Archive for the ‘Worms and Beetles’ Category


I planned my daughter for years… I had her name picked out when I was twelve (Elisabeth Rose), and her clothing designed when I was eighteen (sleeveless Victorian-ish shifts and pinafores).  I also had her character and personality planned- a little me, naturally.  Only better- I’m not egotistical!  She was going to speak Latin, and do classical homeschooling.

Thankfully, she didn’t appear when I was twelve, eighteen, twenty-four, not until I was twenty-nine and counting did she decide to make an appearance.  I had time to learn- in theory, at least- that children aren’t extensions of their parents, they’re their own people.  Watching my own parents as a child, and then as an adult, I saw how my mother viewed us as developing individuals- exulted really, in any sign of development, as a true Montessori or Waldorfer should- while my father viewed us foremost as his children.  I also saw other families, some excelling in possession and manipulation, others indifferent- having and raising children because that’s what one does.

Then I became a schoolteacher.  A regular old-fashioned school teacher. 45 minutes with 20 second graders can teach you oy-oy-OY! a lot about kids.  One, they definitely do grow like Topsy.  And Two, they grow as they’re going to grow- you can throw obstacles in their way, but you can’t change their natural bent.  They are going to grow as they grow; it isn’t a matter of letting children develop their own personalities, it’s a matter of recognizing the personalities inherent in them.

Acquiring a stepson added to a sense of watching of children grow, and inconspicuously bumping them back from the edge of the cliff now and then.  Being a mother and not a mother meant that I had input, but no say in matters, other than requiring respect for other people and property.  It also meant seeing close at hand how certain methods of child-raising that I might have disapproved can actually be positive.

When I finally became pregnant with my own child, I was certain she was a girl.  I had to have my little girl first.  But that was my last manipulation.  “Elizaveta Maksimovna” is awkward to pronounce, and by now that name carries all the baggage of my expectations.  Sophia- Sof’ya means wisdom, probably the best gift I’d like to give any daughter.  Dance lessons went out the window after the fiftieth kick in my ribs- this child is demanding gymnastics!  And with a miniscule thyroid and massive joint pain handsewn smocks and shifts might very well go by the wayside as well, along with the quilt pieces still lying in a bag, and the unbought yarn for a baby afghan.

Not to sound like  a bad mother, but Sof’ya pretty much makes all of the decisions herself.  She jumped out of the womb two weeks before I had the house cleaned, and holiday preparations done, put herself on a schedule at 2 months 2 weeks, gave her first smile to her father, and her first laugh to her brother, and oddly, she likes my mother-in-law!

I had ideas about how to be a good mother, discipline and all that sort of thing.  Letting the baby cry itself to sleep, and colic being a wives’ tale.  But that primitive, anguished cry that babies use in the first three months was stronger than my ideas.  Schedules went out the window too- Sof’ya never sleeps more than the bare minimum required for wakefulness.  In short, either being a baby’s mother is not as easy as my mother always promised, or she’s just better at it.  (Incidentally, that was pretty much my experience with labor, too.)

But with all of this said, and however independent Sof’ya may be, we’re quite firmly attached.  In the first couple of months after her birth, in response to the doctors’ advice to feed her “whenever she wants to eat”, she ate every hour- for forty minutes or more.  I took her to bed with me, defying my mother-in-law and all the authorities, so I could catch cat naps between feedings.  In fact, the only time she wasn’t eating was when either she or I was in the tub.  At least that’s what it felt like.  I took to calling her my tumor.  When she finally reached a point where she was eating for 20 minutes and less , every hour and a half or so, I experienced a strong sense of melancholy and nostalgia- a sort of “empty breast syndrome”. 

We’re coming up on seven months, and I’m still putting off feeding her.  She’s very interested in spoons, and loves to blow bubbles into teaspoons of water or chamomile tea (my one concession), but I’m not ready to lose that connection.  I still pull her into bed with me after the middle-of-the-night-feeding.  It wouldn’t take much to teach her to sleep through the night at this point, but…

Sof’ya is and isn’t a part of me.  She is her own person, definitely has her own mind and her own ideas about things (if you doubt that a six month old has her own ideas, you’re welcome to try dressing her, or holding her in a reclining position)- but she’s a part of me that’s been torn off.  She’s not the doll I had planned to dress, and teach, and direct, but she’s a person I love to spend time with.  Which I should have known, really- I have a mother of my own.

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