The P Word

And now for the writing of the mother.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the difference between feeling proud of Asher and taking pride in him. (Which is an interesting turn of phrase, isn’t it? Taking pride?)

Pride is one of those things that we get a lot of conflicting information about. It probably gained the most notoriety when it landed on the list of 7 deadly sins, but these days pride is to be worked toward. Women’s pop culture mandates being proud of who you are or how you walk or the way that you’re aging or how you got those snow chains on your tires or some other somesuch. I have zero expertise for what I’m about to say here, so take it up with your personal anthropologist before you call Dr Phil on me, but my sense is that all of this discussion about learning how to take pride in flower arranging is backlash from centuries of not taking enough pride in our accomplishments, and we all understand why. No wants to be bragged to, and once you’re hip to that you hope not to be the braggart. It seems though that there is a difference between the kind of pride that we can feel guilty of when we’re splashing around what makes us awesome and the kind of pride that we feel when we look at our children and our knees buckle.

I’m bringing all of this up because I want to talk about being proud of Asher, but not in the context of his accomplishments, more in the context of the inexplicable and overwhelming feeling that will occasionally sneak up on me as I’m watching him just exist in such a sure and content way. The feeling is so strange because I’m certainly not proud of anything that I’ve done in that moment, I’m not proud in a measurable way, it’s more like I’m sucking in air trying to get a handle of feeling gratitude and awe and humanity and yes, pride, that I feel as it tumbles around in my brain and heart knowing that I’m standing as witness to something, or more importantly, someone.

Drew and I have been joking for a while that Asher is going to cut us off after his first kindergarten play because we will drown all of the other parents with our awful ocean of tears. It’s a really weird phenomenon, but ever since bringing this son sun into the world, we have become completely worthless in the face of anything that moves us. (For those of you that have watched me try to talk about Lady GaGa and her Born This Way commitment, you know what I’m talking about.) My instinct is to profusely apologize to everyone for being such a sap and make an immense amount of fun of us for not having a better handle on our proud weepies, but I guess the truth is that I would rather Asher see us choke up occasionally because of who he is than ever wonder for even a second if we are anything less than his biggest champions. And yes, yes, we promise to get a handle on things before you debut as the Thanksgiving Turkey in your school play, but cut us some slack if we do a little internal freak out when we see you up there.

I’m of the school of thought that children rise to the standard that is set for them and then pay that forward by setting higher standards for themselves. My sister-in-law Ashley wrote about taking delight in our children, and I got so excited reading her words and thinking about all of the times ahead of us that we are going to have the wind knocked out of us because we’re so thankful to be in some random moment with our kids. It also made me think that the optimal way that we feel pride in our lives is not when we go seeking out recognition, but when we are affirmed and recognized by the people whose opinions we regard in the highest way. For at least a little while longer, Drew and I are those people in Asher’s life, and that’s what I’ve been thinking about with this discussion of pride.

Becoming a mother and having the opportunity watch life from the ground up is a weird and wild and messy ride, but at the end of the day, it’s also a mirror. Some of what I’ve seen reflected back over the last couple of years has been empowering and some of it has been a wake-up call, and a lot of it has been humbling, but it’s also been an expression of joy in a way that would potentially have escaped me if we hadn’t been tasked with raising this little boy into a man. I think if anything, maybe that’s how I can make sense of calling it pride…we’re getting older and loosening our grip on a sense of time, but then we look at Asher and he anchors us right here. We can tell a difference between before and after, then and now, because we are watching him grow and change and it’s slowly dawning on us that he’s pulling us along for that ride too.

I am so proud of you, Asher Walton. So proud.

Raising boys.

Ok.  I’m going to confess a less than flattering moment from my pregnancy and see if I can weave this thought in with my thoughts on the pictures above…here goes.

When I was gigantically pregnant (which it seems that I was that way for most of my pregnancy, so that doesn’t really give you a frame of reference, but it was some time late in the 2nd trimester, methinks.) Drew and I were getting the baby’s room together and decided to paint the walls.  We had recently found out that we were having a boy, and while I was thrilled with that prospect, there was a little part of my brain that was saying, “but I’m a girl!  What if I don’t know how to raise a boy?”

So there we are in the Lowes parking lot with a gallon of pale yellow paint, we opened the trunk of the car, and I saw the little dot of color drying on the top of the lid and panicked.  I mean, seriously loosing-it-shoulder-heaving-crying-my-eyes-out-full-on-lost it.  Poor mistified Drew was standing with me next to the open trunk, apologetically looking around at the other people out running their Saturday errands, patiently waiting for me to choke out, “I don’t know what a little boy will waaaaaaaaaaannnnnt.  What if he hates yeeeelllllloooowwwww…”  When I pictured myself pregnant, I didn’t picture myself sobbing in public over paint (and circumcision if you want to know the truth, but that’s for another day), but there I was.  Now Drew and I laugh about this, but at the time, I was gripped with terror that I was going to be out of sync with my little boy for ever and ever, amen.  We’ll chock the whole thing up to crazy pregnancy hormones, but I think the truth is, pregnant me felt very confident about the prospect of raising a little girl because I at least had a notion of what being a little girl is all about.  Finding out that we were having a boy felt a little bit more like a challenge in some way, but now here I am, a little under a year since my paint can melt down, and of course cannot imagine life without my little guy.

So how does this relate to those pictures up there of Drew with his mom and brother?  Like this: Drew comforted me that day by hugging me and saying, “think about how much I love my Mom.  This is going to ok.”  And that worked for me.  Perhaps what it comes down to this simple truth: no matter what, we love our babies.  And you know what?  Babies really don’t care what color the walls are.  At least, not yet…