After a down-and-dirty sandpie making session this afternoon, I plopped both girls into the bathtub to get squeaky clean before dinner. We were all in a silly mood, so I turned off the lights and tossed some glow sticks in the tub with them, then got out the giant bubble wand to blow at them while they scrubbed. The girls giggled together and Lorelei announced, "This is so fun. I think you're the only mom in the world who would let their kids have such a fun bath time."
I'm sure other moms living on our street have given their kids similar baths, so I'm not under any false impressions about my status as Mother of the Year. But it got me thinking about how my Facebook feed will be flooded this weekend with pictures of adult children with their mothers and captions about how each one, in turn, is the Best Mom in the World. My Instagram feed will also be filled with cellphone snaps of hilariously-answered questionnaires filled out by earnest little preschoolers and kindergartners about the wonderful qualities of their own Best Moms in the World. These pictures, too, will all be captioned in the same way - that they are precious and special and uniquely wonderful snapshots of a mother-child relationship that feels precious, special, and uniquely wonderful, too. For some people, this induces endless eyerolling. For me? I'll be trying to stay offline this weekend to be more focused on my family, but otherwise I would happily "like" and double tap every single one of those posts.
After Phoebe's birth, my aunt sent us a copy of an out-of-print book of poems by Clyde and Wendy Watson called Catch Me And Kiss Me And Say It Again. It has many charming rhymes but our favorite, and the reason (I'm sure) that it was sent, is this one:
Phoebe in a rosebush
Phoebe in a tree
There's many a Phoebe in the world
But you're the one for me.
Naming Phoebe was particularly challenging for us and, though it was a name I loved, there were some initial hurdles to it for me, most notably that I had both a former student and a former colleague with the same name. I worried that I'd always associate the name with those two women first, since I knew them first. In those early days, this poem was a well-timed reminder that this new Phoebe was, of course, My Phoebe, and that has made all the difference.
But now that My Phoebe is also the first Phoebe I think of and those particular fears have lessened, this poem has become a good reminder about the trouble we always encounter with our perception of the world: our own heavily-filtered lens. There are some things in life that are True and Immutable - this I know. There are others where it really is left to the eye of the beholder. Our children are the same, mostly, as children everywhere. They love deeply and want to please us. They stick out their tongues when they are trying very hard to learn something new. They want desperately to have authority over their daily experiences. They mix up words as they struggle to make adult language their own. They are talented and beautiful and clever in our eyes, and believing this about them helps them to become all of those things, too. There are many children in the world, but these two precious souls belong to me. And my love for them and delight in their firsts and funny moments make me hope even more so that every child has someone to cherish them in the same way.
I can't be the best mom in the world, since that title is already held by my own mother, but I'm okay with being seen through the big, beautiful eyes of my very special children, too, and knowing that I'm the one for them. Happy Mother's Day, all.