A few days from now, my firstborn son will be turning eight. EIGHT! How did this happen? I mean, one minute I’m trying to figure out what I’m actually supposed to do with this brand-new tiny scrap of a human being, and the next minute I’m chasing around this long, lanky eight-year-old who keeps growing out of his clothes and eating everything he can see.
When I was a little kid, I was a tomboy. I was not the kind of girly girl who people look at and say, “Oh, she will be a wonderful mother someday.”
In fact, people probably looked at me and worried that if I ever had a baby, I’d accidentally break off its arm. And who can blame them? Whenever I tried to play with dolls, I somehow ended up breaking them. If I couldn’t keep a doll alive, how could I be expected to take care of a real baby?
I was not what you might call a domestic goddess, although my girls-only Catholic school education tried valiantly to turn me into one. From fifth grade right through to ninth grade, we were given mandatory home ec projects, and the few that I actually managed to complete were unmitigated disasters.
The first of these was simple enough: a knitted scarf. I mean, you’d think it wouldn’t be that hard to knit a scarf.
While the other girls were tying the tassels onto their completed scarves, I was still working away with the dreaded knitting needles, trying to come up with something that would go around a ketchup bottle, never mind a human neck. In the end I gave up and tried – without success – to stretch out my efforts with the aid of the back yard and a pair of croquet hoops. I was quite resourceful for a ten-year-old, especially when it came to cheating on my home ec assignments.
Two years later, we had to make aprons. By some miracle, I succeeded in handing in my apron on time, along with the other girls in my class. After what seemed like an interminable wait, the day came for the home ec teacher to give us our grades for our creations.
One by one, she would call up the girls to the front of the class, offer them an encouraging remark about their apron, and announce their grade. My peers were getting grades of 80% and more, along with comments like “Well done!” or “Beautiful straight stitching!” When I was called up, the teacher stared at me in silence for a long time. Finally, she said, “There is nothing I can say about this alleged apron.” After another long pause, she delivered the grade: 12%.
We will not discuss The Great Custard Fiasco Of 1983, or any of other disasters that were supposed to teach me all I would need to know about being a wife and mother. At the end of Grade 9, I flew out of the home ec room fast enough to leave an astonished cloud of dust in my wake, and I never returned. The home ec teacher, who clearly did not hold out much hope for my future as a homemaker, was glad to see the back of me.
On a cool September morning twenty years later, I suddenly started nesting. I was nine months pregnant and my belly was out to here. I woke up on the day in question with an inexplicable need for action. I vacuumed up a storm, did all of the laundry, and even cleaned the windows.
I went grocery shopping and then attacked the kitchen with a vengeance, cooking all kinds of meals that could be frozen and reheated. In a move that horrified my husband, I even pulled up the bedroom carpet and cleaned up the hardwood floor underneath.
If my home ec teacher could have seen me flitting around like Martha Stewart on steroids, she would have keeled over and died of shock.
To my complete surprise, and probably that of the people who had known me as a child, the birth of my first child revealed that I do have a reasonably reliable maternal (and semi-domesticated) instinct. That’s not to say that I always know what I’m doing – I wing it a lot with this whole parenting thing. But my kids are healthy and happy, and they are never short of a giant hug for their Mommy.
And that’s good enough for me.
When you were a child, did you just know that you were going to grow up to be a good parent? Or did you worry that parenting just wouldn’t come naturally to you? Have your experiences lived up to your childhood expectations?
This is an original post for World Moms Blog by Kirsten Doyle of Toronto, Canada. Kirsten can also be found on her blog, Running for Autism, or on Twitter @Running4autism. You can also connect with her on Facebook.
Photo credit to the author.