mean, how I actually physically ached for it. For the first 9 years of motherhood I had the little girl, I was the mother, but we never did ANY of this kind of stuff.  We couldn't. The severity of CB's disabilities kept us in a very different world.  No soccer games, T-ball, ballet class, roller rinks, weekly playdates, story time at the library, crafts,  matinee movies.  Nada.  She couldn't even stay still for me to read her a simple board book. I mean we did nothing that resembled all the things that I thought defined typical motherhood.  We didn't even own a Barbie doll until my second daughter turned 4, which was a good 13 years after my first little girl was born.

We had more therapies and visits with specialists than play dates.  I spent more time on the phone with insurance companies and doctor's offices than with friends.  It wasn't long before she stopped getting invited to Birthday parties because she had no friends.  I knew every new treatment for Autism and every drug for seizures, but had no idea which new Disney movie just came out or what the "hot toy" was for 5 year old girls at Christmas.  I was so out of the typical parenting loop it was actually mind boggling.

I remember once when CB was about 4 or 5 and completely non-verbal, I saw a mother at McDonalds with her 2 little girls saying with exasperation:  "Just don't talk for the next 5 minutes please!"

...and I thought... What I wouldn't give to say that to my daughter right now, because there is nothing in the world I'd rather hear than her voice chatting in my ear.  Than to have her orchestrate an elaborate, dictatorial Barbie script.

Yet, somewhere along the line, normal parenthood became so common place for me that I simply forgot this.  I hear myself now, begging my three little ones for a moment of silence from the incessant chatter.  It's like all those early memories of atypical motherhood were left behind in my "former life."  It was a life full of pain and loneliness, but I need to remember that it was also a life full of love and hope.  True, CB and I didn't do the typical mother-daughter things that keep Hallmark in business.  But I did learn that love is not about what game you are playing, how many minutes you are reading,  the cookies you bake, or how many activities your little squirt has packed into their day.  The depth of motherhood can only be explored when the bottom falls out and you are lost in the blackness...  when you are searching in the dark, scared and desperate and looking for anything to cling to... and you find it.  The tiny hand of your own little girl, just as lost, clinging back.

So, after we got home from roller skating, Tink went on the bus to half-day Kindergarten and I played Barbies with Rella.  Just the two of us.  You'd think I just conjured a three-ring circus complete with pony rides, bouncy house and a giant cotton candy machine at how excited she was over this, because she knows... Momma don't play Barbies.  

But today, Momma did.  And ya know what?  I don't particularly like playing Barbies.  But I do love being with my girls.  And though remembering my earlier days of motherhood is painful... those days when all I wanted was for my daughter to curl up in my lap and play with me and it just didn't happen... I need to remember how badly it ached because I need to appreciate that I have the opportunity now.  I learned and grew and loved with CB.  And now I have another spin around the Mommy block to do things in a little more of a "typical" way.  Neither is better, just different, with different things to appreciate.  

I missed these things the first time around.  Damned if I'm going to miss them again.  


Elizabeth said...

Heck, yes.

And the pictures were perfection for the words.

Claire said...

Oh, so beautiful! You know, my mother NEVER played anything with me...and she was a stay-at-home. Always cooking, cleaning...we were well cared for...but. The one time my mother played with me, I still remember because it was ONE time! What you did with your little girl is the most important thing in the world. It will only serve to build your relationship, and that starts when they are very little.

Richelle said...

Loved this post! I have felt that same atypical mom-ness of therapies and doctor appts., and although my daughter and I have grown so much together, I look forward to playdates someday with my new baby coming.

kario said...

And that, my friends, is what it's all about, isn't it? Remembering that when we get what we fervently wish for, it's important to be mindful and grateful for it. I love that you recognized this and took the time to play with your girl and her Barbies.

I, too, hated the Barbie play (or any doll/imaginary play for that matter) because my daughters had the same "no-deviating-from-the-script" sensibility and I was always the evil one. I also hated Chutes and Ladders, but I remembered my mother never playing with us, so I endured as much as I could. I can say that now, they are much more willing to negotiate on which games we play so everyone gets to play what they want. Hang in there!

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